IF as diagnosis tool?

Hi, I am new, but I have experimenting on my own for quite a while as an author.
I feel there is a huge untapped potential in IF.
One idea is, to use it as a diagnosis tool. Lets say for example you want to find out, if any children in school are victims of sexual molestation. You could have the kids play a game, and for the kids its just a fun story, and they dont even know, what is being diagnosed.
If you happen to make the decisions, that indicate you had a bad experience, it can tell you to call a help line or something in that matter.
I didnt know where to post the idea, as its not exactly education

I see where you’re going with that. I’ve had some similar thoughts when it comes to conducting sociological and psychological research, but I get snagged up on ethics and specifically, the idea of informed consent. When your idea hinges on the users being unaware what the purpose is that can be problematic.


Pinkunz you formulated that in a really good way. It made me think, what if it could be used on an informed way by saying “the following are several scenarios. Some of them are normal, everyday scenarios, while others are about abuse. Which scenario is which will be revealed after it is completed. If any abusive scenario is similar to something you have experienced, you may be a victim of abuse, and we can discuss that in our next appointment”. Or something like that


The informed scenario puts people on the edge, killing authenticity.
Every game and story has the potential, you find something out about yourself. I do not see the ethical problem there. I figure, if you do it in a smooth manner, it isnt a problem.
Maybe its better to imagine less sensitive topics, like for example, like ADHS or autism. It could be used for all kind of applications. I find it specially interesting, that you dont have to anounce it,People play it for the fun of ot. If it has an additional component, that could be helpfull, why not?

I prefer ethical consent over game “authenticity” when it comes to scientific research and psychological studies, personally.


I would assume that a good diagnosis tool would still be effective even if the participant knew that they were being assessed in some manner. For example, some psychological assessments will specifically test if a patient is faking a condition or even pretending to not have a condition… or so the voices in my head tell me. :wink:


On the ethics of ^psychological studies:

Aren’t there many studies in psychology where the guinea pigs/test subjects, if not completely unaware they are being tested, are at least actively mislead about which skill or characteristic is being tested?

Like doing sums in your head while you’re actually being tested on group roles and dynamics?


I can only speak for my country, where the social prestige of the Carabinieri (Italian gendarmerie) is by far the highest of all LE forces in the world, and all is needed for gently open up a kid on unpleasant experiences is the black red-piped uniform.

Elsewhere, I think that, in the light of the relatively successful usage of Inform in teaching the basis of the programming, perhaps is best writing than playing in this type of… uh, how is in legal english ? discovering of a crime, whose IS the starting point of an investigation.

(In Italy, we use kid’s drawings as starting point, but a kid’s drawing isn’t telling much on the culprit (aside that as evidence, a kid’s drawing is really too open to interpretation), where with luck, in an IF work of a kid one can extract solid leads, because the kid can express better his/her scars… in a form that, with a bit more luck, is also a valid evidence)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

There are entire swathes of psychological research that turn on limitations to the extent of informed consent. However, ethical ones are approved on a case-by-case basis by a professional ethics board (these are mostly found at university.

@Piergiorgio_d_errico , guided IF creation has definite mileage as an alternative way of recording evidence in a less time-pressured way than is necessarily feasible in a spoken conversation. It would also be useful for people whose written skills are stronger than their verbal ones (e.g. some autistic children) or who don’t trust the police (which is a major problem among working-class children in the UK and even more so in some parts of the USA). There would be limitations on who could do this (for a start, it’s inherently limited to people who either have good language skills - for typical IF - or whose situations can be reasonably summarised by pre-formed depicted choices - for graphical IF creation options like modifying Scratch).


Alianora, is not only national pride in pointing the unique level of trust Carabinieri have, but also a mean of tactifully introduce the issue of the lack of trust of the citzens, or a substantial part of citizens, in the LE.

Also, where the LE don’t have trust, ethics can easily became a can of worm, in an unusual form of the Ciceronian qui custodet custodem ? (who watch the watchers ?) because is too easy that ethics board members have a bias against LE people, stemming from the lack of trust in them.

On the limitations, this is why is important having an ample toolset from which one can select the most appropriate one (fiction aside, even in Italy the CSI vans are increasily bigger and more crammed… an interesting IF plot: one where the core puzzle mechanism is about figuring the right tool from an ample set)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

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Anyone knows, if anything like this is allready out there?

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When I played Hana Feels I almost got the impression it felt like a case study and could potentially be used as a training resource for role-play or a starting point to learn how to foster empathy and dialogue for someone in a similar situation. From what I remember you actually played people responding to the main character, and this type of role-reversal could provide insight to what someone might be experiencing from others, or indicate how they would want others to respond to them when they reach out.

While it is unethical to use any tool to diagnose or evaluate a person or collect data about them without their knowledge nor consent, I could see something like this being used therapeutically to provide someone with the vocabulary about issues they may be having, establish their situation is not necessarily singular to them, and inspire talk with a professional - perhaps in comparison to what they read about in a story. Kind of how I would imagine child psychologists might provide dolls and picture books for young children for contextualization to discuss trauma they might not otherwise completely understand.

(I am not a professional, so your mileage may vary of course.)


My games have of course always been Rorschach tests (during the exposition, later on they become vehicles of voter manipulation). And thanks to google analytics I now know absolutely everything about anyone, including their repressed subconscious. And so I keep a database for tracking people by psychological condition (i.e. hysteria, megalomania or penis envy). Did you know that it’s perfectly possible to match these profiles to people through Rasch-Clustering, even when they try to stay anonymous and occasionally take on a different personality to sabotage my statistics (which I will file under Schizophrenia)? You can just filter out the noise.
The trick is, of course, to go about it subtly. Mum’s the word.


Anyway, assuming the issue of informed consent is acknowledged and tackled, yes, I do specifically agree to the OP’s point that this is an underutilized possibility for IF. If any of you have worked on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk back in the day, I’m sure you recall the mess of paid psychological survey work hosted on the site. There’s probably a way to tastefully and ethically leverage IF engines to more elegantly complete the same task.


Trying to be constructive for a change, I’d think that it might be a good Idea to let the narrative unfold for the reader to identify with, leading to them reflecting their own situation. Really, going about it like at confession (“And where exactly did they touch you? How did that make you feel? What else did they do?”) seems intuitively counterproductive. That’s the kind of stuff police detectives ask you in windowless rooms after watching the evidence first to get in the mood.
If I want to reach out to someone to face their own demons (which I believe is a good exercise, because what is repressed will one day come back with a vengeance), it’d say it’s likely to work out better if you let them figure it out for themselves. “Yeah, that seems familiar. There were such things, and like that character I didn’t say anything, either. Stupid now that I think about it, but I was young, and didn’t know right from wrong. I really should be more forgiving to my 13-year-old self, maybe facing it head-on will do something about those recurring nightmares.” Something along those lines, though naturally, it might take years to get from introjected reminiscence to actual acknowledgement in reality.
So I don’t think I’d be displaying any phone numbers depending on what ending the player reached.


Yeah, I agree. It’s far less invasive and potentially more impactful to create stories that others can relate to, and possibly reflect upon. It could create insight, an anthem, or introspection, depending on who plays it. That already has a lot of power.

Also this. There could be a lot of factors that could make someone reach one of the finite endings found in a game, and there’s no way to assert you’ve correctly assessed someone without seeming completely arrogant (and also being simply wrong).

The number of times I’ve had people assume they know me better than I know myself, while also being completely and astoundingly incorrect on every level is frighteningly common.


I am glad to talk this through and happy for thoughts and ideas.
I guess it comes down to how you present it. You could display the phonenumber to the character, noting, that it is a real number and simply giving the player the opportunity to decide for them selfes to call.
I dont see how this is much different from giving the phone number to the suicide line, when making a game with suicide at some point.
I think, the fear, that a game could be overreaching and patronizing is a bit overrated. After all, books and stories do it all the time and we just brush over it. Just think of astrology. Ofcourse the goal is, to not do that, but there is no vital danger in it, only the danger of it being a bad game or bad story.
Maybe I also feel that way, because I imagine it as a game on paper in a book, which probably seems much safer than online, as it is completly anonymous that way.

I see it more as a way to protect content of a book from the wrong eyes, a way of cyphering with the code being in the story. It could for example be used to openly transfer knowledge under the eyes of censorship.
If you dont have the right experiences and knowledge, you will not make the choices, that give you the secret knowledge the book contains. That could be accomplished by spreading the secret knowledge on several pages with many possible permutations.
Sort of a quizz/puzzle disguized as a story