More on Second Life from Candice Kane of CeaseFire

Dec 16, 2008, 2:52 AM, Posted by Abbey Cofsky

On 9/13/2012 changed its name to Cure Violence

Today we continue our discussion with Candice Kane of CeaseFire to learn more about how their organization is using Second Life to train outreach workers and violence interrupters as part of a national effort to prevent violence.

How did you make the connection between your training efforts and Second Life?

A couple years ago, we were tossing around the idea of doing some type of CeaseFire game.  A couple of us had the opportunity to participate in a regional Games for Health meet-up in California where we learned a little bit more about how games were being used to promote health.  We talked with Ben Sawyer about our interest in using games to prevent violence; he was excited that we were thinking about games, but encouraged us to think more about what were going to do with the game, what we wanted to accomplish and what would be the potential challenges. We brought these ideas and questions back to our colleagues at the Center for the Advancement of Distance Education (CADE) here at the University of Chicago and someone said, “Have you thought about Second Life?” Given our interest in using games or interactive technology for training, a number of folks felt it would be a good fit.  

The first time I got a look at Second Life, I thought, wow, this is a great opportunity for us to create a forum where people can practice violence interruption. Conducting CeaseFire training sessions around the country is really cost prohibitive for us, but we saw quickly that Second Life would enable us to reach a broader audience and train workers in a safe and engaging environment.

What went into the development of your space in Second Life?

At this point, we have two islands in Second Life. CeaseFire Island was our first project. The initial challenge was to develop an environment that replicated the look and feel of the Chicago neighborhoods where CeaseFire was focused. Working with the developers at CADE, we went into our neighborhoods and took pictures of the houses, buildings and streetscapes.  The developers we worked with were terrific, but I remember seeing the first designs and saying, “This is too clean. This is too neat. We’ve got to mess this up. We need litter. I want graffiti. I want to board up some of the buildings.” The creative team looked at me like, “You want to mess up my building?” “Yes!” It was very important to me that the Island look like the neighborhoods where we spend our time, and our neighborhoods are messy.  So we spent a lot of time to get the look right, and now we even have a backdrop of the Chicago skyline. Our second island, CeaseFire Isla is adjacent to CeaseFire Island and is largely Latino in look and feel.

The pictures below show how the CADE developers and CeaseFire team used neighborhood photos to develop sketches that eventually led to a realistic virtual world.

Check back tomorrow for the last part of our conversation with Candice. And to learn more, be sure to visit the CeaseFire website at www.ceasefirechicago.org.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.