We Are Martinsville (WAM): Leveraging Mobile Gaming for Community Engagement and Improving Health

We Are Martinsville (WAM): Leveraging Mobile Gaming for Community Engagement and Improving Health

Mona El Khafif, Kathy Hsu Wibberly, Elgin Cleckley, Tho H. Nguyen, Marcus H. Divers
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/IJEPR.20211001.oa4
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Abstract

Rural communities in Virginia have experienced a decline caused by national economic trends. Formerly vibrant towns with rich histories and cultures increasingly suffer from a shrinking population and a lack of new investment, directly impacting the quality of life and services like education or healthcare. The loss of identity is a hindrance to innovative planning strategies and entrepreneurship. This paper reflects on an ongoing serious game effort developed by the University of Virginia and piloted in Martinsville, VA. That city's once-vibrant community faces challenges like unemployment, opioid addiction, and obesity. We Are Martinsville (WAM) recognizes Martinsville's rich ties to its history and cultural assets, offering a digital tool in support of a creative placemaking strategy. WAM fosters community engagement while simultaneously increasing outdoor activities and allowing stakeholders to generate place-based game content. This paper describes the findings of the pilot project.
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1. Introduction

Regional Context and Research Agenda

Shifting economic trends over the past few decades have resulted in the loss of population and regional identity in Virginia rural communities. With this economic decline, formerly vibrant towns with rich histories and cultures increasingly suffer from a lack of new investment, impacting quality of life, education, and health care. Researchers have consistently found correlations between a community’s identity and culture and its overall well-being. Regenerative planning strategies and entrepreneurship are both critical drivers for a better future (Florida, 2014; Weaver et al., 2017). While identity shaped through local culture and social capital is not easily measured, it plays a critical role in the vibrancy and attractiveness of a place. Culture manifests itself through museums and galleries, built artifacts, events, and creative cultural productions. Cultural activity, in specific, is an expression of shared values expressing a sense of belonging. In addition, the principles of cultural economy can strengthen the growth and attractiveness of both urban areas and rural communities (Klaus, 2006).

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