Local team designs video game based on transplantation

March 4, 2012 3:56 pm
  • The Doctor Transplant team: from left, Howard Degenholtz and Abby Resnick, project director, both with the University of Pittsburgh; and Geraldine Yong, CEO of MogiMe, which helped to design the game.
    The Doctor Transplant team: from left, Howard Degenholtz and Abby Resnick, project director, both with the University of Pittsburgh; and Geraldine Yong, CEO of MogiMe, which helped to design the game.
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Howard Degenholtz thought he had a good idea.

He wanted to make a video game to encourage people to donate their organs if they died, something too few Americans do to keep up with the growing list -- now 112,000 -- of people awaiting some type of life-saving transplantation.

But Mr. Degenholtz, associate professor of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health, knew from experience that private investors weren't going to be enthusiastic.

"When you go to investment capital people with ideas like this, they sit back and scratch their heads," he said. "They'll say, 'Wait a minute, you're trying to save lives here? Because, if so, we're not interested. We want to make money.' "

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Fortunately for him, the federal government had other goals. Mr. Degenholtz and a team of colleagues at Pitt and the Center for Organ Recovery & Education, the agency that oversees organ procurement and allocation in our region of the country, applied for and in 2010 won a $700,000 federal grant to fund their idea.

After hiring local social media company MogiMe to help design it, they've spent the last two years building and refining it, overcoming more than a couple of concept-versus-reality issues.

The end result is "Doctor Transplant," a resource management game that the team will publicly debut this week in San Francisco at the Game Developers Conference, billed as the world's largest professionals-only game industry gathering.

"Doctor Transplant" will go live and be available as a free download on the Apple App store in April. It will be available on Facebook shortly thereafter.


On the Web

Visit these links to learn more about the Doctor Transplant game:

It plays like many other popular resource management games like "FarmVille," a wildly popular game on Facebook.

But instead of running a farm, "Doctor Transplant" players will run a transplant hospital and have to buy the right equipment, hire enough doctors, nurses and janitors, and ultimately take care of a continuous stream of patients well enough, and long enough, for them to get a transplant, with the shortage of available organs the controlling factor.

Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579.
First Published 2012-03-03 23:18:27

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