I'm on the birth control pill. My vaginal ring is ready to go. And I have a variety of condoms at my fingertips.
No, this is not the beginning of a particularly epic weekend. Unfortunately.
I am, in fact, playing Birth Control Brigade, an educational online video game launched by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) in celebration of World Contraceptive Day, which took place on September 27.
Dr. Edith Guilbert is a member of the SOGC's Contraception Awareness Program Working Group and a senior medical advisor with the Institut national de sane publique du Québec. She says that Birth Control Brigade is a fun game that adults of all ages can play, but the intention is to reach one demographic in particular.
"It's a way to reach the youth of Canada and teach them about their birth control options," Dr. Guilbert says. "(Birth Control Brigade) can help them to make choices and help them to understand how important it is to use contraceptives in order to prevent unintended pregnancy."
The game, which can be accessed at http://apps.facebook.com/sogcbcb/ or via the SexualityandU website (sexualityandu.ca/), is part traditional shoot-'em-up, part strategy. You're given a budget to purchase a variety of contraceptive defenses in order to annihilate menacing waves of sperm before they reach the egg. Available for 'purchase' are condoms, as well as the five hormonal contraceptive options available to Canadians; oral contraceptives (more commonly referred to as the pill), the contraceptive patch, the vaginal ring, the contraceptive injection and the intra-uterine system (IUS).
"When done right, games can be an incredible educational tool," says Steve Tilley, QMI Agency's video games writer. "They're interactive instead of passive. If my brain is engaged in the game, I'm also going to be engaged in the subject matter. The trick with making games educational is balancing the educational stuff with the fun stuff, and melding them together into a seamless package."
According to Tilley, Birth Control Brigade does exactly that.
"It's clever the way these guys have transformed this into a contraception message. It's fun to play, so I can definitely see people coming back to it again."
But what of those who may criticize that offering information about sexual health in a video game format could encourage young people to become sexually active?
According to a statement from the SOGC, providing information on sexual and reproductive health is not synonymous with encouraging individuals to engage in sexual activity.
Many studies have demonstrated that sexual activity can begin at a very early age. The SOGC state that their goal is to be proactive and encourage young people to understand the repercussions of their actions and to help them make informed decisions that will lead to healthy sexuality when they do decide to become sexually active.
"We see much variation in knowledge on birth control options," says Leigh Turner, Director of the Sexual Health Resource Centre (SHRC) at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. "Many clients who use our services are looking for more information about birth control, however others come in already possessing a high level of knowledge on the subject."
When asked about the effectiveness of Birth Control Brigade as a method of sexual health education, Turner says: "Any medium that gets an accurate message across to its audiences in a clear way has the potential to be effective. If the method of doing this is through an interactive and entertaining game, then this could be an exciting new way of disseminating information."
For more information on hormonal birth control methods, please visit sexualityandu.ca.