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Exploring the potential of using simulation games for engaging with sheep farmers about lameness recognition

By October 27, 2022November 9th, 2022No Comments

Document type: pre-publication version of a scientific article uploaded on bioRxiv

Authors: Matt Lloyd Jones, Maxwell Barnish, Robert Hughes, Aimee Murray, Omid Mansour, Tiziana Loni, Holly Vickery, Myfanwy Lloyd Evans, Laura Green, Nervo Verdezoto

Preview: Computer simulation games are increasingly being used in agriculture as a promising tool to study, support and influence real-life farming practices - especially when other alternatives can be costly, restrictive, or impractical. Here, we explored the potential of using simulation games to engage with UK sheep farmers on the ongoing challenge of reducing the lameness burden in the UK sheep industry. Using a human-centered design approach, we developed with UK stakeholders a game that tests players ability to recognise the early signs of lameness in sheep. In an online evaluation study, we then evaluated how those with real-life farming experience felt about the game, and whether their performance playing it was related to their real-life experience and skills. Several participants thought the game was an interesting idea, and the game provided a conduit for participants to share interesting reflections on lameness recognition. However, our study also revealed that this medium was technically challenging to implement on a small budget, impacting participants engagement with the game. In particular, the intricacies of real-life farming practices such as lameness recognition demand high levels of realism from such simulation video games, which is not only hard to achieve but hard to balance with the entertainment-factor required to keep players engaged, as well as budgetary constraints. We conclude that future studies exploring the potential of game-based tools for engaging with farmers on aspects of livestock health might need considerably more resources and/or to benefit from using existing, hyper-real simulation games that have an established (agricultural) audience and entertainment value.

From the bioRxiv website