Making a Video Game About HIV

Warren Tong
Original Article:

I’m Positive, a video game, follows the life of a young male before and after his HIV diagnosis. At each step of the character’s journey, the player gets to make different choices, while learning more about HIV along the way — as was previously reported on We spoke with two of the game’s developers, Ilya Polyakov and Stephen Borden, to learn about the inspiration behind the game and the plans for its future.

Warren Tong: Where did the idea for I’m Positive come from?

Ilya Polyakov: The idea for a game on HIV education came from the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and HHS [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]. They held a game jam, which is an event where you make a video game in a short period of time, in this case a weekend. We didn’t know the theme would be HIV until the day of the event. At the event, subject matter experts gave a presentation on HIV and the current state of affairs in the United States.

We didn’t know a lot about HIV before the event. From what we learned there and further research, we wanted to include what we thought was important in our game in an accessible and relatable way. That’s why we chose to use an interactive story with easy-to-play mini games that reflect real life. The player plays from the perspective of someone who is potentially HIV positive, because we thought it would be a good way to make the player aware of what resources are available to them in real life.

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