Theme Park Kitchen redesign

“Theme Park Kitchen,” created by the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University, helps players engage with gameplay to serve delicious and safe meals to customers.

Theme Park Kitchen is based on an earlier project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture as part of a multi-state research and education project to teach youth best practices in food safety (2007-51110-03813). Led by Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner at Rutgers University, that research led to the development of “Ninja Kitchen.” The Learning Games Lab—which specializes in translating research-based content into educational tools for various audiences—designed the game in collaboration with food safety content experts.

A study of more than 900 middle schoolers who played the game showed that it engaged participants and shifted their knowledge, attitudes, and intentions around food safety. But the original game was developed for platforms that supported Adobe Flash, a technology that has become obsolete. So the team needed to redesign the game with current technology.

The redesign project that resulted in Theme Park Kitchen included formative testing with youth during multiple sessions in 2021, 2022, and 2023. The youth consultants played the old version of the game, providing critical reviews, and presented game ideas to their peers and the Learning Games Lab team. Youth consultants also developed potential world building and character design ideas for the game.

The redesign also gave the team a chance to change theming of the original game to avoid cultural appropriation.

For more information about Theme Park Kitchen, see:

Research on the effectiveness of Ninja Kitchen

Theme Park Kitchen uses the same learning content and basic gameplay as the original Ninja Kitchen. In 2011, researchers evaluated Ninja Kitchen with middle school youth in two U.S. regions. Almost 400 youth participated in the study. Youth completed a questionnaire one week before and one week after playing the game. Prior to playing the game, youth in general did not have much knowledge about food safety practices and how to prevent foodborne illness. After playing the game, middle schoolers knew significantly more about safe cooking temperatures and danger zone temperatures for meat, fish and poultry. They cared more about eating clean and safe food, felt more confident in their abilities to prepare food safely, and were more determined to do so.

The students also enjoyed playing they game. They reported playing it two to three times and, on average, reached level 9 (of 15). Half of the middle schoolers, when surveyed, intended to play it again. A quarter of the students said they had shared the game with friends or family.

These findings indicate that the Ninja Kitchen game is effective in improving food safety knowledge, attitudes and intentions and suggests that this game and others like it are a useful addition to Family and Consumer Sciences classrooms, homes, or other educational venues.


Cezarotto, M., Martinez, P. and Chamberlin, B. (2023, December 20). Teaching Youth Food Safety: A Game-Based Learning Experience. Extension Foundation.

Quick, V., Corda, K., and Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2012). Food Safety Knowledge, Attitudes, Behaviors and Intended Behaviors of Middle Schoolers. Experimental Biology, San Diego. FASEB Journal, 26:814.8. Presented at Experimental Biology, San Diego.

Quick, V., Corda, K., and Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2011). Evaluation of a Food Safety Computer Game for Middle Schoolers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111:A96. Presented at the American Dietetic Association, November, San Diego.

Corda, K., Quick, V., Byrd-Bredbenner, C. (2011) Kitchen Ninja to the Rescue: Development and Formative Evaluation of a Food Safety (FS) Education Game Targeting Middle School Youth. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 43:S37. Presented at Society for Nutrition Education, July, Kansas City.

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Copyright 2023, New Mexico State University Board of Regents. Theme Park Kitchen was developed by New Mexico State University Innovative Media Research and Extension and its Learning Games Lab.

Theme Park Kitchen received funding from Extension Foundation USDA-NIFA New Technology for Ag Extension (NTAE) at the Expansion phase. NTAE is a grant program generously supported by the USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and administered through a partnership between Oklahoma State University and the Extension Foundation (EXF).

The original Ninja Kitchen game was produced by the NMSU Learning Games Lab in collaboration with Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, professor and Extension specialist at Rutgers University and innovative educator in nutrition and food safety. It was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2007-51110-03813.

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