The National Institute of Health (NIH), a division of the Health Department, has been funding a video game to teach fifth and sixth grade students about the dangers of smoking. In a recent post, developer Moai Technologies states that the game will be based on another NIH-funded program from the 1980s. “This combined biology and smoking cessation education has been successfully done for over two decades with a video called Dusty the Dragon and Dr. Margie Hogan Talk About Tobacco.” The video has been sold to 20,000 schools and seen by countless students.
The NIH believes that a video game will be much more effective than a video for today’s students. The user navigates through a Cancer Room, Heart Disease Room, and Lung Disease Room, Nicotine Addiction Room, Oral Cancer Room, Gum Disease Room, and more. The player must solve puzzles, which include hidden objects and matching activities, to advance. Upon completion, the player receives an object to fight back against tobacco.
A team of experienced researchers and developers has been put together to work on the project. Tom Plocher has conducted human factors research for three decades. Dr. Klassen has created over 60 educational software products. Dr. Carole A. Bagley will oversee the student and teacher evaluations of the game during its early phases. Dr. Marjorie J.Hogan, a pediatrician who appeared in the original Dusty the Dragon video, will consult on the STEM aspects of the game. Finally, Dr. Christi Patten, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Behavioral Health Research program, will consult on the smoking cessation content for the game.
Funding has so far has cost $224,767, and will continue until July 2016.
The NIH states that in 2012, five percent of eighth grade students reported having their first cigarette by the end of fifth grade.