Games in Healthcare

US Army Looks to Video Game to Get Soldiers to Butt Out

An Escape With Your Life MachineAnti-smoking aids are going digital. The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has selected professor and expert on kicking the habit Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D to lead the development of an anti-smoking video game targeting the country's armed forces.

Priced at nearly $4 million USD, the new game is an army-sized version of the dramatically titled Escape With Your Life previously designed by Prokhorov. It is aimed at the roughly 38 percent of soldiers and other military workers who smoke cigarettes, as well as the 15% who chew or dip smokeless tobacco. The software will contain educational activities to assist forces in both quitting and not succumbing to the pressure to restart. It will also cover withdrawal symptoms and propose strategies by which to overcome them. Read More...

Escape With Your Life was a originally developed for "at-risk" youths. The newer, more immersive incarnation of the game will be available to soldiers during their free time and will let them progress at their own individual paces. This allows each player to take as much or as little time as needed to quit. The original game, which also received funding from the Department of Defense, boasted a self-reported quitting rate of almost 50 percent.
 
"The DoD site visitors who reviewed this program suggested we apply for a larger DoD grant to design a similar educational product specifically for the U.S. Army, and we are honored to be selected again," said Prokhorov, in a news release.

The game itself will include video, audio, animations and a customizable avatar. Players will travel through a number of different areas including what Prokhorov describes as "a pretty scary hospital." Throughout the experience players will learn about the dangers of cigarette smoking and receive "deep knowledge" of the effects this habit can have on the body. In contrast to the more superficial information found in other non-smoking ventures, Prokhorov reports that 90 percent of players have admitted to learning new facts about tobacco and smoking.

Armed forces employees--especially soldiers in the field--must worry about more than just stained teeth. The Department of Defense claims that smoking impairs night vision, decreases stealthiness due to the odor, hinders the body's self-healing rate and lowers energy levels as well as the ability to breathe effectively.
 
Not only can these effects put a smoking soldier's life at stake, but also those in his troop or regiment. Prokhorov's game is intended to supplement the DoD's strategies to help soldiers quit smoking rather than replace them. The game is expected to take as long to develop as other commercial, off-the-shelf games.  Beta testing is planned to begin in 2011 and general production some time in 2013.