It’s well-known that smoking cigarettes is not good for you. A lot of work has been successfully done to discourage young people from picking up the unhealthy
vice. However, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that every day, thousands of people under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette. I, along with a team of other Jump staff members, are hoping to decrease that trend with the development of an interactive, educational video game.

This project is part of a larger collaborative effort with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center to curb smoking among young people in central Illinois. Jump Simulation is hosting the annual event, Kick Butts on March 14th, 6:00-9:00 p.m. that teaches students in fourth grade through high school about the health risks of smoking in an innovative way.

Most of the time children are exposed to this information through lectures or handouts at school. While lecturing gets the point across, sometimes hands-on experience and visuals can leave a greater lasting impact. I recall going to the Robert Crown Center for Health Education as a kid and actively participating in various demonstrations. To this day, I remember educators inflating a healthy lung and one that’s been damaged by smoking. I was completely grossed out. That lasting image and experience are what Kick Butts wants to leave with its audience.

Smoking from the Inside Out

Kick Butts will feature a number of activities to effectively demonstrate the effect smoking has in and outside the body. Participants will watch a documentary, see different parts of anatomy impacted by smoking and step into Virtual Reality goggles to get up close and personal with the way lung cancer evolves over time.

My part in all of this was to work with designers and biomedical visualization specialists here at Jump to create an interactive and educational video game. The idea is for participants to pilot a ship (a la “Fantastic Voyage”), using an Xbox 360 controller, through a smoker’s airways to destroy a tumor. Along the way, students will learn about the surrounding anatomy and observe what “smoking from the inside” looks like in a real patient.

We quickly designed the video game using the Unity game engine tool. However, we have the ability to turn this game into an even more immersive experience by further developing it for the Virtual Reality space.

The Future of Video Gaming

We are excited about the game we developed for the upcoming Kick Butts event and we believe it will leave a lasting impression on teens who continually face peer pressure to smoke.

Beyond that, creating this game is a great opportunity for Jump to get involved in more education video game development. Video games and similar virtual learning tools have been present in medical simulation for quite some time. What we want to do is provide a fun gaming environment that is both entertaining and educational for users.

In addition, video games have such a wide range of audiences that we could tailor games to both children and adults, scaling up the lesson material and difficulty accordingly. With the help of our designers and biomedical visualization specialists, Jump has a unique opportunity to synergize and create some truly exceptional content.