Feds Spend $224,767 on Anti-Smoking Video Game for Fifth Graders

Kids navigate through ‘cancer rooms’

Cartoon cigarette from 'Dusty the Dragon'
Cartoon cigarette from 'Dusty the Dragon'
• October 8, 2015 5:00 am


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is spending over $200,000 on an anti-tobacco video game for fifth graders, where they will navigate through "cancer rooms" to find hidden objects to beat cigarettes with.

Described as an "innovative STEM game," the project is based off of a 1980s anti-smoking cartoon, which was also financed by the NIH.

"The proposed game is a ‘Hidden Object’ type of application," a grant for the project states. "As character [sic throughout] move around he will progress through puzzle rooms named after the problems associated with tobacco use e.g. Cancer Room, Heart Disease Room, and Lung Disease Room, Nicotine Addiction Room, Oral Cancer Room, Gum Disease Room, and so on."

"Challenges and puzzles consist of hidden objects, word searches, matching activities, and other challenges," it said. "When a puzzle or challenge is completed, characters will receive something that will help him [sic] fight the ever-present cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco containers."

The game will be tested in three elementary schools on both students and teachers. Research will continue until July 2016, and has cost $224,767 so far.

Moai Technologies, a Minnesota company that operates solely off government grants, is creating the game for the NIH. The company said it is basing the game off the "Dusty the Dragon" video, a cartoon that put cigarettes on trial and heard testimony from the dragon’s lungs and heart.

"The animated and live action video was developed in the 1980’s with a NIH [Small Business Innovation Research] SBIR by Dan Klassen PhD, who is on this project team," Moai Technologies said in a post regarding the new project.

"The game form of Dusty the Dragon will allow a much deeper exploration of the organs of the human body and more opportunity to deliver a message about the adverse effects of smoking," they said.