The past year was my final semester at school and I needed to complete my undergrad thesis. Professors suggest that you pick a topic that you are very interested in so that you can continue to work on it for the year without losing interest. With that in mind, I knew I had to do something video game related. I love video games, and I wanted to find a way to bring that together with the theme for our studies: design for humanity. Through some exploration of possible topics of interest, I arrived at video game addiction with the goal of raising awareness of the problem.
I had to completely understand the problem before I could derive a solution, so I began to look at other addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse and problem gambling to find parallels in symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. I also had to find out who was most susceptible to video game addiction and how to properly address that audience. From my research I found that children between the ages of 8-18 were most at risk of developing pathological gaming habits where they begin to cause harm to their daily lives.
For the purpose of my awareness campaign, I narrowed my focus to teens between the ages of 14-18 (high school students) so that I could create messaging that would resonate with that target audience. I found there were 3 main categories that influenced teens decision making. They were peer pressure, body image and independence. Using these 3 categories as a standard, I then chose 4 specific areas of daily life that would suffer because of an addiction: school, eating habits, personal hygiene and relationships.
Lastly, I had to choose a medium that would resonate with not only teens, but teens who play video games. A traditional poster and television ad campaign just wouldn't suffice, so I decided to use the medium that would be the most relevant to gamers: A video game. With limited game development background I had to do my best to create a game that would be engaging and informative without being too forceful with its messaging. I want the players to say "ahhhh I get it." instead of "ok, that's enough. I get the point."
The resulting creation is Pause: Get out of the game. It is an awareness campaign hidden within a video game. In the game you play as a video game addict trying to sustain your addiction as long as possible. In order to do this, you need to fight off your responsibilities and obligations which take the form of homework, food, personal hygiene and relationships. Of course, the longer you play the game and the more you ignore, the worse your character suffers for it. Not doing your homework results in bad grades and failing school, and not eating properly results in your character gaining weight and becoming obese. The player is presented with a moral choice whenever they would lose to their obligations, giving them the option to choose between taking care of their obligations and getting out of the game or ignoring them and continuing the feed the addiction. If someone plays all the way through to the very end, they are confronted by the final message which tells them that they have an addiction and they are not only hurting themselves, but the people around them.
I have just finished the game, and it is available on the website www.getoutofthegame.ca for download. I hope to educate and spread the word about this problem so that we can help those around us who have become too involved in video games.