You know teenagers, more than any other age category, are dependent on their peers’ opinion, right? A certain percentage of each generation experiments with drugs, and what would be the most accessible drug of all if not the over-the-counter cough syrup? Right, as a parent, you probably start feeling sick already by only picturing your teen surrounded by a group of peers, drinking that nauseatingly sweet syrup to get cool and high.
The problem is persistent with each new generation, and every parent needs to reinvent the approach to a teenager’s world in order to deal with it. Today’s teens are glued to their devices. If you stand by a college when the kids walk out, each eyes down on their smartphones, you’d see both a curse, and an opportunity.
Since kids are so used to apply technology to every aspect of their lives, you could try influencing the erroneous belief that a dextromethorphan anti-cough syrup is cool, and let your doubting teen see how everyone else sees the drug-induced teens out of control. And that is nothing cool – abuse of the said ingredient leads to loss of motor control, blurred vision, dry mouth and distorted speech, but ultimately, the uncontrollable and unstoppable vomiting.
Enter DEXTROBOT. The game targets the specific audience – teens with dextromethorphan curiosity, and looks and plays as a cool sci-fi sim. The robot is a good-looking machine that has been drugged with excessive dose of dextromethorphan. The player has to perform a series of tasks that are easy to perform under normal conditions, but become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, when under the influence.
DXM Labworks [iOS]
By Consumer Healthcare Products Association
And then, there is the puking. The puking is all over the robot, the place, the friends and naturally, everyone is disgusted. Right, the game aims to show the youngster the other side of drug abuse – the ugliness. If the game succeeds to win over just one teenager, I say it was worth spending over a year in the making at Tribal Worldwide in collaboration with Consumer Healthcare Products Association and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
The state-of-the art robot looks perfect just like any offspring looks perfect to a normal parent, but kids don’t realize that and treat their bodies as trash cans throwing hazardous waste inside. So, if vaccination doesn’t make your kid autistic by the time he/she turns 14, take the trouble to supervise if dextromethorphan syrups don’t turn him into a vomiting goat.
The player is a lab technician in this game, and his job is to conduct several experiments with the Dextrobot and his three friends. If the robot fails the experiments, his friends feel disgusted and leave him ashamed and friendless. Kids will be able to assemble their own Dextrobot from a variety of hi-tech parts, but ultimately, they will be introduced to side effects of the drug without having to physically take it in. There are 12 experiments that show how robot, very human-like, reacts to drug abuse. As a result, kids learn the dangers, and share their results with their peers. The only foresight here is the Facebook sharing option – alas, teens no longer hang around on Facebook that much.
I was 14 when my cousin drank up a mix of some cheap over-the-counter pills in the company of her peers and fell breathless in the middle of the street. Her older sister gave her a mouth-to-mouth CPR as the rest of them were wetting their pants watching. She was strong and lucky to have recovered that same minute, and her experience scared the witnesses enough to never venture in the same waters again. Her parents never knew what happened. I guess the preemptive but delicate actions on the parents’ side can make a difference. “Social disapproval really matters to teens, and they can see first-hand how embarrassing and not cool this is,” said Kinney Edwards, the executive creative director at Tribal.
“You can’t appear to be judging the teen,” said Emily Skor, executive director at the healthcare products association’s educational foundation. “They themselves will engage with this app and hopefully say, ‘I don’t want to be like that guy.’ But we can’t say, ‘That guy is a loser.’”
In other words, the game shows how un-sexy the drugs are, but the main challenge here is to introduce the app without letting the teens dismiss it as something patronizing because at its core, Dextrobot is an entertaining and visually gorgeous game. Well, as gorgeous as a puking robot can be.