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By the end of this year there will be 2.2 billion people playing video games. They will have spent £0.9 billion over the twelve months on disks and downloads. But gamers have been getting more than just some software to play with, and this has serious ramifications for vapers and tobacco harm reduction. Is vaping Doomed?
Maybe you are aware of the awesomeness that was the original Doom. Millions of otherwise healthy and sane adults were stuck to their PCs in the early 90s, as they battled with hordes of demons and seemingly endless waves of the undead.
And if you knew this, then you might also be aware that there was a reboot of the franchise in 2016. The games company Bethesda gave deadheads another dose of well-received goretastic mayhem. Even if you knew all of this already, did you also know there were some special satanic secrets?
One of the songs in the game is called Cyberdemon, and programmers cleverly hid the number 666 and a pentagram as images in the track’s frequencies – only visible using a spectrogram. It’s in the video below if you want to play it to the residents at a local old people’s home or for a primary school class assembly.
The hidden stuff in games is nothing new; product placement in video games has been going on for a while – from Pepsi Invaders in 1983 to Obama election campaign ads on billboards within multiple games. The thing is this, now researchers are experimenting with something similar in order to warn kids off vaping.
The University of Connecticut has received a grant of almost $400,000 (£308,000) from America’s National Institutes of Health to target game-playing teens with anti-smoking messages. Apparently, according to the beneficiary of this cash, postdoc psychologist Christopher Burrows, teens are more susceptible to these messages when playing games. So him and his mate Hart Blanton have created a first-person shooter and a car racing games as vehicles to carry public health messages.
“With surveys indicating that 97% of adolescents and 80% of young adults play video games for entertainment, use of entertainment video games as a tool for delivering graphic warnings has tremendous potential to influence youth cigarette and e-cig rates.”
Did we say teens are more susceptible to accept messages? It sounds far better in the researchers’ words: “The project is needed to test the viability of ‘The Virtual Transportation Model of Health Communication,’ the theory that kids can be propagandised more easily when they are gaming.”
The pair intends on inserting anti-vape ads into two pre-existing games, get kids to play them and then ask them how they feel about vaping. Doubtless, to prove they should have more cash, they will discover that young people respond well to such messages and they need to carry out more trials with more game formats.
And the fact that vaping is 95% safer than smoking will be lost on them all.
So, is vaping Doomed? Highly unlikely, although it may be time to go IDDQD on American anti-vape organisations.