Years ago I designed a video game that featured Dilbert trying to catch various food types – from pork chops to ice cream cones – in his mouth as those foods fell from the sky. The object of the game was to maneuver Dilbert away from the unhealthy foods that would kill him and toward the healthy choices that gave him immortality. The game was a promotional gimmick for my ill-fated Dilberito product – a burrito with all of the vitamins and minerals you need for the day. I was hoping parents and schools would use the free video game to get young kids interested in nutrition. I paid a company to build the game in Flash, and it came out well. But it didn’t become viral as I hoped. I’d provide a link to the game but even I can’t find it now.
Time passes. Now I have an improved vision of this game but no incentive to build it myself. So instead I will set the idea free and hope someone else does.
The improved version of the game is a first-person shooter in which you use various food types to smite bad guys who have different food allergies and preferences. When you fling food at an enemy, it automatically goes down that person’s throat and causes a comical and instant reaction. Fire a jug of milk at an enemy that is lactose intolerant and the target instantly bloats and craps his brains out. Fire a steak at a vegetarian and the victim will writhe and puke. Fire multiple cupcakes at a skinny guy and he instantly fattens up and dies of a stroke. Fire wheat bread at an enemy with gluten issues… and so on. I think you’d find a dozen or so foods that make good weapons. I would steer clear of peanuts though, because peanut allergies aren’t funny.
The challenge of the game is in quickly picking the right food to thwart any particular enemy. The enemies would need to have some sort of identifiers for their weaknesses. And perhaps you, as the shooter, need to replenish your food supplies by breaking into homes and raiding refrigerators.
Let’s say that you as the shooter also need to keep your energy and health intact by eating the best diet possible. So sometimes you have to choose between eating the ammo (the food you found), or firing it. Your goal is to achieve just the right calorie count for yourself while getting a balanced diet and the right mix of vitamins and minerals. If you eat poorly, you eventually get fat and die. But even in the short run a bad diet will make you slower and less fit.
I’m attracted to this idea because it’s a good way to teach kids about the power of proper nutrition and the dangers of food allergies. And if you make the targets’ reactions to being hit somewhat comical, in an inappropriate way – such as instantly crapping out his body weight and collapsing face-down in the pile – kids would want to play it all day long. The game needs just enough wrongness to trick kids into learning something.
My hypothesis is that a kid who spends hundreds of hours playing a game about nutrition will develop a good sense for how much food he can eat every day without getting fat, and which foods are necessary for a balanced diet. That feels important.