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NEW HAVEN — Yale medical researchers have developed an “immersive, virtual reality video game” that helps teens and young adults about the harms of e-cigarettes. The game intends to help these individuals learn practice strategies for learning to refuse the use of these products. According to a media release from the Yale School of Medicine, the use of electronic cigarettes is still on the rise among youth. Citing outdated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers developed the study to believe that these trends are still in place and that video gaming could change minds.
“When teenagers think of vaping, they think of JUUL,” says Veronica Weser, the research scientist for the in play4REAL XR Lab within the school’s Department of Pediatrics. Weser is also the lead researcher in this study. “They don’t make the connection to nicotine and the harmful, addictive nature that e-cigarettes actually present.”
The game is entitled Invite Only VR: A Vaping Prevention Game. It transports students into a “simulated high school world where they are in the ninth grade. Surrounded by a small group of “nerdy” friends, players have a goal of befriending the popular senior in their health class and getting invited to his exclusive party.” The game further indicates that gamers will be made to experience elements of peer pressure from classmates trying to get them to use electronic cigarettes. Voice recognition technology is also used so that students can practice “navigating peer pressure situations” that involve vaping.
“As the game progresses, you learn more and more strategies to refuse e-cigarettes while still preserving your ‘coolness’ and dignity as a high school student so that you can secure this invitation to the party,” says Weser in the same press release from Yale Medicine.
“It’s really all about social interactions regarding e-cigarettes,” she added. Essentially, the virtual reality game is nothing more than an attempt at social conditioning. In addition to that, the video game insinuates that vaping is the only peer-pressured experience that teens could encounter. Nevertheless, there are far worst scenarios Yale’s researchers overlooked, including the use of more extreme products like tobacco cigarettes and the rates of drinking alcohol and using marijuana and harder drugs among targeted youth.
Researchers submitted their findings and got them published in the academic journal Addictive Behaviors. According to the results from the study’s narrative, the researchers claim success. Results suggest: “From baseline to 6 months, Invite Only VR players improved in e-cigarette knowledge, nicotine addiction knowledge, perceived addictiveness of e-cigarettes, perceptions of harm, and social perceptions about e-cigarette use compared to the control group. No significant changes were observed for the other dependent variables, including e-cigarette use. Ratings of gameplay experience and satisfaction, VR experience, and game-based decisions were high.”
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