As the digital lead for No Smoking Day 2013, I got to commission something I have never commissioned before — an online game.
No Smoking Day is a tricky prospect. It doesn’t have the freedom of other no smoking campaigns to berate and bully smokers into becoming non-smokers — quite the opposite. The mandate of No Smoking Day is to support smokers to quit — if and when they want to. So our online game had to be non-judgemental and non-scary, but still effective.
The results speak for themselves — we had 30,000 plays in two weeks.
The design process
I wanted the mechanism to be simple and intuitive. When the initial designs came back they involved intro and outro screens, multiple clicks to get where you wanted to be, in other words, distractions.
I did away with as much of that as possible. Keeping it clean, simple, and easy to use were the top priorities.
We had a very tight budget, and had to use the creative assets that had already been produced — we couldn’t afford to make any more.
I crowdsourced what people would want to spend their money on if they had any to spare, dividing them into four categories: technology, luxuries, holidays, and ticketed items and made them into the underlying database for the game.
We also wanted players to be able to grasp the amount of money they would save, so deciding the time scales for the game was important — the amount you might save in a day may not feel worth it, over 5 years may seem like an unattainable goal. So we display a range of options — from the small but achievable ‘what would happen if I gave up smoking for a week’ to the major accomplishment — and potential major savings of a whole year without smoking.
The other considerations were mostly technical — it had to work on all devices, of all sizes. And Absolutely No Flash. Our designers were stars at getting in all the necessary tweaks for the smallest screens and inconvenient interfaces.
What I learned
I learned that communicating what you want from a game mechanism — even one as simple as this — is a challenge.
We needed a certain level of randomisation to make the game interesting, and this took a while to achieve. We also wanted people to share their results, and figuring out the timing for when certain options display on screen took a fair amount of time.
I think next time, I’ll ask for more face to face meetings. There’s only so far you can go with static mockups and telephone calls!