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Super Smoky video game seeks to curb social smoking with personalized aging

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Super Smoky, a video game created by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee assistant professor of communication Hayeon Song, seeks to discourage social smokers by aging players in the game based on smoking habits, according to a press release from the university.

Song targeted a group of 62 "social smokers," who smoke occasionally and had an average age of around 22. She then had them play Social Smoky, which assigned one of four avatars representing either a present or future version of themselves or another character. Players were presented with a combination of educational material about the dangers of smoking and software called AgingBooth, which aged players' avatars based on pro-smoking choices.

Those who viewed their future selves as aged avatars had the most negative attitudes about smoking when questioned after.

"One of the cool things about health games is that individuals can learn from their own experience," Song said, "while testimonials using other media are based on learning from other people's experience.

"If you're viewing smoking with a stranger's aged face, the message is not as effective as if you see the impact on your own aged face. That's much more powerful."