A Video Game to Teach Young Adults the Brain Basics of Addiction
Keywords:Addiction, drugs, brain, education, prevention, video game
While we struggle to find effective ways to prevent drug-related harm in young people all around the world, families and communities continue to get hurt. World-renowned experts on addiction believe if people understand its basics, they will make better decisions regarding drug use. Nonetheless, addiction happens in the brain, and the bases of brain function involved in addiction are quite complex. I asked whether young adults could learn with a video game some important basics of synaptic function in the brain related to addiction. My team and I developed ‘You VS Drugs’, a 3D video game beta which, through an adventure that takes place inside a synapse between two cells, explains some of the complex bases of brain function different drugs alter to produce their effects, including addiction. I ran an online questionnaire in which, as 340 young adults aged 18-25 viewed the video game content, answered five multiple-choice and two true-false questions which sought to measure their learning. Then, we ran a simulation with a thousand hypothetical participants who would answer the questionnaire at random. We found that, on average, participants had significantly greater performance on the questionnaire than the simulation group (p <.00001, r = .77). Also, the average of correct responses participants gave over the course of the video game (5.644) corresponds to a group performance of 80.63% in the questionnaire. Results show young adults understand complex bases of neurobiological function related to the effect of psychoactive substances and addiction while playing ‘You VS Drugs’, and they also highlight the potential video games have to teach complex subjects in an engaging way. If we want to reduce the misery drug addiction imposes on families in our societies, we should educate young people in any effective way possible.