IKTA is a mobile game that gamifies the process of quitting nicotine.
We wanted to set up a dialogue at the heart of our game to allow people to have personalized advice and support in their pocket available at any time. Indeed, there are many applications to stop smoking, usually filled with statistics, graphics, which we believe lack in human contact. Ikta also allows, by its design, to put a little distance between the possible judgments that the player could otherwise suffer from their family, their friends or society.
We decided to use the VIDE asset to develop our dialogue since our application is developed directly in the Unity game engine. VIDE (which has a free version) is very easy to use and allows for data recovery via the dialogue between Ikta and the player (name, concentration of nicotine, etc.). VIDE does not offer artificial intelligence to manage the dialogues but rather a tree where the path depends on the player’s choices. Due to the lack of space on the screen, we can only leave two choices to the player. This prompted us to create an introductory series of dialogues to better under the player and their desire to smoke. After a few days of use, we started to write a series of dialogues on a wide range of topics such as getting over a craving, defining one’s reduction goal, relaxation tips, etc. These dialogues do not have to be presented in any specific order.
In the future, we imagine the dialogues to be a full chatbot rather than just a pre-programmed skit. Ideally, the user will be able to talk with Ikta about whatever they want using their own words. This would provide a feeling of closer connection between the player and Ikta, and would result in a more personalized dialogue that is relevant to the player’s needs. To give an example of the kind of interaction the player could have with Ikta, we could imagine a scenario where the player has an intense craving on a certain day. They would be able to connect to Ikta and specifically ask her in their own words “Can you give me some tips to get over a craving?” Ikta would then provide some techniques or links to relevant websites that the user can consult at their own leisure. The major challenge of such a chatbot would simply be integrating it into the C# code.
It is clear that the content in these dialogues needs to be verified (and even directed!) by medical and psychological experts to avoid ineffective (or worse, counterproductive) content written by game programmers with good intentions but who don’t really know what they’re doing.
The use of e-cigarettes shows to be very effective in helping people reduce their nicotine consumption. According to the Association Indépendante des Utilisateurs de Cigarette Electronique, 62% of e-cigarette users reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke or completely stop smoking, and about 32% also quit nicotine altogether.
Although the success rate is already quite high for people without a game, we believe that gamifying the weaning process could result in even higher success rates. Gamificiation can improve motivation for users, and a digital quitting tool could help supplement support from family, friends, and medical professionals.
On the market, there currently exists some digital solutions to wean off of
nicotine, notably connected e-cigarettes. Connected e-cigarettes, developed by
several startups including Smok.io, myVaps and Silversmoke, among others.
Several, including MyVaps, have failed due to lack of interest and little
funding, but one--Enovaps--is still in business according to our
research. The apparent lack of interest in connected e-cigarettes and their
absence on the market is a barrier that we should take into serious
consideration as we continue the project. However, our long-term vision for
IKTA that is not limited to quitting cigarettes could be still be viable if the
market shows no interest for digitalizing the quitting process.
In the beginning, we imagined the gameplay behind IKTA would be as follows:
The major problem with this design is the fact that the game gets easier as the player gets better, which could easily result in the player getting bored and feeling preached at.
We decided to scratch that idea in favor of an inverted scheme in which the gameplay gets harder as the player reduces their consumption. We also changed the basic gameplay style, so that the player has to collect all of the collectibles before the time runs out.
However, we felt that difficulty was not enough of an incentive to maintain player interest, so we decided to create additional incentives to keep the user playing.
As development continues, it is certain that a lot of time will have to be spent on level and incentive design to maintain interest all while encouraging a healthy weaning off of nicotine.
On Friday we had the opportunity to the exhibit our projects at the Carrefour Numérique at the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie in Paris, France. Families from the Paris area came to the exposition and discovered the projects from the 2017 CRI Labs Summer School.
We had some comments about some technical changes that need to be addressed
Perhaps the most interesting comment we had during the exhibition was from Adrien at the CRI MakerLab. His had 2 main points that we found interesting:
Currently, IKTA is a basic arcade-style game where the user has to collect all objects before the time runs out. Depending on where they are in their quitting process, the rewards and difficulty will change. However, in order for the app to keep people motivated, it will require great level design to ensure that users keep connecting.