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Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space

SERIOUS VIDEO GAME TARGETS OBESITY AND TYPE II DIABETES PREVENTION IN CHILDREN

January 23, 2006

Houston, Texas (January 23, 2006) -- Archimage, Inc., a Houston-based design firm, is creating video games for preventing obesity and type II diabetes in children. One of these games, Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space, is a story of four teenagers and the game player piloting a miniaturized vessel through a human body to defeat a virulent plague of microscopic robots. The video game project is a first person, role-playing science fiction adventure that uses live actors superimposed inside computer-generated three-dimensional environments. The four-year project is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

Diabetes has been called a global “stealth epidemic.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts one third of Americans born after 2000 will be diabetic in their lifetime. Type II diabetes used be called “adult-onset diabetes” because the disease commonly struck late in life. Today, however, an increasing number of young adults, teenagers -- even children -- are developing the disease. Poor diet and lack of physical activity are widely blamed. Diabetes’ societal and economic costs are predicted to be staggering.

Archimage is collaborating with experts at the Children’s Nutrition Research Center of Houston’s Baylor College of Medicine. The CNRC is a recognized leader in nutrition and behavior change research. Nanoswarm uses highly tailored behavior change technology to motivate children to adopt healthy lifestyles. Players must set and achieve diet and exercise goals in real life to successfully play their characters in the game.

Nanotechnology may be tiny, but there is nothing small about the Nanoswarm game project. Work began in 2003. More than 15 computer artists and game programmers are now working on the project. A five-week “blue-screen” film shoot included a crew of 20 and cast of 10 actors. The game will incorporate more than an hour of “cut scenes,” which are movie clips integrated into game play activities. Archimage envisions Nanoswarm spin-offs will include a novel and children’s theatrical production.

“Serious games” use video games’ rich immersive capabilities to deliver positive messages. Players participate as characters in a story to learn through actual experience. Archimage believes the same technology some believe encourage children to behave badly can also be used to encourage healthy living. As Archimage and Baylor College of Medicine develop video games for health, others are using the technology to simulate public policy decisions, aid education, and train corporate managers and military personnel. Activists are using video game technology to reach large numbers of people through “social impact games.” Advertising companies are experimenting with “advergaming” to increase brand awareness.

Archimage develops serious video games played on the Web, PCs, handheld games and Nintendo’s Gamecube. The 23-year-old visual design studio has won over 30 international awards for everything from architectural building projects to broadcast television commercials, computer imagery and print graphics. Clients include Time Warner Communications, Knowledge Adventure, Ziff- Davis and IBM. The firm has also worked on projects for The Walt Disney Company and Nintendo.

  • Contact:
  • Richard Buday, FAIA
  • rbuday@archimage.com
  • 713-523-3425

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  • Contact:
  • Melanie M. Lazarus MPH
  • mlazarus@archimage.com
  • 713-523-3425

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