Years ago I designed a video game that featured Dilbert trying to catch various food types - from pork chops to ice cream cones - in his mouth as those foods fell from the sky. The object of the game was to maneuver Dilbert away from the unhealthy foods that would kill him and toward the healthy choices that gave him immortality. The game was a promotional gimmick for my ill-fated Dilberito product - a burrito with all of the vitamins and minerals you need for the day. I was hoping parents and schools would use the free video game to get young kids interested in nutrition. I paid a company to build the game in Flash, and it came out well. But it didn't become viral as I hoped. I'd provide a link to the game but even I can't find it now.

Time passes. Now I have an improved vision of this game but no incentive to build it myself. So instead I will set the idea free and hope someone else does.

The improved version of the game is a first-person shooter in which you use various food types to smite bad guys who have different food allergies and preferences. When you fling food at an enemy, it automatically goes down that person's throat and causes a comical and instant reaction. Fire a jug of milk at an enemy that is lactose intolerant and the target instantly bloats and craps his brains out. Fire a steak at a vegetarian and the victim will writhe and puke. Fire multiple cupcakes at a skinny guy and he instantly fattens up and dies of a stroke. Fire wheat bread at an enemy with gluten issues. . . and so on. I think you'd find a dozen or so foods that make good weapons. I would steer clear of peanuts though, because peanut allergies aren't funny.

The challenge of the game is in quickly picking the right food to thwart any particular enemy. The enemies would need to have some sort of identifiers for their weaknesses. And perhaps you, as the shooter, need to replenish your food supplies by breaking into homes and raiding refrigerators.

Let's say that you as the shooter also need to keep your energy and health intact by eating the best diet possible. So sometimes you have to choose between eating the ammo (the food you found), or firing it. Your goal is to achieve just the right calorie count for yourself while getting a balanced diet and the right mix of vitamins and minerals. If you eat poorly, you eventually get fat and die. But even in the short run a bad diet will make you slower and less fit.

I'm attracted to this idea because it's a good way to teach kids about the power of proper nutrition and the dangers of food allergies. And if you make the targets' reactions to being hit somewhat comical, in an inappropriate way - such as instantly crapping out his body weight and collapsing face-down in the pile - kids would want to play it all day long. The game needs just enough wrongness to trick kids into learning something.

My hypothesis is that a kid who spends hundreds of hours playing a game about nutrition will develop a good sense for how much food he can eat every day without getting fat, and which foods are necessary for a balanced diet. That feels important.



Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +4
  • Print
  • Share


Sort By:
Feb 12, 2013
The game you propose is so lame and boring I couldn't even read through the whole description.

if you're thinking about educational games, see what smart people have to say about it:
Feb 12, 2013
Game elements that you need.

1. First person "shooter"
2. Ranger character (swords, knives, axes, bow and arrows)
3. Evil monsters
4. blood and death
5. Ranger uses martial arts and parkour

The ranger hunts the evil monsters but needs food to sustain his life. He has to find his food or barter for it. More nutritious food gives the ranger a higher level of health. He can eat some mushrooms for health but other mushrooms make him vomit or die. He can save a farmer from a monster and get milk and cheese. He kills another demon and gets access to a fresh spring.

The point of the game is to show that good nutrition makes you a better killer.
Feb 12, 2013
I actually think that the concept of the game has merit, probably best as a handheld app - sometimes silliness and good humour create enjoyable game play (who would have looked at the first "Plants vs. Zombies" pitch and thought it was a surefire smash hit?).

However, I'm afraid I need to chime in on the general disagreement with using food as weapons against those with allergies. You're singling out people who deal with these life-affecting conditions everyday - at home, at school, at restaurants, at work. The game's ultimate failure is the inevitable headline "Lactose-intolerant student hospitalized in schoolyard prank mimicking a Scott Adams video game."
Feb 12, 2013
Not a good idea. Needs to bake quite a bit longer, and it's probably got the wrong ingredients to start with...
Feb 12, 2013
You don't know where it is? It has its own wiki page. What sort of geek are you?


(The game link is at the bottom)
Feb 12, 2013
Just to recap, you want a game which teaches:
1. nutrition and a healthy lifestyle by performing a sedentary activity (playing a video game)
2. housebreaking is ok if it's for food
3. that it's ok to exploit other people's weakness for your own gain

That's going to be a really hard sell! Kids who play first person shooter games don't want health advice - they want blood, gore and escapism, and big mac with large fries...or maybe pizza.
+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
Scott Said: "My hypothesis is that a kid who spends hundreds of hours playing a game about nutrition will develop a good sense for how much food he can eat every day without getting fat, and which foods are necessary for a balanced diet."

Well, My hypothesis is that if a kid spends hundreds of hours on a game, he's going to learn how to play the game and will probably do it while scarfing Pizza and fizzy drinks. I doubt they will absorb bugger all about nutrition.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
I agree with Icebrain: "With so much stuff competing for one's attention, building a game that hook up kids for hundreds of hours is a daunting challenge, and doing it with an "educational theme" is ten times harder."

However, I read down the comments and saw this from AndrewAMD
"I am suddenly reminded of the game Chex Quest, where they took the game Doom and modified it into a family-friendly game."

That took me back to my and my oldest son's first introduction to video games. He was too young to play on his own, but we took the CD of the back of the cereal box and played together. He sat on my lap while I worked the controls. It wasn't long before he was off on his own, of course - but we played together for several months at least.

Maybe this sort of thing is best introduced for very young kids, playing with their parents. Parents are more likely to want to push the nutrition thing. In that case, however, you definitely have to have effects that are funny - and appealing to young kids, but not offensive to moms. Maybe expand the concept - so that you grow a veggie garden for extra protection.

I think it would be funnier (for very young kids) to have really stupid enemies that voluntarily eat the candy and soda you leave lying around to thwart them - and then not notice that it makes them too weak to fight. Little kids love to outsmart stupid bad guys.
Feb 11, 2013
"My hypothesis is that a kid who spends hundreds of hours playing a game about nutrition..."

There is a big flaw on your idea. There is a reason no educational game ever became a hit.

No kid is going to play the game for hundreds of hours if it's not awesome. And just "awesome" doesn't cut, it needs to be better than Call of duty, Madden NFL, Nascar, NBA Jam,..........(thousands of other games)............, Angry birds, Fruit ninja, Doodle Jump, etc.
And your game would compete not just against other games, but also with internet, movies, TV, real world sports and comic books.

With so much stuff competing for one's attention, building a game that hook up kids for hundreds of hours is a daunting challenge, and doing it with an "educational theme" is ten times harder.

So good luck with that! :-)
Feb 11, 2013

Yes, I think that's exactly what he was saying. Let me paraphrase Scott's article: "Life-threatening allergic reactions in children are absolutely hilarious, especially when you can trick kids into killing each other with them. Unless, of course, it's a peanut allergy. In that case, it's been over-done and has lost its comic value." Well, ST__Lawson, I for one join you in condemning this idea for training large numbers of children to mortally wound each other with common foodstuffs, which is the obvious and totally correct conclusion about Scott's ultimate goal we should all draw from this posting. Scott: may you suffer the sniffles of a thousand allergies and die of old age in a world where Dilbert is only remembered as a warning against promoting child abuse.
Feb 11, 2013
I wanted to try Dilberitos but I couldn't get them at nearby grocery stores. It seemed like a good concept, though I think 50% RDA vitamin thresholds would have made more sense nutritionally despite 100% being easier to market.

Did anyone here eat them? Were they tasty?
Feb 11, 2013
If anyone has not found the Dilberito game this appears to be it:

It's OK but not really compelling. Fancy pork chops now though.
Feb 11, 2013
So what you're saying is that it's funny for a kid to throw milk at a kid with a milk allergy but that the same thing with peanuts isn't? Does it make a difference if the kid with the milk allergy would have the same reaction to milk as you would typically associate with a life-threatening peanut allergy, because that's what my daughter would be classified as.

It's not lactose intolerance, it's not a "she drinks milk and gets diaria", it's a "she comes in contact with a table where milk was spilled three days ago and not thoroughly wiped up with hot water and soap....she gets hives on her skin, trouble breathing, gets and epi-pen shot and taken to the emergency room" situation.

Yes, peanut allergies are, in general, more severe than other allergies, but that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of other life-threatening food allergies that are relatively common and I don't think that kids should be encouraged to make kids with food allergies come in contact with the foods that they are allergic to.
Feb 11, 2013
I am suddenly reminded of the game Chex Quest, where they took the game Doom and modified it into a family-friendly game.

You're a chex piece with a pair of eyes and you shoot slimey aliens, I think.

I used to play that one too much as a kid.
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
As long as the shooter is the guy who grows strong on steak, sausage and beer...
Feb 11, 2013
Be sure to program the game such that it can easily be changed when the FDA changes its mind again on what's good for you and bad for you.

Maybe in your game the shooter should have to continually avoid being crushed by falling food pyramids.
Feb 11, 2013
or get pissed at the kid at school with peanut allergies and wing a bag of peanuts at him...
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
Imagine what would happen if someone played 10,000 hours of the game!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 11, 2013
@whtllnew- because it's funny.
Get the new Dilbert app!
Old Dilbert Blog