A lot of people play Minecraft. I mean a lot, to the tune of about 17 million purchases. Capitalizing on that built-in audience, the FDA is using Minecraft for an anti-smoking PSA. The agency hired Adam Dahlberg, who works under the YouTube sobriquet SkyDoesMinecraft, to create the ad using the open-source game that lets users create 3D worlds. The 21-year-old Dahlberg runs a multi-channel network Machinima, which uses the game to create videos on everything from mini-cops and robbers series to a parody of Coldplay's "Paradise," which has reached over 40 million views. The FDA will have access to Dahlberg's 10.3 million subscribers to disseminate the anti-smoking message.
AdWeek reported that while Dahlberg has not been a smoker himself, he has had family members who have smoked and felt personally affected by it. He will be vlogging about his experience making the PSA.
The PSA doesn't seem to be a response to Minecraft in particular, although you can grow tobacco fields in the game. Though there is no official data released on the average age of Minecraft users, a poll on the game forum in 2012 showed that 44 percent of the users were between the ages of 15 and 21. According to the American Lung Association, 85 percent of smokers started when they were 21 and younger, so the FDA is tapping into an important age demographic by using the sandbox game.
This isn't the first time that Minecraft has been used to curb tobacco use. The Swedish-based anti-smoking organization A Non-Smoking Generation opened a counseling clinic in the game in March. It sounded a lot more terrifying than it actually was, with the very curtly titled Fear Clinic — but, no, the clinic didn't show the black lungs we used to see in elementary school. Rather, it was a place for people to come in and talk about their fears rather than using cigarettes, with an actual psychologist on standby.
To boot, video game imagery has been used in anti-smoking efforts outside of Minecraft. In 2012, Ukrainian designer German Ljutaev dropped life hearts onto cigarettes that you burn through as you smoke, with the classic video game "Continue Y/N?" as you get down to the filter. Not exactly subtle.
It's unclear when the PSA will be released, or what direction Dahlberg will take it, but this is a whole new, high-tech way of saying the same thing the FDA has been trying to tell us for decades: "Don't smoke."