In The Netherlands 12,3% of the children between four and twelve years old are overweight*. In many other countries, including the United States, this percentage is even higher. Children who are overweight have a higher risk of health problems, in their youth as well as at a later age. On seeing these numbers Tim Laning, one of the founders of Grendel Games, figured that for this target audience particularly a game might be a solution. After all, playing is learning!
The Grendel team started looking for a sympathetic character with which children can identify. Hmmm, maybe Garfield, the world-famous cat with a love for junk food and lounging about, could be the perfect leading character. Tim approached Paws, Inc., the company founded by Garfield creator Jim Davis and Jim immediately responded enthusiastically to the idea. The Grendel team got permission to get started on a game in which Garfield plays the leading part.
Tim: “Garfield is really popular among children. The cat is far from perfect: he loves lasagne and pizza and can’t be bothered to play sports or move around. That fit perfectly with the approach we intended to use: to create a game that is not pedantic but that teaches children about nutrition and a healthy lifestyle in a light-hearted way.”
Foppe Hemminga, innovation manager at the Friesland Zorgverzekeraar, got involved during the development of the Garfield game. “As a health insurance company we are emphasizing prevention of illness ever more. We have to, because if the current trend continues, more than 30% of our income will be spent on health expenses in 2040. As a comparison: at the moment that’s 16% for the average Dutch citizen. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) states that half of our health expenses is related to lifestyle. We would like to see children and youths learn about healthy habits. That is both in their own interest as well as in ours: they gain health benefits and we can control health expenditure.”
During the launch in November 2016 De Friesland Zorgverzekeraar offered the first 5000 copies of Garfield vs Hot Dog for free. “We are one of the first health insurance companies to offer its members a seriously entertaining game that assists in vitality and health. This game fits perfectly within the change-over that we are going through as an insurance company. We want to be an online oriented, innovative insurance company with a focus on vitality and prevention.”
The Garfield game was titled Garfield vs Hot Dog. In the game Garfield, his owner Jon and the funny dog Odie travel to various cities spread across the world. In these cities they battle Hot Dog, the evil genius that wants to take over the world with his fast-food empire. By completing missions and playing fun mini-games Garfield can reverse these unhealthy developments and capture the cities from this villain, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city and country by country!
Garfield vs Hot Dog is composed of five cities with seven mini-games. Each game focuses on a specific learning objective, such as the impact of sugar and the fun of exercising together. New York City is freely available for download by everybody from the different online stores. Because the complexity increases with each mini-game, Garfield vs Hot Dog can be played by children from six to eleven years old.
Tim: “We developed the game in close cooperation with scientists and specialised partners such as researchers in Belgrade and Israel and Utrecht University. These specialists are experts in the fields of nutrition, behavior, obesity, healthy lifestyle and videogame design. As such, our game has been scientifically validated.”
Want to learn more about Garfield vs Hot Dog? Check out http://www.garfieldvshotdog.com
* source: Gezondheidsenquête/Leefstijlmonitor, CBS with RIVM, 2015 (www.volksgezondheidenzorg.info)