Why this game?

This is a serious game developed in the context of citizen science and the interaction between game research and drug policy research. Via the interaction of players with the virtual environment, the game can help understand the public acceptance and opinions about policy reform and the regulation of substances which are now illicit, such as MDMA (popularly known as ecstasy or XTC).

How does the game work?

The game presents a virtual environment in which players interact with three different scenarios where they can legally purchase MDMA: a pharmacy, a smart shop, and a party. The game introduction explains that in a fantasy country the government decided to regulate the production and sale of MDMA. The question now is how to do it. Players are invited to help make this decision by experiencing the three different environments. They can interact with staff and objects and read more about MDMA consumption, production and purchase. They can also decide the settings for each scenario: a few sliders on the side of the screen where they must choose from different options related to purchasing and age limits for buyers, dosage of pills, price, advice for users and advertising possibilities.

Based on what is the game built?

The chosen scenarios as well as the options given for the settings follow previous studies and models proposed for the regulation of MDMA. The information given via the interactables are also evidence-informed, either by research or harm reduction experts.

How can the game help research?

The game can help mapping public acceptance towards the regulation of MDMA when players allow to record their choices. After interacting with each one of the scenarios, players are asked to set that scenario with their preferred/ideal choices. This data is recorded. After visiting each scenario, games are asked a few more questions related to their experiences and preferences. The data is recorded in a completely anonymized way and a background setting allows researchers to collect the data.

Research questions

The game will collect data on and help better understand (a) the perceptions of the public about the policy option to regulate the production and sales of MDMA and (b) which regulatory model(s) would be acceptable to the public.

How can research help?

In the interactive scenarios players can contribute with their ideas and perceptions, allowing the collection of a variety of models for regulation. When reaching a broad and international audience, data recorded via the game may allow comparison of perceptions and acceptability of regulation and its different models across different countries or regions. It can also help provide situated recommendations for advocacy and policy implementation.