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CALGARY -- Lori Shyba says the death of a young family friend in an alcohol-related motorcycle crash was the inspiration behind Booze Cruise, a video game designed to let young teens simulate the experience of driving drunk.

Shyba, a grad student at the University of Calgary, and a team of six others spent the last 10 months building a game that would demonstrate all the hazards of getting behind the wheel when over the limit without the awful, real-life consequences.

Needless to say, the goal of the game is to get home without crashing or killing anyone.

But that's more than a challenge when you have to deal with tunnel vision, flared lights and reaction time slowed to replicate a blood alcohol level of 0.25, or "hammered."

There are grannies and kids to avoid as well as checkstops, the odd sighting of Elvis and his hound dog, and maybe a pink elephant or two.

It's clear that despite the sombre - and sober - subject matter, the game was designed to still be fun for young, pre-driving teenagers to play. But unlike other driving games, the congratulations at the end lists the number of demerit points earned, jail time and other actual ramifications.

"No kid wants to spend any extra money on insurance, let alone lose their life or kill anybody when they're driving," Shyba said.

"So let them have their thrills in the game, let them know what the consequences are, let them rehearse the reality of what will happen in real life - entertain them but also educate them about the hazards of drinking and driving."

Jim Parker, a computer science professor at the university's fine arts program who oversaw the Booze Cruise project, says no one expects the video game to solve such a super-costly societal problem.

But he says it might have a better chance of deterrence with young drivers than the shock-and-gore campaigns of still photos and weeping parents.

"What we wanted to be able to do is have an accurate simulation of what it's like to drink and drive. I think people believe that they can have five drinks and get in the car and drive," he said.

"We want to convince them in a very practical sense that they're not capable of doing it, and if they try they'll get caught or they'll get hurt."

Parker says computer simulation and games are on the cutting edge for teaching techniques, whether it's trying to get teens to drive responsibly or training pilots, surgeons and other professionals.

The developers dismiss any suggestion that the game might be used for less noble purposes - for example, by gamers who might get a kick out of competing for the worst outcomes - or make a serious offence look like fun.

"Our position it that it's better to practise drunk driving in a simulation than on the streets," said Shyba. "The Booze Cruise has a fundamental advantage over real life - a reset button where there's no consequence to failure. And failure it is to have insurance rates go sky high and to lose your licence, make no mistake about it. You learn a way not to do it in the future."

The project did get some experienced input from Const. Rob Haffner with the Calgary Police Service's traffic and alcohol division. With alcohol-related collisions still occurring everywhere, Haffner says any extra help in educating young drivers is needed.

The game, which still requires some modification and upgrades, will likely get its first trial players at the Calgary Police Service interactive museum.

Efforts will also be made to get sponsors to cover the costs to send free copies to school boards, health authorities and anywhere else that it could be used, says Shyba.

"I'd like to save a life, and if the reach is city-wide, that would be satisfactory in that I think that Calgary kids will benefit by it. If it moves further than that, maybe we'll save more than one life.

"Maybe we'll be able to educate kids to understand that if they get into accidents, their insurance costs go up, they get into accidents, there are lives that are lost, maybe even their own. And that is so desperately sad for families."



4 Response for the "Video game shows teens the perils of driving drunk"

  1. Anonymous says:

    OK, if this game is based on some sort of reality, can someone tell me if this games' paramiters are adjustable.
    eg.... 22 years of age, 1 year driving experience, 3 beers; 45 years old, 26 years driving, 10 drinks etc.
    If it's not then it can't give an accurate depiction of reality seeing that alcohol affects diffent people in different ways based on age and tollerence to alcohol.
    Right idea folks, just wrong technique.

  2. Lori Shyba says:

    You are being quantitative in your expectations and being artists as well as programmers, we decided to hit an emotional rather than rational chord in players. Maybe you'd like to play it sometime? Check within a few days. Lori

  3. Anonymous says:

  4. Anonymous says:

    Is this game out to buy yet?