Preventing tobacco use in children was a priority for Alberta Health Services in 2015, but how could the government educate young students without seeming too preachy? How could the government convince students tobacco was harmful, in a way that was interesting and engaging? In a way that students would talk about and share with one another?

The Academy for Tobacco Prevention was the result—a school-based resource targeted for Grade 4, 5 and 6 classrooms in Alberta to educate and engage students about the harms of tobacco use and the health benefits of never using tobacco products, featuring amultiplayer card game called Shadows of the Academy, that allowed students to collaborate and resist an antagonist force that was trying to influence players to smoke.

Johnston Research, on behalf of game designerf DDB, conducted a qualitative research assessment to evaluate student reactions to, and interest in, the Shadows of the Academy card game.

Research participants included students ages 10 to 12, an important age group where making decisions to fit in with their peer group was becoming more important—a critical age where youth may start trying tobacco.

The research conducted by Johnston Research gave DDB and Alberta Health Services valuable insights and direction in the development of a truly engaging tobacco prevention campaign. By understanding how children in the target audience reacted to different levels, language, and aspects of the multiplayer card game, DDB and AHS were able to create a product that was fully educational and cool.

Students could select characters like Jewel, who is tall and fierce, and can fly when she needs to gain an advantage over her enemies.

The resource was innovative, evidence-based and follows best practice in prevention education, and incorporated feedback from the target audience.

Click here to check out Shadows of the Academy online