“Invite Only VR: A Vaping Prevention Game” by Weser and Hieftje

  • ©Veronica U. Weser and Kimberly D. Hieftje

  • ©Veronica U. Weser and Kimberly D. Hieftje



Entry Number: 57


    Invite Only VR: A Vaping Prevention Game


Project Affiliation:

    Yale School of Medicine


    Invite Only VR: A Vaping Prevention Game is a virtual reality (VR) videogame intervention focused on e-cigarette prevention in teens. To our knowledge, Invite Only VR is the first theory-driven e-cigarette prevention game to be developed for a VR platform, making it unique among the limited pool of existing e-cigarette intervention programs for adolescents. Invite Only VR capitalizes on the use of VR by delivering an intervention that arms teens to deal with peer-pressure situations surrounding e-cigarettes. VR is especially well-suited to this type of intervention because VR facilitates greater social presence, the subjective experience of being present with a “real” person, than other forms of technology. Invite Only VR not only simulates the presence of plausible peers, but it also uses voice recognition software throughout the game to allow the player to practice refusing peers in real time using their own voice. The game was developed with input from 4 focus groups comprised of 5 adolescents each to create a game narrative and situations that would feel authentic to the target audience. This careful background research ensured that the virtual characters would behave in the manner expected by players and use the appropriate colloquialisms when speaking about e-cigarettes. The intervention is currently being evaluated in a non-randomized cluster trial with 285 middle school students. Preliminary feasibility testing conducted on a prototype of the game indicates that playing Invite Only VR increases player e-cigarette knowledge and perceptions of e-cigarette harm. Moreover, teens who played the game reported a lower likelihood of experimenting with e-cigarettes in the future. In this initial evaluation, 83% of players agreed that they enjoyed playing the game and 78% said they would tell their friends to play, suggesting that Invite Only VR is an engaging way to convey the dangers of e-cigarettes to youth.


    Deepa R Camenga, Lynn E Fiellin, Tyra Pendergrass, Erica Miller, Mary Ann Pentz, and Kimberly D Hieftje. 2018. Adolescents’ perceptions of flavored tobacco products, including E-cigarettes: A qualitative study to inform FDA tobacco education efforts through videogames. Addictive behaviors 82 (2018), 189–194.

    Lloyd D Johnston, Richard A Miech, Patrick M O’Malley, Jerald G Bachman, John E Schulenberg, and Megan E Patrick. 2019. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use, 1975-2018: Overview, Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Institute for Social Research (2019).

    Teresa W Wang, Andrea S Gentzke, MeLisa R Creamer, Karen A Cullen, Enver Holder- Hayes, Michael D Sawdey, Gabriella M Anic, David B Portnoy, Sean Hu, David M Homa, et al. 2019. Tobacco product use and associated factors among middle and high school students—United States, 2019. MMWR Surveillance Summaries 68, 12 (2019), 1.



    Development of Invite Only VR: A Vaping Prevention Game was supported by a grant from Oculus. We would like to thank all the adolescents, teachers, and focus group participants who contributed to the development of this project. We also must thank the students, schools personnel and staff, and administrators who allowed us to visit their buildings to inspire our environments and record our ambisonic audio.


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