Tunnel Tail is a major innovation in the prevention field: a highly engaging game built on important prevention concepts, this app was designed to reach adolescents where they spend most of their waking hours: communicating and playing games on hand-held devices.
Tunnel Tail was developed for the BEST Foundation by Schell Games in consultation with Drug Strategies on iPhone and Android platforms and targeted adolescents 11–13 years old, when youth begin experimenting with alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Early focus testing found that this age group reacts very negatively to direct reference to anything resembling “drug education.” Consequently, the game mechanics and dialogue use metaphors that build on key prevention concepts: to introduce players to situations where they may feel pressures to use substances and how to deal with those situations; to show that players don’t need to give in to pressures to be cool; to engage players in positive peer support, and provide different scenarios for trying out resistance skills. Players practiced those resistance skills through repetitive game play that encourages incidental learning as they advance through the game.
Tunnel Tail was launched as a free app in the fall of 2012; by June, 2013, there had been more than 310,000 downloads. Of this group, 40 percent were active players. An initial survey of 220 players in May 2013 found encouraging evidence that Tunnel Tail improves adolescent players’ ability to identify pressuring situations as well as recognize and practice healthy responses.
Tunnel Tail was highly rated both on Google Play (4.2 stars) and iTunes (4 stars). The app was a finalist at the 2012 Serious Games Challenge and runner-up for overall best digital game at Meaningful Play 2012. Tunnel Tail was a finalist for the 2013 International Serious Play Award.