It’s 1992. Diabetes in the United States was on the rise, affecting around 5% of the population, who had to learn concepts like “insulin,” “hyperglycemia,” and how to adopt a healthy diet. But that’s what video games are for, after all. Or at least this one, which disguised itself as a profound aid for children with diabetes, but also concealed, unsurprisingly, advertising from a pharmaceutical company. Welcome to the world of ‘Captain Novolin’.
Insulin and nothing else
Novo Nordisk, the pharmaceutical company behind the medication Novolin, was responsible for bringing it to life in collaboration with Sculptured Software, a company that created games of no small importance, such as ‘Super Star Wars’ or ‘Bart’s Nightmare,’ the spin-off video game of ‘The Simpsons.’ In this case, the project was quite unique. The protagonist was a diabetic superhero who had to confront extraterrestrials.
But beware, because these extraterrestrials took the form of junk food. Killer cereals, giant licorice, cubes of sugary soda… Our hero had to traverse the entire city, defeating them until reaching the location where the mayor was hiding, in the midst of a hypoglycemic attack (he’s diabetic too), and cure him. Fortunately, to heal, along the way, there are apples and all sorts of healthy food items to teach children how to take care of themselves.
Between levels, the game also provides very basic reminders about using insulin, such as a good breakfast plan, and introduces trivia-style questions to help retain the essentials (“Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugars are…”). Straddling the line between education and promoting more medication, 10,000 copies of the game were distributed for free in hospitals and summer camps for diabetics. Although it has gone down in history as one of the worst games in Super Nintendo history, the truth is that it was quite remarkable in terms of its theme at the time.
So much so that it gave rise to many more educational-pharmaceutical games like ‘Rex Ronan,’ focusing on the dangers of tobacco, ‘Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus,’ about asthma, or ‘Packy and Marlon,’ ‘Detective,’ and ‘Buildup Blocks,’ centered around diabetes. For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like PS5 is preparing its lineup of insulin-related games. That might be just around the corner, probably.
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