Minecraft 'Fear Clinic' does battle with smoking

Swedish youth attempting to quit smoking shouldn't be afraid of the virtual "Fear Clinic" in Minecraft. It's there to help.

Come for the smoking help, and walk the lovely landscaped grounds while you're at it. Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Trying to quit smoking but feeling the urge? Maybe talking to a psychologist before lighting up will help you resist.

It's easy to do in Minecraft. Swedish nonprofit A Non Smoking Generation, which aims to prevent young people from smoking, has set up what it calls a Fear Clinic inside the popular indie sandbox game.

Young Swedes are invited to swing by the virtual clinic to talk about smoking-related concerns and struggles with a psychologist on standby for three hours daily -- from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Swedish time.

"With the Fear Clinic we want to help young people to talk about fears, instead of hiding them behind a cigarette," says Ann-Therese Enarsson, chair of A Non Smoking Generation.

The clinic opened Monday (paste this address in the multiplier client: mc.nonsmoking.se) and will stay in operation for two weeks as part of A Non Smoking Generation's latest campaign to stanch tobacco use among young people. On its first day, some 800 unique virtual visitors dropped by the clinic and initiated hundreds conversations on smoking, according to Stefan Ronge of Deportivo, the Swedish creative agency that helped design the Fear Clinic along with Swedish Minecraft builder Pablo Demierre.

The psychologist on duty does speak English, though the clinic was created to serve young Swedes. They have talked about issues like peer pressure to smoke and trying to get Mom to quit. Some have even discussed non-smoking-related fears.

"The pressure on our psychologist to handle all conversations has sometimes been hard, but it's amazing to see the outcome," Ronge says.

Minecraft, which puts players in a randomly generated world of textured blocks and lets them build an endless array of structures and environments, was created by Swedish developer Markus "Notch" Persson and officially launched in 2011. It has gone on to become one of the most popular independent titles in gaming history.

Last month, Persson revealed on Twitter that Warner Bros. and his studio Mojang will bring Minecraft to the big screen.

Welcome to the Fear Clinic. The square-headed psychologist will see you now. Deportivo

About the author

Leslie Katz, Crave's senior editor, heads up a team that covers the most crushworthy (and wackiest) tech, science, and culture around. As a co-host of the now-retired CNET News Daily Podcast, she was sometimes known to channel Terry Gross and still uses her trained "podcast voice" to bully the speech recognition software on automated customer service lines. E-mail Leslie.

 

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