Hospital visits can be scary and uncertain, especially for children.
Valley Children’s Healthcare, located in Madera, CA., wanted to make the experience more comforting for young patients. So it created Castle on the Coast, a video game starring hospital mascot George the Giraffe, making it the first hospital to release its own video game.
Daniel Brian Advertising, Big Heart Productions, Black Wave Productions and Klabater collaborated on the game, which was inspired by George the Giraffe, who was chosen as the hospital’s mascot because giraffes have the largest heart of any land mammal.
George the Giraffe also makes frequent visits to patients’ hospital rooms during their stays.
“We saw that kids would come to life when they saw the giraffe go around from room to room,” Daniel Brian Cobb, CEO of Daniel Brian Advertising, told Campaign US. “We saw it as an opportunity to bring joy to kids who have been through something, which can sometimes be very traumatic.”
Daniel Brian Advertising used George the Giraffe as the “face of the hospital,” featuring him in books and social posts. Eventually, the agency came up with the idea to create a video game to “connect with more kids in the hospital, even beyond the hospital itself,” said Cobb.
The game, created for Nintendo Switch, allows users to either play as George the Giraffe as a single player, or play in co-op mode with a second player as George’s squirrel friend, Swirlz, who sits in his backpack to shoot objects. Swirlz was designed for patients under 6 years-old, patients who are impaired or have difficulty managing a controller.
The story aims to allow children to manage their emotional problems through the game.
Daniel Brian Advertising wanted the game to be one that both parents and children could enjoy together.
“It's a way of bringing people together or just giving a kid a simple way to play a game,” said Cobb.
But designing the game didn’t come without challenges. Typically, advertisements are placed within a third party video game. But Nintendo was adamant that the game not include advertisements, given it was geared toward children.
Daniel Brian Advertising had to find a balance between representing the healthcare system and providing entertainment to the consumer.
“We're used to buying the media we want and telling the story we want to tell, but when you're in an integrated space, it’s much more of a negotiation,” said Cobb.
Ultimately, the agency hopes Castle on the Coast can change the negative stereotypes around video games for children.
"People have always had a negative connotation about video games and telling kids they need to go out and play,” said Cobb. “But these are kids in hospitals that we're working with. They don't have that option. This gives them the ability to get something hopeful inside the hospital, where they can find some moments of joy. It is their version of going out to play.”