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Fighting Leukaemia One Modded Game at a Time


Cheil Worldwide Spain’s ECD Alejandro Di Trolio on creating a first-person experience of cancer to help understand it, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Fighting Leukaemia One Modded Game at a Time

In a new campaign, Cheil Worldwide Spain worked alongside the CRIS Cancer Foundation NGO to create ‘The Battle Inside’ – a modded version of the popular video game DOOM – to get teenagers talking to each other about leukaemia and working to find a cure. The mod saw cancer visualised and the results shocked gamers, viewers and collaborators, as the severity of the disease was brought to life for everyone to see.

The NGO is committed to innovation and cutting-edge research to provide cancer treatment. Cheil Worldwide Spain’s executive creative director Alejandro Di Trolio says: “Everybody knows somebody who has cancer - it might be family, it might be a friend - and in our brainstorming session, we decided to target leukaemia.” When the agency finalised the focus and realised that they did want to turn their idea into a game, CRIS was their first choice: “CRIS is the most important NGO in Spain, they are totally focused on teen cancer, and in this case, leukaemia.” 

With the CRIS team on board, a process of collaboration started. Cheil had the idea and CRIS had the expertise, as Alejandro explains: “The CRIS foundation completed our idea with their knowledge, because we don’t know the details and they have an understanding of what happens to a patient when they have leukaemia.” Working with the doctors and experts at the foundation, the agency worked to understand how to conceptualise a feeling that until now, has only been experienced internally, by people who fight the disease. “A doctor and an investigator sat with us in a meeting and step-by-step we tried to define what this ‘monster’ in the game could be – and how to demonstrate the connection between the cells and the disease within the body.” 

After many discussions, both teams decided that it was vital to incorporate the violent, fast-paced nature of cell replication that occurs when a person’s body is defending itself against this particular cancer. As Alejandro explains, this was no easy task: “This was the most complicated project that I’ve ever done. When you have a traditional campaign, it’s very easy to project, produce and generate an idea but when you don’t have all the skills to materialise the project, another factor comes in – in this case, the developers.” Working with both internal and external experts, Cheil Worldwide Spain made sure to overcome the barrier of game updates that threatened all their work going to waste. “The most complicated challenge was to try to deliver on time with both the algorithm and with the coders.”

The elements of the video game ‘DOOM’ features monsters and daemons to individual characters for gameplay. Part of what made the game perfect for modding was the overwhelming amount of creatures that can attack the player, much like leukaemia cells attacking the body. “We have ideas about what the battle inside of your body may feel like but we didn't realise that the realities were so hardcore,” says Alejandro when explaining how they adapted the game. “When we saw the completed game and the final result, we watched it with the investigators and the doctors and we said ‘WOW’. It’s a great way to explain to a teenager what’s happening in their body or their friend's bodies – it’s an immersive perspective.” The difference between a doctor’s explanation and a visual representation now means that people can gain a better understanding of the disease. 

Part of creating this project was tied in with the demographic that the agency and NGO were targeting, namely teenagers who are most affected by leukaemia and often can be a tricky market to engage with. Alejandro says, “The target is really relevant here because we know that teenagers spend hours playing games. YouTubers here in Spain spend 12 or 14 hours sitting in front of the screen. So we said, well if we have to say something, it’s probably best that we don't go with a billboard because nobody's going to see that.” 

By using a first-person perspective game and collaborating with various YouTubers, the agency engaged the gaming community but also the crew who helped with its creation. “The other day we were recording the video and one of the crew, off-camera said ‘Wow, this is really shocking’, because you see these little bubble monsters that resemble the cells and the ‘monsters’ attacking – for him it was shocking to see.” 

It was no surprise that a large number of popular gamers wanted to be involved in this campaign – and can still be involved by streaming – but its accessibility means it’s open for anyone to take part. “It doesn't matter what your audience is. The important thing is that everyone can get involved with this. It’s not only for big influencers with millions of subscribers or viewers - no, no, no - if you want to get the mod, play the game and donate, go ahead and do it!” With over 13 hours of streaming available, 20 million impressions and lots of content to view, this pro-bono project meant that anyone willing to give it a go can take part to support the cause. 

Alejandro says: “I want to say to every person that reads this, likes to game and wants to get involved, that you can go to, download the mod and that’s it! That’s all you need to do to get involved.”


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Cheil Worldwide Spain, Wed, 23 Mar 2022 17:08:00 GMT