BEHIND THE SCENES
Playing these games could save your life
Discover how Dumb Ways to Die made health and safety a must-play.
Avoiding danger is the central premise of many games. But, while that typically means dodging bottomless pits, spikes and oversized bad guys, in Dumb Ways to Die the dangers are a little different.
You could encounter these precarious situations in real life – because these are more than just games. They are part of an interactive safety campaign.
Yup, all of the Dumb Ways to Die games were created by transportation authority, Metro Trains Australia (MTA). Yes, really.
Back in 2012, tired of the same fear-mongering messages, MTA launched an animated safety video aimed at Melbourne residents. Focusing on a variety of cute yet hapless characters known as Beans, it showed them meeting a series of untimely demises.
The video took a lighthearted look at some comical calamities (warning: never poke a stick at a grizzly bear). Backed by a catchy theme song, it also addressed serious situations such as standing behind the yellow line on a platform, waiting at level crossings and why you should never walk across train tracks.
Having racked up more than 183 million YouTube views to date and dethroned Rihanna atop the Australian iTunes charts, it’s safe to say the video’s response was bigger than anyone could have expected.
“This started out as a campaign to educate and engage young people about train safety,” explains CEO of MTA, Leah Waymark. “We quickly realised that we had something that was getting a lot of attention globally.”
“The video went out late in the week and I got nothing done that weekend, I just sat and watched those YouTube views skyrocket. It was a pretty wild ride. A lot of people were contacting us with a range of different offers and opportunities from more songs to movies and various other things.”
Realising they had a unique opportunity to address global train safety, the team at MTA set about coming up with ideas for what was next.
“We felt that gaming, given the audience we wanted to continue reaching with this message, was the right opportunity,” says Waymark.
That first game, Dumb Ways to Die, launched in June 2013 as a series of mini-games centred around the same characters and precarious situations in the videos.
From correctly connecting wiring to moving wayward Beans out of the way of oncoming trains, each randomly-served level requires you to protect these cute characters from the risks of the world.
Three brilliant Dumb Ways games, a child-friendly series of Dumb Ways Juniors titles and a couple of engaging spin-off releases later, and these core principles remain.
The aim is to always keep the Beans safe, whichever game you’re playing.
Leah Waymark, CEO of Metro Trains Australia
“Although there can be some brutal deaths, the underlying element is to keep the Beans safe by not taking risks,” says Waymark. “That message goes through everything we do.”
Risk doesn’t mean anything without consequence, however. And watching the Beans meet their end when you eventually fail is half the fun.
“There’s a level of enjoyment in watching what would happen if you didn’t save the Beans,” adds head of dumb ideas at MTA, Jasmine Hansen. “They’re such cute, naive little characters that when things go wrong for them, it can be quite funny.”
And with new games in the works, MTA isn’t yet satisfied with the impact it has made.
“The reach that we’ve had and the message we’ve shared has been amazing,” adds Waymark. “Our job is to keep the interest there, keep delivering fresh, entertaining games and, in doing so, keep the safety message alive and keep people safe, especially around trains.”