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Food Force! : A look into Anorexia Nervosa

Food Force! is a one player computer game. The goal of this game is to become as thin as possible! Players must repeatedly click their mouse on their avatar to create a force field to block various foods from being consumed (hitting their avatar). Their avatar will become thinner the longer they block the food; however the food force field will become weaker since the avatar does not have energy to maintain it. If any food items are consumed the game ends; the game also ends when the force field disappears because the player has starved their self to death.

This game cannot be won: if any food hits gets past the force field the game is over; if the player succeeds in blocking food the force field will eventually fade away and the player will die.


Anorexia nervosa is a very personal issue for my family. The goal of Food Force! is to put players in the anorexic mind set, ultimately conveying the dangers of this psychological disorder. There were two sources of inspiration for my video game. The first was Girlpower Retouch, which helped me to choose the argument I wanted to make. The second game was The Free Culture Game; this game helped me format how my own video game would be played.

The message of my game is that the media perpetuates the thin-ideal, the idea that being thin is what all people, especially women, should strive for. This message can become internalized and in extreme cases can result in anorexia nervosa. Commonly, their mindset is black-and-white, where all food is forbidden. There is of course a catch to not eating anything, without the energy from food humans cannot live. Simply put the argument of Food Force! is anorexia presents a lose-lose situation; eating anything results in feelings of guilt, but not eating anything results in death.

The rhetorical process of Food Force! transmits this argument. First of all the playing field has images of magazine covers emphasizing the importance of beauty and thinness, this was done to try to reflect the messages people see everyday in supermarkets, on television, or on the internet. It is important that players see real examples of the media emphasizing the importance of being thin because this enhances their realization of the salience to the thin-ideal. Another important element of game play is that players can see the alteration in physical appearance that results from not eating. As they go for longer periods of time without allowing any food past their food force field their avatar becomes thinner. The food force field is also symbolic of the player’s energy level, so while the avatar gets thinner a line in their force field simultaneously disappears. The game includes a variety of food options, from pizza to a salad. If any of these options get passed the force field and hit the avatar the game is over. This rule was done to reflect the black-and-white thinking pattern of anorexics; even eating an apple is unacceptable, no matter the type, all food has calories. The final element of this game that conveys my argument is that if players successfully block food long enough, and achieve the thinnest avatar, eventually the food force will diminish. When this happens the avatar will turn horizontally and a message will flash on the screen telling the player that the game is over, essentially they are dead.

It is probably evident that this game cannot be won, though it is a dark message it is a reality facing many people who suffer from anorexia nervosa. My goal for this game was to enhance the awareness and understanding of this type of eating disorder by putting the player in the mindset. I feel that recently there has been a lot of attention on obesity, yet not as much focus on the other side of this issue. By playing Food Force! players can experience the sense of accomplishment as their avatar becomes skinner, however in the end they will learn the true dangers associated with such intense desires.


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