(THRED) Interview With BitMonster's Lee Perry: Preventing The Spread Of HIV Through Video Games

While perusing the iOS App Store this week searching for games to download, be sure to give (THRED) some attention. Created by Lili developer BitMonster Games, in collaboration with Coca-Cola and (RED), this free-to-play endless runner was designed to raise awareness about HIV transmission from mother to newborn, and the fight to achieve an HIV-free generation. All proceeds from in-app purchases go towards providing expecting mothers with the necessary medication to give their children a 98-percent chance of being born virus free. It's an outstanding cause, and to learn more, we briefly spoke with BitMonster President Lee Perry.

How did (THRED) come about? Who approached who?

Coke originally approached Epic Games about the project, and they in turn recommended us for the game. We were caught off guard at first. The timeline was extremely limited and it was a challenge to think up a good way to represent something like the fight against HIV in a game.

We noticed that Epic donated the Unreal Engine to the project. That was generous.

Epic was onboard from day one to provide the technology, and it was a great fit for the project. We definitely would not have been able to get this together without the engine. Most of the visuals and gameplay basics were in place a mere two weeks in, thanks to the tools.

This looks like nothing we've seen before. How does it play, and what games inspired you?

We definitely took a page from such great games as Osmos, Flow and Rez with regards to trying to make a game that felt artistic, yet approachable. We took the familiar endless runner formulas and applied those ideas to it.

There's an in-app purchase for $209.99 to cover the cost of medication for one person. Has anyone made that purchase yet?

Actually, it looks like about five people so far. There's a leaderboard in Game Center for purchases, and it's extremely cool. Right now the top spender is at something like $650.

How do these drugs work, that allow babies a 98 percent chance to be born virus free?

They're called Anti-retrovirals if memory serves. If taken during pregnancy and breast-feeding, it blocks the virus from progressing to the child. The goal of (RED) is to make it possible for no child to be born with HIV by 2015. Right now, around 600 children a day are born with the disease. Hopefully we can make a dent in that, and that's what it's all about.

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Download (THRED) (iOS)