Dumb Ways to Die: How a Public Safety Announcement (PSA) became a popular video game

Things are unpredictable!

Dumb Ways to Die was launched in 2012 by Melbourne Metro to promote rail safety. The campaign started initially as a video marketing campaign, but it got lost in a sea of such videos and did not resonate well with the public. McCann, the agency hired by the Metro Corporation decided that it was important to grab the attention differently. They came up with a song highlighting some of the Dumbest Ways to Die. The video featured some examples such as getting on the train track while the train is approaching, setting fire to your head, and eating expired medicines. The song was very catchy and got stuck in the mind of most people including me as I hummed its tune for days. To understand its craze, just read the headline from the Sunshine Coast Daily, The Gangnam Style of train safety campaigns. We will unravel the path in which a public safety announcement (PSA) of the ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ campaign became a popular video game.

Reactions to the song

The song was an instant hit. Within 24 hours of its launch in November 2012, the song reached the top 10 charts of iTunes in 28 countries. On Youtube, the video also gained traction accumulating views above 2 million within 48 hours. As of July 2021, it has over 215 million views. The song gained so much popularity that it was then used in railway stations, billboards, and children’s books. A website and an app actively encouraged users to pledge to be safe around trains while giving the users information about safety.

Dumb Ways to Die: A video game was soon in the making

Riding on the success of the campaign, a video game featuring the characters of ‘Dumb Ways to Die‘ was developed in May 2013 for iOS and later in September for Android. The game is a collection of various mini-games that puts your characters in a situation where one needs to save their character from dying, by taking precautions. The game becomes progressively faster.

The objective is to clear the levels to gain points. This will unlock characters, and decorations for embellishing Dumbville, where the game is set. Beat the players in the game will unlock the song with all characters dancing to its tune. The game is suitable for children with its easy set of mechanics. It involves tapping and swiping actions while giving safety lessons in the form of games.

Dumb Ways to Die game
Dumb Ways to Die gameplay

The success of the game can be seen as assessed by the amounts of downloads and the awards received. It has over 50 million downloads on Google Play. It is rated at 4.1/5, with half a million reviews. 


  • The campaign won seven Webby Awards in 2013. This includes the Best Animation Film & Video and Best Public Service & Activism (Social Content & Marketing).
  • It won three Siren Awards, run by Commercial Radio Australia. This included the likes of Gold Siren for the best advertisement of the year and Silver Sirens for the best song and best campaign.
  • In June 2013, the campaign clip won the Integrated Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. It overall won a total of five Grand Prix awards, 18 Gold Lions, three Silver Lions, and two Bronze Lions. This was the maximum success and honor for the campaign in the festival’s history.

Effectiveness of the Dumb Ways to Die Campaign

Miranda Ward from Mumbrella investigated if the campaign was successful in reducing train accidents. Put concisely the case study does indicate a decrease in the number of near misses or injuries and shows how the song has created awareness among commuters. Though it cannot be said with certainty that the campaign was the reason for the reduction in the number of accidents, it did well in capturing children’s focus in the domain of child safety. You can study the detailed report here.

Age Restrictions

Australian Council on Children and Media(ACCM) rates it 14+ for the people. It is rated 7+ and 12+ on the Play Store and App Store. It is to be noted that Parental Guidance is advised as children may try to replicate the actions presented on screen. Parents shall interact with children to teach take about safety while commuting on public transport. They must also explain how following the safety guidelines can be a lifesaver.  

As the campaign has grown big and reached areas it never thought it would, it has addressed the criticism which was received. The developer has multiple games for small kids in his portfolio. These games are safe for the younger audience with subtle safety messaging. It acts as a transition to the main game, as the children grow older with time.

What are your thoughts on the Dumb Ways to Die campaign? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Fadil Meraj



immaculate article


i totally forgot about this game. A true masterpiece.


Wow didn’t know the game I played as a kid had a hidden learning message.


Worries me that children can then know about how to do things they wouldn’t come across in real life …my grandson of 7 showed my grandson of 8 and he showed it to me…not happy about the detailed content.

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