Notes from Games for Health 2012

Games for Health was awesome! Two weeks ago I gave a talk and demo at Ludica Medica II: Medical Modeling, Simulation, Learning & Training with Videogames & Videogame Technologies, an all-day event as part of the Games for Health Conference week in Boston. The day was filled with combination of larger discussions and game-specific talks, including my talk on the development and subsequent studies on POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE (available both as a board game and for iPad). Concurrently with the Ludica Medica session, the Out & About III: Mobile Serious Games Day was running as was Enabled Play: The Fourth Annual Games Accessibility Day. With all of these events happening at the same time, I jumped in and out of many great presentations and discussions covering such topics as exergaming apps, a program that helped families of military veterans with PSTD, and subversive game design. Below are some of my observations and quotes heard from the day:

Most exergaming apps have the same features (with some noted exceptions) * a way to log your activities and progress * a social media component that shares your latest workout details/accomplishments * reward/badge system (a leader board, points for accomplishments, badges, coupons for discounts on real items or services)

The target demographic for exergaming apps seems to be (or is better geared towards) players who are already physically active and an exergaming app spices up the routine. Most exergaming apps rely on extrinsic motivation mechanics, i.e., players get a reward for doing x-amount of activity. One novel approach to to taking extrinsic movtivation and shifting it to intrinsic motivation is the movement/running app figurerunning, designed by 2 avid Dutch runners. Available for iOS and now Android, the figurerunning app has the same features as other running apps, such as logging distances and GPS maps of routes, etc, except that the goal of figurerunning is to create a drawing based on the route you ran. What’s neat about this is that figurerunning takes an activity that’s typically intrinsic –you draw because you want to, a pleasurable activity in of itself– and attached it to another activity, running (or moving rather; figurerunning does not measure how fast you need to move in order to draw, although that would be an interesting addition).

Other Themes that emerged: Social conflict enriches meaningfulness and opens for fruitful discussion, but it has to be directed. Context of Play matters. Serious games are great tools to raise questions, not to teach answers. Soccer/football is a gamification of running. There was much hope that Implicit learning can occur from games, even when players report that the game has little relation to real-life.

So, there is a lot going on in the field of serious games. Very exciting times to be in!