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Game of Life: Health “Gamification”

The Health Industry is always looking at new ways to motivate us to live a healthier lifestyle.

Game design concepts or ‘gamification‘ is increasingly used to influence our behaviour including our decisions regarding our health.

Gamification of everyday life

Whether you are an active gamer or not, many industries are now using gaming design theories to engage you to play more, buy more and even look after your health.

Jesse Schell, a prominent game designer, gave one of the first compelling talks on gamification, “when games invade everyday life” at G4 2010 (same era when FarmVille was generating millions of dollars in revenue, later hitting a billion dollars in 2013). He gives an example of a toothbrush sensing when you are brushing your teeth and rewarding you with points, just like a game.

Gaming design will influence us everywhere

Seth Priebatch, an entrepreneur also gave a TEDx talk in the same year on how he is determined to build a “game layer on top of the world” to influence our behaviour.

A few basic gaming dynamics Seth mentions in his talk:

The Appointment dynamic: Reminders at a specified time. e.g. reward points for taking your medication on time.

Status dynamics: Motivation to work harder or spend more time to “level up” and achieve status compared to our peers.

Progression dynamic: Progress bars indicating in real-time how much of a given task is complete.

Gamification is already here and it is here to stay

Think the use of gaming dynamics in everyday life is just science fiction? The Ministry of Health in Singapore is already working on the gamification of your health and will implement this soon. By using well known gaming dynamics, it hopes to save money and resources by encouraging patients to be responsible for their own health.

The MOH already have a National Electronic Health Record (NEHR), where a patient’s entire medical history is stored on a database and can be accessed on any computer in the public hospital system.

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NEHR sytem in Singapore is already being used in hospitals. Source: MOH

The Personal Health Management (PHM) system
The MOH plans to combine this with a Personal Health Management (PHM) system to promote personal responsibility for your own health. What does this mean exactly? It is essentially an avatar for your own health, just like in a game.

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An early prototype of a PHM profile. Source: MOH

Tikki Gee, an eHealth strategist is working on this with the MOH. He is designing a “Health Point” system to help give patients feedback on their health. Sound familiar? Health Points or “HP” is an integral game dynamic of many popular games. His aim is to use gaming theories to increase patient health engagement and disease prevention. His explanation of the PHM can be found in an interview here.

The “3 Elements” of Tikki Gee’s PHM system are:

1/ A Gamification platform (use of a personal avatar, HP, rewards system, status)

2/ Access to information stored in your NEHR and your doctor (to give you reminders and feedback. Eg Internet gaming too much? A reminder to take a break will pop up on your phone).

3/ Use of your social network (using your friends and family to enhance motivation)

As you can see gamification is happening. If we say that gamers are hooked on games excessively because games are so engaging, does this mean that we can also be hooked on monitoring our health? The same game design principles are used to gamify our health. Will this lead to new conditions like Health Nervosa or obsessive-compulsive health-checking disorder (OCHCD)?

I have not yet discussed the pros and cons of gamification in everyday life, but we should all be more aware that it is happening and discuss this openly.

Related posts: “how to use gaming terminology/dynamics to talk to teens” click here.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/farmvilles-in-game-revenue-hits-1-billion-71617.html

http://www.ted.com/speakers/seth_priebatsch

https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/moh_web/home/Publications/educational_resources/2014/national-electronic-health-record–nehr-.html

http://www.ijic.org/index.php/ijic/article/view/907/1635

http://www.cifalscotland.org/docs/Tikki_Gee.pdf

http://www.ijic.org/index.php/ijic/article/view/907/1635