Monday, October 14, 2013

Gamification of Health

Feel free to correct me in the comments, but I'm seeing two main trends in the gamification of health. The first is using game mechanics for fitness, motivating us to get us off the couch. The second is gamified, or at least game-based, treatments.

Since I'm and educator and not a health professional, I'm not particularly qualified to comment on the latter. However I have been reading many interesting articles about video games for pain reduction or for treating ADHD, and I'm very interested in devices that help us measure ourselves. For example, check out this story about using an inexpensive EEG device together with video games as therapy for ADHD.

Of broader application, though, is the use of game mechanics to help reverse our sedentary patterns. Devices such as the FitBit products, and games such as Nike+ Kinect Training help us to measure ourselves and set goals. As I write this during a weekend of overeating, I realize that these things need to be as "frictionless" as possible. It's much easier to have another slice of pie than to go to the gym, or to turn on the Xbox and spend half an hour working out. There continues to be a lot of thought put into seamlessly incorporating fitness (and motivation) into our daily lives.

Often the best motivation, for fitness or anything else, involves collaboration or competition with other people. Upcoming competitions such as triathlons or games encourage us to train, and collaborations such the November Project motivate us because our friends are doing it. Of course this means that we need to convince our friends to participate.

In education, however, we have a unique environment with a captive audience. Students participate in events such as the Terry Fox Run, as well as school sports and intramurals. Some organizations try to replicate this with Corporate Challenges, or with online gamification systems such as OfficeVibe, but for some reason those don't seem as successful. Maybe because we don't usually have PhysEd teachers working in our offices.

So there are two things that I'm thinking about related to this. First, of course, is how to continue use our time with students to encourage lifelong fitness. The second, though, is how to replicate for adults the fitness motivation that we see in schools. I see the principles of gamification as one of the best ways to continue doing that.

But first I think I'll go have another slice of pie.

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