Stories about: video games

Using dynamics from gaming to improve people’s health

Games lure people to make visits at specific times... can they help patients keep medical appointments?

This past October I attended the Health 2.0 conference, where there was a lot of discussion on the use of niche social networking sites to empower and inform patients, caregivers and families. There is a lot of debate about these communities, but one thing that’s not debatable is their popularity.

MedHelp, for example, has over 12 million monthly users. Patientslikeme – originally designed, by three MIT engineers, for patients with ALS – now has more than 100,000 members and 500 health conditions. Daily Strength has more than 500 communities, including breast cancer, depression, cystic fibrosis, divorce, infertility and parenting. WEGO Health, Alliance Health … the list goes on. Sites like TuDiabetes that let patients share and analyze their health data are starting to be tapped for public health surveillance.

The increase in sites has their owners coming up with new and innovative ways to draw members. One strategy is incorporating game mechanics or game dynamics theories.

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A digital upbringing

It seems positively quaint to care about the amount of time kids spend watching TV. These days, a television is often mere audiovisual wallpaper for a teen or preteen who is texting on his cell phone while listening to music on earphones and, on the computer, checking out an online video (oops, he sees you! quick screen change to homework).

What impact is this full multimedia immersion having on a generation of kids? For all the social and educational benefits of digital devices, studies also have linked texting and the state of being constantly wired to bad educational and health outcomes. But no one’s really quantified this exposure, or the degree of media multitasking – until now.

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Better anger management through video games

I’m playing Space Invaders on a laptop in front of a group of psychiatrists and social workers, and frankly feeling pretty nervous. My finger is attached to a pulse oximeter, which measures my heart rate. As I struggle with the arrow keys to hit the incoming targets, I notice I’m shooting blanks. I take a deep breath to try to calm down.  My heart rate drops, and once again I’m firing real missiles, scoring hits.

This same game, adapted from the old 1978 Space Invaders, is being tested in young psychiatry patients here

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