There are many “serious games” and “games for health” that brilliantly simulate real medical training, health and disease management, training for surgeons and first response teams and even pain management. Please take a look at what has evolved from the brilliant work of Digital Mill (Ben Sawyer and Beth Bryant) and sponsors like RWJF.
Another category of games has focused on brain health: cognition, memory, spatial practice and more. There are many brain fitness programs out there, like the one developed by HAPPY Neuron. Some of these games can be played on computers and phones the conventional way, or an active controller can be added for added benefit.
With the numbers of people in need of a solid dose of daily physical activity rising, we at HCD strategize options that meet young, old and in-between folks where they live, play, work and socialize. For many, this environment is wrapped around video games, casual games and social networks enjoyed online.
Because the first step to wellness has been defined as regular physical activity participation aligned to age, condition and accessibility, we at HCD recognize the enormous opportunity that great games and active controllers deliver. Not every exergame is equal. The Exercise Network (TEN) is non-commercial, not aligned with any sponsor or group and is an independent advocate for exergaming. Their wiki is a great place to start learning about the potential of exergames.
So now we come to our take on the opportunity of combining exergaming with wellness. No one strategy can engage the least active or the inactive. Because wellness begins with the habit of being physically active to a degree that is ideal and quantified for an individual, the program of physical activity has to be accessible, engaging and allow for easy participation.
In order to engage and motivate toward participation for the long term, the activity has to be able to be consistently delivered, be fun, compelling and relevant to the participant – and be able to include family and friends. Casual games and video games have proven to deliver on many levels. Wellness gaming would be taking the best in casual and video games and providing immersive and progressive physical activity to drive the game play.
Wellness gaming has potential we’ve only just begun to tap. Many of the attributes that health care providers and insurers, employers and individuals themselves want in an activity program are inherent in great wellness game options:
- Quantified activity sessions
- Measurable and logged frequency, intensity and duration
- Social engagement
- Customized levels, open-ended progression
- Great game play
- A variety of fitness factors: aerobic activity, balance, agility, eye-hand/foot coordination
(For a full article on this topic please see pages 57-58 in the Fall 2009 Casual Connect magazine).