Health via Games

Games for Health is no longer a novelty. The quest for the best “health game” is still a down-the-wrong-path route to wellness, as we see it. The Games for Health field is exploding with inspired thinking, ingenuity and a passion to change the world.  The body of options being created for disease management and prevention, compliance with medicine and prescription and health/nutrition awareness is dazzling.
In WellnessGaming the HCD way, we focus on the seamless integration of physical activity as applied to great game design and play – not the actual content or “health” message of the game. The first step to prevention and wellness across  age bands and conditions is an increase in regular, lifelong physical activity participation.  Game play can make that participation more engaging for hard to reach populations. Designing a wellness approach to using these games can be established by the use of the HCD 7 Network Resource Components.
You may have known that games have been used to train armies and that computer simulations teach pilots how to deal with any conceivable in-flight situation. But did you know that game platforms can reduce the cost of medical care? Consider this: a $100 WiiFit Balance Board provides as much benefit to stroke victims as an $18,000 apparatus. Playing games can be diagnostic, too. They are directly therapeutic; and when applied as an intervention, they become the intervention!  With careful development of prescription, programming, delivery and destinations, long term engagement and validation of activity participation can change things for the better – for seniors, youth and those with challenging conditions.
Dr. Richard Marks, a senior researcher at Sony Computer Entertainment US R&D group said in his keynote at the May 2010 Games for Health conference entitled The Mind-Body Experience of Sony Move, “It used to be that graphics was all that mattered.” Now the involvement of the body is recognized as an intrinsic part of the experience. Richard called this “somatic gratification” and he remarked on the unexpected enjoyment of playing the drums in a spirited game of Rock Band.
Surprisingly, even sitting to play a few rounds of RockBand can generate the sort of heart rate and exertion a wellness intervention requires – and it can be logged in frequency, duration and intensity via game scoring mechanics.  As a child, play is inherent.
We can reclaim this joyfulness and improve our lives through careful design of WellnessGaming programs.
Chaim Gingold thoroughly inspired me with his talk, The Human Play Machine. Chaim began his talk with a very relevant question about game development: why are we building games to suit the architecture of the machine which will run them (computer, console, or mobile phone) instead of thinking of humans as our target machine? Every type of play maps to a human body part.  Sitting in a chair while playing does not minimize the body parts engaged – neither in the chair or the hand on the mouse or controller.
Get up, get moving, and use play, games and physical activity for a route to wellness paved with fun.
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