“Games 4 Health” Webinar Juxtaposes Gamification With Healthly Lifestyles

Arundhati Parmar (Minneapolis, MN) —

Video games conjure up images of couch potatoes shooting up aliens. But “gaming” has advanced far beyond that, often pushing the limits of how technology interfaces with the human body and mind. The recent Games 4 Health webinar discussed the many ways in which gaming is influencing people’s health and well-being.

Wii and Kinect have shown how gaming can help keep people active.

Then there are games like CryptoZoo that aim to get people moving by having them chase cryptids through their cities. The game was developed by game designer and researcher Jane McGonigal in collaboration with the American Heart Association and the Institute for the Future.

Two games discussed at the #games4health webinar on Tuesday don’t have much to do with losing weight, and a third uses avatars to simulate a group therapy session. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Institute for the Future organized the event.

Prevent substance abuse

Doctors often have no way of knowing whether a patient is abusing prescription medication. An interactive game developed at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is designed to train doctors to spot clues that this is happening.

In the game, an actor simulates the behavior of patients who are addicted to prescription painkillers, such as shifting eyes, nervousness, tapping fingers and restlessness.

Make jumping on the swing more fun

Making sure that kids are active and playing outdoors is a constant concern for parents, especially when video games, iPad and TV abound.

The Son-X Octavia is an interactive sound device that can be attached to swings. It plays applause when the child reaches a new height on the swing, or after the child has spent a certain amount of time swinging.

Group therapy sessions using avatars

This is the brainchild of Microsoft’s chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie. He imagines a world where patient avatars will meet doctor avatars for virtual group therapy sessions.

This world allows the comfort of anonymity as well as the much-needed social contact and the feeling of empathy integral to group therapy sessions.

Arundhati Parmar is the Minnesota bureau chief for MedCity News, where this article originally appeared. For more about Kinect’s applications to health and medicine, see this Publicyte article by Chris Niehaus.

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