The Promise of Gamification in Addressing Health Challenges of the Modern World

The Promise of Gamification in Addressing Health Challenges of the Modern World

Taiki Nishihara (University of California – Berkeley, USA), Yagana Parwak (University of California – Berkeley, USA & University of California – San Francisco, USA), Eghosa Edogun (University of California – Santa Cruz, USA), Gia Park (University of California – Berkeley, USA) and Scott Lee (University of California – Berkeley, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0047-7.ch006

Abstract

This chapter explores gamification and its potential to address leading health and healthcare issues, to promote healthy behaviors and empower patients to take charge of their own health. It discusses some of the key advantages of gamification over past iterations of technology-based behavioral health interventions, including personal informatics and serious games. The advantages discussed in this chapter include: 1) a greater emphasis on the promotion of intrinsic motivation through quality, intentional game design; 2) broader accessibility to patients through mobile technology and advancing sensor systems; and 3) broader applicability to tackle a variety of health challenges. This chapter is useful for those hoping to gain a deeper understanding of the promise that drives the excitement in gamification as a method for addressing the health challenges of the modern world, as well as the work that is still required to fulfill that promise.
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History Of Gamification

Gamification has emerged as a hybrid method for promoting healthy behaviors, drawing from the strengths of both personal informatics and serious games. Personal informatics or “quantified self” refers to the ability to collect and track health metrics such as vitals, movement and specific health behaviors. There are generally two forms of personal informatics: physician-initiated and patient-initiated. Physician-initiated tracking allows for healthcare providers to collect continuous health information and provide health suggestions based on that data. Patient-initiated allows for individuals to self-monitor their health information and make decisions based on their personal data. (Gimpel et al., 2013) Serious games are the use of games to address more serious concerns beyond the purpose of entertainment. They generally consist of stand-alone consoles with the purpose of altering health behaviors through a specific and standardized medium. Serious games attempt to appeal to participant’s intrinsic motivation by increasing engagement and enjoyment while impacting health. Concerns for personal informatics include lack of engagement. Concerns for serious games include cost of game development and cost-effectiveness. These precursors have allowed gamification to address limitations in technology and healthcare, therefore holding key advantages over its past counterparts.

Key Terms in this Chapter

MHealth: The use or portable devices such as mobile phones and other wireless technology for the delivery of health-related services.

Gamification: The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. points, competitions, social networks, leaderboards) to other areas of activity, such as the promotion of healthy behaviors.

Personal Informatics/Quantified Self: The use of technology to track and reflect on one’s own health metrics such as vitals, movement and specific health behaviors.

Cyber-Physical Systems: Monitoring systems that allow healthcare professionals, family members, and individuals to effectively monitor patient health metrics and behaviors.

Intrinsic Motivation: The type of motivation that deals with one’s desire to perform a task due to personal enjoyment in the task itself.

Extrinsic Motivation: The type of motivation that deals with one’s desire to perform a task based on external factors such as punishments and rewards.

Serious Game: Full-fledged games that have been developed for non-entertainment purposes, such as promotion of healthy behaviors.

Game Design Elements: Motivational affordances (e.g. points, badges, leaderboards, social networks) which are used in games to enhance the overall enjoyment and engagement with a certain behavior.

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