Leveraging Gaming Technologies for Health

Collaborators: York University, Centennial College, Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII), Mobile Experience Innovation Center and NexJ Systems Inc.

The Game Technology in Personal Health Management Applications research project was a collaborative effort between Centennial College, York University and NexJ Systems. It was primarily funded by Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation with contributions from all participants. The team also received contributions from OCAD through funding from the Mobile Experience Innovation Centre.

The purpose of the Game Technology in Personal Health Management Applications research project was to learn how to improve personal health management from the gaming industry and related published research. A game, or game-like features embedded in the application, would have the following success criteria:

1. Achievement of learning objectives for relevant behavioural and lifestyle changes.
2. Take-up of behavioural and lifestyle changes among players.
3. Long term adherence and continuous improvement to lifestyle changes
4. Measurable health benefits experienced by players.

In conjunction with this research, a health game prototype was created based on a personal coaching and behaviour protocol designed by York University researchers and the NexJ Health Coach, an early-stage personal health management application. Videogames have been used as an education tool for health related behaviour change since the mid-1990s. This game is a Flash-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game designed to give at-risk individuals a fun, alternative way to cope with daily activities that can positively affect their lives. The prototype integrates quasi-realistic functionality by allowing players the ability to use their smartphones to monitor their activities in the physical world. The data gathered from these activities are then relayed back into the virtual game to inform the actions of an avatar that represents that player and earn virtual money that can be used in the virtual world or redeemed for goods in the physical world. At regular intervals, players would be provided with a quick synopsis of calories burned, long-term projected health benefits, and virtual dollars earned in order to affect positive behavioural changes.

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