Getting Healthy Through Gaming

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by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)

Heres the question: How do we help people get healthy and stay healthy?

With all the information thats available, youd think it would be a no brainer, right? There are warning labels and public service announcements and calories posted at point of purchase. Yet, people seem not to care. When, for instance, was the last time you heeded the calorie count when popping in for a doughnut? And you smokers (I know there are a few of you reading this), do you read the warning label on that pack of cigarettes? I didnt think so.

The fact of the matter is that its hard to get people to change their habits. And whether it is about sticking to a diet, following a physical therapy regimen, or giving up a bad habit, its just not human nature to be so easily changed.

Heres where we start talking about gamification.

We see gamification entering the marketing landscape in so many instances; it would be ludicrous to believe that it wouldnt touch those working in the health space. In fact, its quite possible that this is an instance where those other marketers can take a glance at our community and find some inspiration to push themselves forward

Yes. We know its a buzzword. And we know youre probably so over it. But, lacking better verbiage, lets talk about how game mechanics can help people with just these problems.

A while back, Buster Benson launched Health Month. I actually remember this, as I had a couple of friends participating. And I remember thinking it seemed pretty silly. Being a self-sufficient and stoic New Englander, joining my friends in a healthy living, no cocktails, exercising game didnt seem like anything I would want anything to do with. Apparently, a lot of people did. People lost weight and lowered cholesterol levels. They quit smoking and stayed quitters. They, for the most part, got healthier. And Health Month is still going strong. In fact, as we spend more and more time living in online communities, maybe its stronger.

Which brings us to something I heard about on On The Media quite recently, Superbetter. It “is specifically designed to create “gameful” incentives to help people recuperate physically and emotionally from injury. On The Media Correspondent Alex Goldman decided to play along for six weeks, while recovering from a traumatic injury sustained while on his bicycle, and blog about it. Superbetter looks like a really meaningful way to recover, but looking at Goldmans blog, it also looks like it takes a lot of work.

Heres the thing I didnt get when I watched my friends jump on the Health Month bandwagon all those years ago humans, as social animals, are only boosted by the support of others. And, that support can be competitive of nature. Playing against yourself, your colleague or your friend, it pushes you to do more. To work harder. To be better.

We know weve just scratched the surface here. Is there a gaming platform that you see leading the way when it comes to helping people to lead healthier lives? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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