What if the process for facilitating healthy behavior change was as simple as playing a game? Increasingly, games and gamification techniques are being used to engage individuals and spread awareness of serious subjects. Competition and incentives make playing games fun and rewarding while the subject matter increases knowledge of health issues and can actually help spur behavior change.
On December 3rd, HC3 hosted a webinar on gaming techniques in health, the third installment of a health communication innovation webinar series. The event was moderated by Dr. Mike Christel, Teaching Professor at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University. Three expert panelists spoke about their initiatives and experience with gaming.
Sherry Youssef, a youth and workforce specialist, described her work developing a city-building game in Jordan, called Our City. It targets youth and the goal of the game is to build a vibrant, working city, keeping in mind several aspects of civic engagement such as health, employment and public safety. Sherry explained that as youth played the game, the learning experience encouraged critical thinking that is eventually translated into action in the real world. The users can utilize lessons learned from building a virtual city as a guide for how to improve civic services around them. While users interact with one another virtually, they are also able to ground their online activities with face-to-face interaction that could eventually lead to more positive and productive personal interactions. For more information on Our City, watch this YouTube video.
Dr. Parvati Dev, President and CEO of Innovation in Learning Inc., spoke regarding serious games. She contended that there is almost no situation that cannot be cast as a game and made into an interactive learning experience. From clinical service delivery to emergency response, Parvati explained how users of games can take what they learn virtually and execute it in a real world situation. The chart below illustrates results from a study demonstrating similar results in pre and post performance for students who used a mannequin vs. those who participated in a virtual learning simulation:
The final panelist was Diane Tucker, Director of the Serious Games Initiative at the Woodrow Wilson Center. She described that games have the potential to increase knowledge, particularly for certain populations, which can lead to increases in self-efficacy and, ultimately, behavioral change. As an example, she explained that adolescents with cancer often de-prioritize their disease which results in poor adherence to treatment or not fully reporting how they might be feeling, leading to decreased survival rates. In order to address these challenges, a game was created that featured avatars that closely resembled the users. By using avatars that looked like them, users felt more closely connected with the game and more engaged with the issues the game was addressing. This game used the avatar to illustrate how chemotherapy and other treatment works to kill cancer cells and therefore, emphasize why adherence to treatment is crucial. The result was a significant increase in knowledge and an increased feeling of empowerment that led users to prioritize their disease higher and increase their self-efficacy in managing their disease.
The 120 participants of the webinar participated in a 20-minute question and answer session moderated by Dr. Christel. Questions included topics such as evaluating behavior change, cost of games, and how to focus games to specific populations. To learn more about the presentations and see additional materials, please see the attachments to this blog post.