Games For Health Take Another Step Forward

Via Joystiq, news that the University of Washington has received a grant to develop games that facilitate home-based care for chronically ill patients. For example, the act of monitoring one’s own health serves as a fundamental part of the gameplay experience. Relevant information could automatically be shared with physicians via console network connections.

I’m very interested in this kind of research, and for good reason. Thanks to advances in life-saving medical technology, chronic disease is becoming more common every year. The New York Times just reported that one in eight adult New Yorkers now have diabetes (a scary thing, given the long term complications caused by the disease.) But did you know that there’s a game for diabetics that encourages careful self-regulation? Assuming high quality and a reasonable price, I’d be very surprised if parents of diabetic children weren’t willing (and excited!) to buy this product.

Researchers at McGill University want to make games that increase self-esteem. Games are being used to combat paranoia. Games in general have even been shown to decrease the suffering of hospital patients, especially children. And don’t get me started about combatting obesity; the social and financial potential is mind-boggling (and easy to tap, now that Sony and Nintendo are both positioning themselves as enablers of physically-active gaming.)

The anti-gaming crowd just doesn’t know what it’s missing.

PS. For those interested in this topic, check out the Games for Health website, and especially Ian Bogost’s great coverage of the first ever Games for Health Conference (2005).

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