Get Your Game On


Part 2 of 3 from my 2016 MayoInOZ talk

Yes, it's time to get your game on people! Time to get clinicians, developers and gamers in the room together and create games for health. It is the future of now.

Just like businesses adopted Social (and Social adopted business),  the health industry is now starting to adopt online gaming. Please be aware, that I am not talking about advertising on games, or building followers. I am talking about the gamification of treatment. Games are perfectly suited to help people with mental health conditions and people undergoing physical and mental rehabilitation.

This is not about a meditation app (although they are really useful - and I love mine) this is about a game you play. A couple of years back when I started thinking about this idea, I couldn't find much happening in this space. I am so excited to see things are starting to happen - and I expect this trend will gain momentum as we accelerate into the future.

Embark on a quest to return colour and positivity back into the world - ReachOut

In February 2016, ReachOut - a not-for-profit working with young people, launched its pilot mental health game Orb. The game is developed for students in Years 9 and 10. They can play on an iPad or desktop and the game uses positive psychology to teach students how to improve their mental health and wellbeing. The game was produced by the Telstra Foundation and Soap Creative. Hat's off to them! This is a brilliant start in this space.

How do you play? You create and avatar reflecting your character strengths and as this avatar you navigate through a virtual world ruled by 'The Glitch'. This is one helluva bad dude - he has drained the colour from everything. In the game, your quest is to restore colour into the world using your Orb (positive energy), which is recharged by recording good things that happen in your day. You have to make choices as you interact with all the characters in the game - characters overwhelmed with negativity. You will face challenges that reward perseverance and persistence. Check out what the teachers and students thought of the game...


Physical therapy is boring - play a game instead - Cosmin Mihaiu, Mira Rehab

That is the title of the Ted Talk where founder of Mira Rehab, Cosmin Mihaiu, tells his story about how he came to be running a company creating games for physiotherapy treatment.  In short, when he was 6 he broke his arm and spent 6 weeks in plaster. Some 20 years later he was inspired by this, and his mother's rehabilitation experience with a shoulder injury, to gamify rehab. He got developers, gamers, physiotherapists and clinicians in a room and created a prototype. They entered the game in the Microsoft Imagine Cup and came 6th world wide. There are a lot of sixes in that story! 

They now have some 40 games. His development team work closely with physiotherapists and clinicians to develop games which make people playing the games move their body in line with the treatment they need. While playing the game, you forget you are doing a repetitive movement and physiotherapy treatment, and the games are so fun you are motivated to play them. Don't ever underestimate the power of fun!

I love the game he talks about in his Ted Talk, which is for older people at risk of falls. The game prompts them to stand up from a sitting position and sit down again, several times. The person is motivated to stand as they want to hit a token with their head as it passes by on the screen. A motion sensor (like those used in a Wii game) recognises when the token is successfully hit and the gamer is rewarded with money - not real money of course. I think the game appeals to those who like the pokies! The beauty is that these games can be tailored to the needs of the individual, and like all games it collects data on performance. So the clinician can see how often it is played, how well the person is going in the game, if they are increasing their performance and success in the game. Pretty hard to lie about doing your rehab exercises (unless you pay one of your friends to do it for you!!)

How fabulous is this! And this is just the beginning.

Go Pokemon Go!

In July 2016 Pokemon Go hit the world. A game which leveraged off our nostalgia for those adorable creatures, it exploded all the gaming barriers. No surprises given it was the brainchild of the creator of Google Earth, John Hanke. Clearly this guy has a few good ideas up his sleeve!! It started as an April Fool's joke for Google Maps in 2014, where Pokemon would suddenly turn up on certain locations on Google Maps. Mr Hanke saw the potential and the rest is history.  Suddenly games were no longer just for inside, they were no longer for the stereotypical gamer. And most impressively, the game brought Augmented Reality to the masses. Such disruption. I love it.

The game had higher usage than Twitter, Instagram and Porn!  To give you a sense of the scale of popularity it took Facebook 3 years to hit 50 million users (source: TechWorm), yet it only took Pokemon Go 19 days (source: SensorTower). And apart from the occasional car crash, it had some really unexpected health benefits. Especially for Adam and his family.


This is so inspiring. It is proof that games can change your brain, in a good way. That games can motivate you when nothing else will. It shows the possibilities. 

Anything is possible. Especially with where we are heading with augmented reality. At the moment it is a fun thing business is playing with, imagine what happens when we get serious with it.  But before we get serious, let's have a giggle at how Pepsi used it at a bus stop recently. Enjoy!

Imagine if this kind of cleverness was applied in health. What are the possibilities for medical education? For diagnostics?

Professor Jeffery E Brand from Bond University who produces the Digital Australia Report each year for the last 11 years with the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association is so right when he said:

We are witnessing breathtaking changes in the realm of digital interactive entertainment..

Games have the power to change our behaviour and the way we do things because they have always been part of our story, our cultural learning. Their history and the role games play in our neurological development is something I explore in my next post Gaming: what a brain changer.

(This post is part 2 of 3 posts sharing an expanded version of my talk at the 2nd International HealthCare and Social Media Summit, Mayo In Oz, in November 2016).