On May 25, the Games for Health project will kick off the sixth annual Games for Health Conference. The event will bring together game developers, technology experts, health professionals, researchers, policy-makers and educators to advance digital interactive games and game technologies that can improve health and the delivery of health care.
John Lumpkin, M.D., M.P.H., RWJF’s senior vice president and director of the Health Care group, will join Richard Marks, Sony senior researcher and development lead of Sony EyeToy and the Sony PlayStation Move, and Chaim Gingold, an independent game developer, in delivering keynotes at the event.
This year’s conference will feature more than 55 sessions and 100 speakers, covering a wide range of topics including exergaming, cognitive and emotional health, “rehabitainment,” simulation and learning, and more. The event is the cornerstone of the first-ever Games Beyond Entertainment Week, which, in the days preceding the conference, will present: Games Accessibility Day, exploring all aspects of making games more accessible and creating games specifically for people with disabilities; a track on serious games operating on mobile devices; a session on virtual worlds and health; and a design and development bootcamp specifically for iPhone health games.
An Intervention with Motivational Power
Because of their ability to actively engage, motivate and entertain, digital games have the potential to become powerful and effective tools that people of all ages can use to improve their health. And, increasingly, public health leaders, doctors and nurses, rehabilitation specialists, emergency first responders, and other health professionals are using games and game technologies to advance their skills and enhance how they deliver care or services.
In addition, we are beginning to see games becoming health interventions in their own right: for instance, grantees at Columbia University, with support from RWJF's Health Games Research national program, are studying “Lit: A Game Intervention for Nicotine Smokers.” The game involves breathing into a microphone to control gameplay, and is coupled with sound, color, images, challenges and feedback to mimic the stimulant and relaxant effects of smoking. If successful, the game will emulate the effects of smoking as a replacement therapy for smokers who want to quit. With another Health Games Research grant, a team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is exploring whether facial perception games can help children diagnosed with autism notice subtle differences in faces and expressions and give them opportunities to rehearse these skills and receive feedback on their performance.
Ultimately, RWJF hopes this work will lead to more support and interest in the field and a greater desire for organizations to pursue research around what works and what does not—and why—to further progress in the field and drive demand for new projects and among new users.