Prescription Play: video game innovation in healthcare
My first medical paper has officially been published; “Prescription play: A primer on innovative use of video games technology in healthcare”.
Video games and healthcare aren’t fields you typically see overlapping, or imagine playing well together. This is exactly why I wrote my paper. Games and entertainment media have incredible potential in healthcare, from lifestyle change, through virtual reality analgesia, to training surgeons. There have been so many exciting projects demonstrating this, which seem relatively unheard of in both medical and video game circles.
Over the past few years I’ve been presenting internationally on the intersection of entertainment media & technology with medicine, discussing the potential for solving global health problems. Games at their core involve the development of new skills to solve increasingly difficult challenges. The magic of this seemingly academic exercise is that it is made fun. Creators of games are experts at designing content people are drawn to, motivated to engage with repeatedly, and enjoy doing so. They are able to capture and sustain the interest of the masses because they study and practice the psychology of fun.
Skills in writing, story, art, animation, music, and more are woven into experiences, not governed by the rules of reality we live life bound to. The ability to convey information and develop skills through fantastic situations, that people want to engage with and master, could be applied to countless areas of healthcare. And have, actually. A few examples include home rehabilitation that breaks the monotony of regaining function and preventing decline, with challenges and encouragement, rewarding engagement and progress.
Story based games can allow players to live life in another’s shoes; why can’t we apply this to Mental health stigma like depression, and Social issues like discrimination? ‘Genes in Space: Play to Cure’ crowd sources Cancer research beneath the hood while players enjoy a free video game, analysing genetic data as they navigate asteroid fields in a space shooter.
Virtual Reality with omnidirectional treadmills is creating exciting immersive ways to excercise while playing games.
Embedding therapeutic content in memorable adventures and enjoyable activities has shown much success and even more promise for the future of medicine. Anyone who wants to communicate ideas, knowledge, and skills to audiences effectively (be they patients, practitioners, or the public), should take a serious look at entertainment media like games as a platform.
Improving health, preventing disease, saving lives; who said these endeavours had to be painful? It’s time to embrace innovation, and apply the potential of games and entertainment media technology to solve global health problems, and have a damn good time doing it.
Read my full paper here if you’d like a more in-depth look.