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The Emergence of Games for Health

The Emergence of Games for Health

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Published by: sbepstein on Feb 05, 2013
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The Emergence of Games for Health
Bill Ferguson, PhD
he nature of healthcare services
is on the verge of significant change. The emergence of health games as asignificant resource in human well-being has great complex-ity and many moving parts. Technology is changing thedoctor–patient relationship in every aspect—from recordsmanagement to symptom assessment to the delivery of pre-ventive and corrective procedures. Games are rapidly be-coming an important tool for improving health behaviorssuch as healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification,self-management of illness and chronic conditions, and mo-tivating and supporting physical activity. Utilizing games forhealth changes the patient care model by involving the pa-tient in his or her own health care with fun, monitored, andmanaged, technology-enabled preventive and corrective in-terventions. The new, ground-breaking
Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications
is animportant forum for leaders, innovators, and decision-mak-ers who research, purchase, use, prescribe, recommend, de-sign, publish, fund, or invest in digital games for health.Over the years Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. has publishedhealth game-related manuscripts in our other journals, in-cluding
Telemedicine and e-Health
as well as
Cyberpsychology,Behavior, and Social-Networking.
However, the number of submittals, conferences, and related events convinced us thefieldwasatthepointwhereitdemandeditsownpublication.The
Games for Health Journal
breaks new ground as the firstpeer-reviewed publication to address this emerging, widelyrecognized area of healthcare games, including:
Nutrition, weight management, and obesity
Disease prevention, self-management, and adherence
Cognitive behavior and mental and emotional health
Clinical training, simulation, diagnosis, and treatment
Rehabilitation and therapy
The psychology of game design
Social influence and peer groups in health games
Health game sensors
Mobile health games
Games in home-to-clinic telehealth systemsI am excited about this new journal, and I think as a sub-scriber you will be, too. The benefits for subscribing areconsiderable—
Games for Health Journal
will provide a forumfor peer-reviewed research articles, new system and gamereviews, program profiles, health game program profiles, book reviews, guest editorials, news from the field, and agreat deal more. Journal subscriptions are now available forin print and online bimonthly issues.The development of a new publication of this sort is ametaphor for the maturity and emergence of the healthgames field, and I am happy to share the genesis of the journal. Since attending the annual Games for Health con-ference in Boston in May 2011 I have met with the leadingresearchers, institutions, and non-government and interna-tional government bodies that are at the forefront of healthgame development as well as monitoring blogs, LinkedIngroups, and Google Alerts. I had the pleasure of attendingGamification in New York and speaking to audiences at theSouthern Interactive Entertainment & Game Expo in Atlanta,Games for Health Europe, and the Midwestern Conferenceon Health Games in Indianapolis, as well as the IEEE SeriousGames and Applications for Health in Braga, Portugal.A networked group of people with shared interests isadmirable but has only limited effectiveness to share andshape the knowledge, skills, and resources outside theirgroup. On the other hand, having a good journal provideslegitimacy, cohesion, and a forum to publish and archiveresearch articles, share benchmarks and lessons learned, il-lustrate real world examples, broaden attention and interest,and attract funding, developers, and supporters. A journalengages professional writers and publicists to tell the story of the emerging field. A journal provides a handy reference tothe chronological progression across the breadth of the field.The people I met provided unanimous support for the
Games for Health Journal
—in fact, one expert referred to it as a ‘‘gift.’’And like many gifts, there was some assembly required.Malcolm Gladwell states in his powerful book
The TippingPoint
, ‘‘The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavilydependent on the involvement of people with a particularand rare set of social gifts.’’ According to Gladwell, econo-mists call this the ‘‘80/20 rule’’ or Pareto Principle, which isthe idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the‘‘work’’ will be done by 20 percent of the participants. Thechallenge for new endeavors is amassing and aligning the 20percent of the population who can get the work done forwidespread change and adoption of new thinking and doing by the remaining 80 percent, thus tipping the trend to newdimensions and directions.The challenge for launching the
Games for Health Journal
was finding those early adopters and figuring out whatcaptured their interest. Innovation is a contact sport—youmust enter the arena to understand the game and to know itsplayers. That’s where the near-omniscient vision of MaryAnn Liebert comes into play. She has built a successfulpublishing enterprise by being aware of new developments
Editor-in-Chief, G4H;
GAMES FOR HEALTH JOURNAL: Research, Development, and Clinical ApplicationsVolume 1, Number 1, 2012
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2012.1010
in health care, such as
Genetic Engineering and BiotechnologyNews (GEN)
Telemedicine and e-Health
, and
Cyberpsychology,Behavior, and Social Networking.
So off to conferences I went with the goal of enlisting keypeople to devote their time and expertise to serve on theeditorial review board. These are often the 20 percent whocan move mountains and change history. The quality of ar-ticles is critical to the long-term success of a journal, andfirsthand knowledge of who is doing what is vitally impor-tant to attracting a broad spectrum of research articles andknowing experts in the field to review and critique the work.A realmilestone for thejournal was gettingDebra LiebermanandTomBaranowskitobeAssociateEditorsandtoguidethevital review process.The editorial board of a successful journal must haveconnections with and represent the key players in the field aswell, and to those ends I was very pleased to add RonGoldman of Kognito, Fikry Isaac from J&J, and expert gamedesigner Jesse Schell from Carnegie Mellon. With a hope anda prayer I asked Martin Seligman to join the Board and wasdelighted when he agreed. Invitations to health game con-ferences around the world enabled broad geographic Boardmembership with researchers like Pier Prins from the Uni-versity of Amsterdam and Gamercize UK’s CEO RichardCoshott. The full Board membership can be found on theinsidecover, andIamverygratefultoeachmemberforhisorher important contribution toward this first and future issuesof the journal.The next challenge was to put our arms around ‘‘healthgames.MyresearchledmetoJaneMcGonigal’sterrificbook
Reality is Broken
(this book review appears on page 77 of thisissue).Herfirstchapterwasveryhelpful:Shedefinedagameas having four key elements:1. A specific goal that people are willing to work for—asense of purpose2. Rules that stimulate creativity within specified bound-aries3. A feedback system that lets individuals know how theyare doing with respect to the goal4. Voluntary acceptance of the goal, rules, and feedbackinformationThis definition proved to be important because it helpeddifferentiate health games from simulation and othercomputer-based activities thatlack specificgoals, rules,and afeedback mechanism such as a score. Not that simulationsand other computer-based activities don’t have value ashealth resources; they are just not games in the definition wechose for this journal.I also had to differentiate between health games and otherserious games. This was a little more difficult and willprobably lack consistency overtime because it’s somewhat of ajudgmentcall.Forexample,ifagamewithallofitsdefiningcomponents makes better soldiers who survive battles, thenclearly it impacts their health. But survival is different fromthe World Health Organization’s definition of health, whichis ‘‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-beingand not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’’Thus, the
will strive to publish research articlesconcerning games that improve ‘‘physical, mental, or socialwell-being’’ via proactive or remedial activities. We willfeature rapid peer review and fast track article publication.We will offer first-class author support. We will have read-ership in more than 140 countries. The
will includearticles regarding game design and development as well as‘‘clinical briefs’’ in which therapists and practitioners sharetheir experiences with target populations.The time for a health games journal has arrived. We havethe critical mass for a burgeoning community of experts todevelop, share, review, fund, announce, promote, and directresearch in the full spectrum of health games. So subscribe,submit articles, review articles, tell us what is going on inyour world. I welcome your involvement in the
Games for Health Journal
’s impact and success.Thank you.

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