Technology is changing the face of healthcare as we know it; the medical field is now moving toward preventive and proactive care, with more people getting involved in the self-management of their own health. According to the Partnership for Prevention, “over 100,000 lives could be saved in the U.S. every year if the gaps in just 5 preventative health services were closed”. Gamification is trying to bridge this gap, with the aim of making both healthcare services and digital-health more proactive, accessible, fun, and impactful through various tools and platforms.
The Playpal platform is one such example that applies game-style mechanics — such as points-rewards, digital currency, and community leaderboards — to make mundane tasks more fun and engaging for its users. In addition to incorporating these essential gamified components into its platform, Playpal has launched Playpal Games, a sub-unit that focuses primarily on developing innovative and educational health games which integrate seamlessly into the main Playpal platform.
Playpal Games: Challenging the Stigma Around Gaming
By launching Keeko and Bon Bon JUMP, Playpal Games is challenging the stigma of gaming as an unhealthy habit, with a mission to activate, motivate, and educate. Its objectives are two-fold: 1) to indirectly incentivise health by converting metrics like steps-count into Fitcoins, which can then be used to unlock premium game-features, and 2) to educate users on topics ranging from nutritional information of various foods to tips on adopting healthy habits.
Playpal Games’ aims to continue rolling out health games like Keeko and Bonbon JUMP, i.e. games that lack an obvious health motive but (much like Pokemon Go) are effective in promoting exercise in low activity populations. Considering the most current trends and user-surveys, game apps that get their message across without seeming to have a message have a lasting impact on users; this finding is the focal point of Playpal Games. A recent review by Edamame applauds Keeko for its storyline and overall user engagement, acknowledging the “thought and effort that has gone into creating a fun yet child-friendly game that kids will actually want to play”.
Fitcoins, Fitstats, and Other Gamification Modules
Playpal Games uses three major gamification modules for all its games: 1) App Data, 2) Rewards, and 3) Social. Users step-count data is collected from their phones and they get rewarded with Fitcoins (in-game mana) upon meeting certain step-goals. The Fitcoins can then be used to upgrade and revive characters or purchase boosters. The more Fitcoins a user earns, the higher he/she ranks on the leaderboard and faster she/she progresses in the game. As mentioned above, the key element is that users are not required to take any steps if they do not want to — the entire Fitcoin-stepcount relationship exists as a perk versus a central feature. This means that you can play the game and progress to higher levels by sitting on your couch all day — just like with any other game — except you wouldn’t be able to unlock premium game features. Earned Fitcoins, daily steps, purchase options, and health recommendations can all be accessed via the user’s Fitstats Profile, which can be shared with friends and/or the public on various social platforms.
Health Games are on the Rise
While we may intend to remain on top of healthy habits — such as eating healthier food or maintaining an exercise routine — most of us fall short of being consistent. With the help of gamified tools and platforms, healthy activities can now be fun and easier to maintain. The past decade has definitely seen a surge in health games trying to tackle general health management or chronic diseases; addition to Keeko and Bon Bon Jump, preventative healthcare games such as Akili, Empower, HubBub, Pact, and Cohero Health are changing and (even saving) lives. We hope that this trend continues to gain even more momentum than it already has, and that businesses that are keen on adopting gamification techniques tailor them in accordance with their target audience.