cohealth tweet chat recap: games for health and engagement

September 23, 2011

in cohealth,health games

i think it’s safe to say that i’m not the only one whose brain was working overtime during september’s #co_health tweet chat.

we were talking about games for health and engagement with trapper markelz from meyou health. we also introduced a cohealth pilot of daily challenge, one of meyou health’s products. trapper’s done a great job recapping his response to our questions, so i’ll direct you to his blog to read that and use this space instead to share my takeaways.

  • games are an ally in companies’ efforts to motivate employees to lead healthier lives. as trapper explains, games create a shared environment that builds upon our natural inclination and desire to be social and cooperate. they create an opportunity for us to come together as competitors and as support.
  • games softly lead employees’ attention to their health. as allison kohler (@amkohler) put it, games “get people to focus on their health.” games facilitate a shared experience or one that makes us feel capable. in this stealth mode, they lead us to healthier behaviors and small actions that improve our well-being.
  • games give us power and control. when we’re unhealthy or tackling a huge challenge we fear we’ll fail, we don’t feel powerful. or in control. games allow us to develop and show mastery—an antidote to those feelings of powerlessness.
  • social interaction is what we should measure. we know social interactions can positively affect our health outcomes. trapper expressed that games help generate and sustain these interactions—and it’s these interactions that we should measure. i’m still struggling with this concept, to be honest. i want to dig into precisely what it is that makes some games accomplish this while others don’t. how else can we evaluate a game?
  • games need to be designed for a personal experience and a personal win. games with a known path or ending don’t cut it, per trapper. “in health games, it is most important [that] the participants be allowed to find their own win state. the goal someone has when they start pursuing health (lose weight) might be different by the end (change jobs).” this statement is both a DOH! and a-hah! moment for me. of course people transform as they go through a change. haven’t we all seen this? a game must morph with them as they change. i’m also chewing on what another #co_health chat participant, alex gekker said: “a good health game is one that has (re)playability beyond its health benefits.”
  • games go wrong when they have a specific goal. this is another brain tease for me. the notion, as i understand it, is that if the game has a goal and you reach it, you’re gone. you won’t play anymore. quoting trapper: “if the game is to lose 10 pounds, it becomes much more important to lose those 10 pounds than to play the game. if we leave the game, we stop interacting with the content and other participants that really matters.” if i’m understanding trapper’s perspective, he’s calling into question the effectiveness of games that focus on increasing activity or improving eating habits, for example. does that mean there isn’t a game that helps someone with a concrete goal like quitting tobacco? what does that say about a game like re-mission, which has the concrete goal of helping young kids better understand and manage, psychologically and physically, their cancer. is the idea to be on an endless health quest, which is basically daily challenge’s desgn? i need to delve into this more with trapper to fully understand his point of view.
  • most of us have a lot to learn. we think we know games because we play them. but games and game theory and behavior-change gaming are something quite different. as trapper says, “the main consideration is that this is all new to employers.” you can say that again. i know i’m on a quest to get a better handle on the subject.
these are my takeaways from the chat. if you were there, what were yours?
i’ll be posting unanswered questions from the chat ASAP. subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss them.

upcoming cohealth chats

we host cohealth tweet chats the third wednesday of every month between noon and 1 PM ET. find the full 2011 calendar here, including recaps from previous chats.

october 19: going social with wellness: tools, tips and techniques
community-led conversation about available social tools and ideas for putting them to use.

november 16: the employer’s role in providing employee benefits
community-led conversation about whether the employer’s role is to deliver the benefits employees need or the ones they want.

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