Casual gaming and related technologies are providing medical researchers with creative opportunities to assist patients.
Physical rehabilitation is an essential tool in the recovery of patients following serious injury. However, it can also be a very monotonous and solitary activity. Neuroscience Research Australia teamed up with Half Brick studios, developer of Fruit Ninja, to design a modification to the popular game that allowed patients with stroke and spinal chord injuries to engage in physical therapy through the use of their arms while interacting with the Sony PlayStation Move.
NRA’s work exploring the use of video games and rehabilitation was highlighted earlier this year during an episode of the Australian TV video game review program, Good Game. As Senior Research Officer Dr Stuart Smith says, “Games are going to enable us to really radically transform the way that we deliver health services.” The full clip is embedded below.
Another popular game, Dance Dance Revolution, was modified for seniors in a bid to reduce the number of falls, injuries and fatal accidents suffered by older people. In a paper entitled “Electronic Games for Aged Care and Rehabilitation” (presented at eHealth Networking Applications and Services, Healthcom 2009) researchers described how patients using the dance mat were guided through a series of steps on a video screen with music in order to train them to regain or improve their balance.
Although both examples utilise fully developed games, I believe their use in non-game contexts is a good example of gamification. Hopefully other researchers will also see the potential for applying game elements within their own fields.