Health Games

Instead of hunger games, let’s play health games. To start things off, I am not a game player so I am not familiar with the  games which are available in the market nor the ways games are played. But I listened to Sid Cardenas talk about his health game app, Gobbles and this is where I would like to go with this blog.

Driving question: “Can games improve health?”

There are lots of game applications in development as therapies in mental health, rehabilitation medicine and chronic disease monitoring as well as physical fitness. In the previous Mobile Health Congress, Zynga and FourSquare were recognized as the most popular gamification platforms. These games utilized points or badges to reward individuals as they accomplish certain milestones or surpass the achievements of fellow game players. The idea was to get yourself from point A to point B in terms of physical fitness or a health condition and get rewarded, part of that reward was the health benefits you derived by utilizing the game platform.

During his webinar, Sid talked of the gamification of health and game-based learning. According to, gamification is “the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate people to achieve their goals. ” According to Sebastian Deterding,  it means applying elements and design concepts from games to other contexts that are not themselves games. Game-based learning utilizes the elements of competition, player engagement and immediate rewards to answer the learning objective.

Our assignment is to evaluate a health related game app for the topic of gamification of health. I’d like to take a different path and describe a game idea taking up from Sid’s game-based learning app. Aside from Gobbles, Sid developed a game, Pharmageddon which involved battling pathogens with the right drugs. In a similar vein, my game concept is Kid Doc, a simulation interactive application which stimulates health learning for kids. My game idea and evaluation comes from a kiddie TV show seen in Disney Junior, Doc McStuffins, which is about a 6-yr-old girl aspiring to be a doctor. She communicates with and heals stuffed animals and toys with playmates Lambie, Stuffy and Chilly. Many TV shows end up as games, this one did as a web-based online game with mixed reviews because of its limitations.




Kids have always been playing doctor for the longest time. Parents and children see doctors as good role models. I’d like to go a step further and look into the concept of an educational game which incorporates doctor role simulation, imaginative play, problem solving, building up on general health knowledge while strengthening values such as caring for others , helping out one another and rising up from failure.

Think of a game which mashes Dr. Doogie Hawser from the TV series, Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame and  Dora the Explorer and that’s the concept. My game app, Kid Doc could be set up to be adaptable to cater to all skill levels using selectable difficulty levels. The game should be set up to be intellectually demanding yet appropriate to the user’s age level.

The image model of the game is that of small girl however, this could be set up differently with game settings. The player would be randomly assigned a health scenario and a problem which must be solved. She could be battling viruses, bacteria, parasites, worms etc. Background scenes could be anatomical regions such as the respiratory system and pneumonia, tonsils and tonsillitis as well causative factors of disease such as food intake and diarrhea. We could cover topics such as basic personal hygiene and first aid measures. Her animal friends could be partners in her adventures or they could be the victims of pathogens. The game opens up children to be familiar with objects or procedures kids usually see in doctor’s clinics and hospitals to make them less apprehensive when they encounter them – a stethoscope, an otoscope, an ENT light, a neuro-hammer, tongue depressors, thermometers, syringes and x-rays. These same objects could be the same weapons they use to battle the pathogens. The scenarios are endless, a wrong drug or therapy could slow them down or end the game. The end of the game could feature a list of booboos or don’t dos to pick up on for the next game. Learning objectives can be established for each disease situation.

The digital age has opened up new worlds, it is up to us to find uses  for emerging technologies in healthcare. Game playing and health therapy is one of them. According to Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, a healthcare brand market developer, “gamification in health care isn’t the future – it’s now.”



  1. McCallum S. Gamification and serious games for personalized health. Studies in health technology and informatics 2012;177:85-96. Accessed thru:
  2. Gamberini, Luciano, et al. “A game a day keeps the doctor away: A short review of computer games in mental healthcare.” Journal of CyberTherapy and Rehabilitation 1.2 (2008): 127-145. Accessed thru:
  3. Deterding S. From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining Gamification. Accessed thru:
  4. What is Game-Based Learning? webpage. Accessed thru:
  5. Cardenas I. Game-based Learning:  Theory and Learning. Webinar. Master of Science Health Informatics program, University of the Philippines Manila.

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