Serious Games Discovery

I am ‘way behind the times,' as evidently I’ve missed the 2009 Games for Health Conference that was held in Boston last month. The conference is part of a project of The Serious Games Initiative, an effort created by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, which applies emerging game technology to policy, leadership, and management issues. In other words, these folks work with computer or videogames that are designed largely for purposes other than entertainment.

Games for health is not the only existing serious game subgenre; games have been developed for edutainment (games focused on educating or training the player), infotainment (games focused on informing the player regarding a particular topic), and advergames (games focused on developing product awareness). The point is to create entirely new ways to think about these types of endeavors, and it is easy to see how this could positively impact a variety of healthcare issues, including health literacy, healthcare administration and policy. Think “virtual reality medicine.” Makes the whole telemedicine idea seem archaic, doesn’t it? If you want to know more about the history of it all, read the Healthcare IT Guy’s blog for a nice summary.

If you’d like to try your hand a serious game, try Washington University’s “Foldit,” which was developed to help make ordinary people a part of the scientific process. Gamers will be involved in protein folding, a process used to explore human proteins. The idea is to have fun and contribute to scientific discovery at the same time.