1. What community objectives have you set for your blog?
The goal of Monster's Blog is to empower kids, their parents and teachers to lead healthier lives through interactive education. Monster's Blog is designed to keep our readers informed about the how technology is being used to change health and what they can do to make a difference in their own lives.
The blog gives readers a sneak peek on upcoming Playnormous health games, the latest in pediatric health research, nutrition tips and how to successfully integrate health games into an existing curriculum. Our most popular posts belong to the Bust-a-Health Myth series where we dispel common myths about nutrition and health.
2. Can you tell our readers something about health games?
A health game uses game-play technology to deliver messages about health-related topics. As one of the largest divisions of the emerging field of Serious Games, Games for Health have been used in almost all aspects of the healthcare system including the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease and disease-causing behaviors. Health games are also used specifically for medical professionals and patients as training simulators, decision-making tools and health maintenance aids.
Health games come in all shapes and sizes including casual online games, mobile apps, consoles, and virtual worlds. Popular examples of health games include 'exergames' like Wii Fit, online nutrition games like Playnormous.com, brain training games like Lumosity, treatment games like Hope Lab's Re-Mission for cancer patients, and prevention games like Archimage's Escape from Diab for obesity and type II diabetes.
3. What are you trying to achieve through your games for health?
Playnormous is an online community in which kids, their parents and teachers can learn about nutrition and physical activity in a fun and interactive way. This monster-themed world weaves health content into a variety of casual games and quality animations, in effect bringing visitors the best of both worlds: research-based, expert content and fun, award-winning game-play.
Unlike traditional online games, our ultimate goal is to decrease obesity and type II diabetes in children. We want to inspire players to change their diet and physical activity behaviors by putting the power of health back into the hands of children, parents and teachers. So often health is seen as something boring or complicated. It doesn't have to be either. Simple changes can make a huge difference, and there are many health misconceptions out there.
We use a friendly, familiar media to make learning about health easier. We are serious game developers and creators of health games like Escape from Diab, Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space and Playnormous Health Games. With the help of medical researchers, behavioral scientists, nutritionists, and physical activity experts at the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, USDA, Baylor College of Medicine, and University of Texas Health Science Center, we are able to create games that not only educate the player about how to be healthier, but also actually change their health behaviors.
4. How interested are parents and kids in health games?
A lot of parents are looking for ways to teach their kids about how to make healthy choices. Playnormous is a fun way to teach about the importance of nutrition and physical activity using technology kids already use on a daily basis. We get amazing feedback from kids about how much they love our games in comparison to other educational websites or health textbooks.
Our biggest fan base is teachers. Many school systems are no longer offering P.E. and health class, putting the burden of educating students about health on teachers with no formal training in these subjects. Teachers have found Playnormous to be a fun and reliable place to send students to learn about heath in an interactive way. All of our health games come with free teacher guides, classroom activities and student assessments. Schools around the world are sending thousands of kids to the Playnormous website each week to learn about health.
5. How effective have your health games been in helping families adopt healthy lifestyle choices?
All of our games are created and tested in collaboration with researchers at leading medical and academic institutions. Our first Playnormous game, Food Fury, is a perfect example. Food Fury teaches children about the "Go, Slow, Whoa" method of food selection. By playing Food Fury, kids increased their knowledge about what constitutes a healthy choice by 60 percent. In a pilot study of eight to 11 year-olds, children that played Food Fury were able to identify on average 3.4 times more foods correctly than before playing the game. The longer they played the game, the closer they came to 100 percent correct identification. This data was collected by a researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center using pre-post-questionnaires and game-play scores.
Our two multi-million dollar NIH-funded core PC health games, Escape from Diab and Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space, were part of a large efficacy trial with 200 children, ages 10 to 12. Kids that played these two health games increased their daily fruit and vegetable intake by one serving per day and increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by seven minutes a day in comparison to kids that just looked at other health education websites.
6. What advice can you give our readers on choosing good online health games?
Not everyone can make a casual game for health, let alone a good one. There are three key elements a good online health game should have:
- Accurate health content
- Fun game-play
- Credible scientific or medical backing
A good health game must achieve a perfect balance of health and game. Playing Tetris with apples and bananas instead of blocks is not a health game. Neither is playing a game of Sudoku with health-related popup messages. The game-play should match the content being presented.
Furthermore, a click through slide show of scientific health information followed by a multiple-choice quiz is not a health game. The health information is important, but so is the fun of playing the game over and over. If it doesn't feel like a game, it probably isn't.
Finally, a word to the wise: not all health games are created equal when it comes to credibility. Just because it looks like the health information presented in the game is credible doesn't mean that it is. If the game isn't developed using sound research or in conjunction with a university or medical institution, player beware. You may not be getting accurate health information.
7. Can you recommend some sources that offer free health games?
Our sister blog, healthGAMERS, is specifically written for people interested in the field of games for health. Under the Health Games tab you will find a collection of over 100 existing health games that can be played or ordered. They range from very bad to brilliant, from mainstream to pure research projects. Many are available for free or will be available for free soon.