When I did my Bachelor’s in Science and Technology of Music Communication for my Final Research Project I studied Virtual Words and Games. At that time the Department of Informatics and Communication of my University – University of Milan – was renting a section of an isle on Second Life, so I had the opportunity to support my research with an experimental approach: I designed and set up a live music pub.
During my analysis I was able to observe the behaviour of the citizens of the virtual world. It is neither the moment nor the occasion to explain what I found out, however I would like to deliver your attention on one result which influenced all my following researches: people need to share.
In November 2012 I hosted for a couple of days in my tidy house in London my tutor of that Final Research Project, Ines Di Loreto. Even if our paths have been separated since my Bachelor’s Degree, I found that our idea of the importance of sharing delivered us to similar ways.
Besides being a Temporary Research Associate at NTNU of Trondheim (Norway), Ines is a co-founder of a Start-up, NaturalPad (the English version of the website should be ready for the end of the month). They designed an extremely innovative Health Game, Hammer & Planks. On the market place it is possible to find numerous Serious Games for Health, usually focused on a particular sector like rehabilitation (Mojos), prevention (Science Pirates), stress relief (MindHabits), medicine training (Pulse!!) and chronic illness understanding (l’affaire Birman).
The effectiveness of Health Games could be found in several different features:
1) Health Games are motivational. The interactivity, the personalization of the characters and moreover the goals they players should reach keep their attention and enthusiasm up. The feedback they receive at the end of every “match” conducts them to continue with their exercises.
2) Health Games track the progress of the patient/player. Due to the recorded data of the game for the therapist/ doctor is easy to analyse the results and recognize the improvements of the therapy.
3) Health Games are low-cost. Instead of going to the clinic or hospital for the therapy, the patient can play from home with technologies which are present in almost every houses, like pc, laptops and tablets.
As I said, I am attracted from the sharing aspects of games and so, in this case, health games.
There are a few examples of this feature on the market place, like Zamzee, an obesity-fighting game, or simply the Wii and other devices which stimulate a healthier lifestyle while giving people the opportunity to play, compete and have fun together.
Comparing Hammer & Planks to all this different examples of Health Games, its novelty lies in its model itself: although it is a game for people with balance disorders, especially hemiplegics, NaturalPad designed the game following the inclusiveness tendency. According to Pascal Schmidt’s speech “How to reach masses”at Games for Health Europe in November 2012, Health Games need to reach more users, to enlarge their market and become more profitable.
What NaturalPad simply did was
- making the structure flexible in order to be adaptable ways of interation;
- realizing a funny, well-designed and absorbing game that can be enjoyed by everyone, even healthy users, using the classical process of game enterprises, and not the one of Health Games enterprises;
- developing the game for most of the platforms that are on the market place, like computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, Wii, Kinect, gamepad and joypad.
Those features make Hammer & Planks a great game to play with friends, because it potentially includes almost every kind of player. It is a challenge that everyone can face.
During the MIG (Montpellier in Game) NaturalPad presented and tested his game, and had more than 700 visitors between healthy and unhealthy players in two days. To aggregate the gamers they created a generic leaderboard and launched as the final price one license of the game. The experimentation actually worked and almost every user played for the score and enjoyed the competition, no matter if they were “fighting” with people with or without disease. The sharing need took overall priority.
Finally I consider Hammer & Planks as a great example of disruptive Health Game, because it is enlarging its market to many new users, and in this way it is a great opportunity for investors as well.