Todd LaRoche, EVP, Managing Director of Creative, Palio
There’s no denying it: Video games are addictive. The question for us to answer as an advertising agency that’s revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing, is “How can we leverage the high engagement potential of gaming to help (and healthfully) promote our clients’ brands?”
Parenting articles are rife with information on how to wean kids off games and fanzines are chock full of cheat codes, Easter eggs and behind the scenes stories. Nielsen reports that 10% of U.S. Internet time is spent playing games, which has now overtaken email as the second most popular online activity. Last year on Pixels and Pills, I wrote about how video games have changed our culture and influence the way we live and play, learn and communicate, and how we are entertained.
The Pew Research Center reports that more than half of American adults age 18 and older (53%) play video games, with the computer being the most popular gaming device. Games are not passively consumed like television; they require interaction and proactive thinking. And, they can be used to improve health and health care. Here’s how:
Extend messages to the offline world – Getting people to move more, think about what they’re eating and make smart choices has received prominent focus even from the White House. Washington-based Cascadian Farm provided a branded crop – blueberries – for Farmville players. More than fun, organizations striving to combat obesity can use games to deliver education and positively influence health whether on the farm or on the field.
Create new modes for learning – For medical students, poor test results can be more than just personal failure – they can mean life or death for patients down the road. Learning via simulation provides the opportunity for nurses, doctors and other medical professionals to develop and refine skills without compromising the safety of real patients. Games can also be fun, educational and helpful for patients, enabling them to test and deepen their understanding of health issues or contribute to better health outcomes. For example, video games can be effective therapy for stroke survivors. Using a Wii can improve patient motor functions, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference last year. Research projects at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation include alternate reality games that teach substance abusers tactics to prevent real-world relapses and computer-based programs that use Wii technology to help Parkinson’s patients with balance.
Foster a sense of community – Social networks provide group support for difficult tasks or emotional situations. While some individuals are comfortable attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings or caregiver support groups, others miss out on these valuable connections due to fear being exposed or unsuccessful. Social interaction in health care games may be useful in encouraging healthy behaviors like healthy eating or reinforcing the importance of following a prescription regime or in connecting people in similar situations.
The world of health-focused games is growing, covering a wide range of activities from rehab and physical therapy, disease management, health and behavior change, bio-feedback, epidemiology, cognitive exercise and nutrition and health education. Patient-centric health games can go far in advancing many health care goals: reversing the epidemic of obesity, driving down tobacco and alcohol use, improving the quality of health care delivery or enhancing the performance of public health system.
While achieving good health is serious business, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun.
Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.