(The Medical Futurist) – If you measure your daily step count or raise a virtual plant to drink more water a day, you already fell victim of the charms of gamification. Is it bad news? On the contrary! Gamified apps, devices, and therapies will gradually appear in every field of healthcare making behavior change easier and more fun. Here are the greatest examples of gamification!
Why is it so hard to change?
Sequin dresses, champagne and smiling faces counting down to the new year. Some kisses here and some resolutions there. This time, Samantha thought everything will be different. She made a resolution every year to change her lifestyle into something fitter but she could not make a lasting change in the long run. But this time, she was absolutely determined. In the first weeks of January, she bought new shoes and active wear, she started to spinning class twice a week and promised herself a biking weekend as a reward in the spring.
But then in February, Jim’s birthday celebration collided with her work out session, so she missed it out. Afterward, her mom needed to be brought to the hospital due to chest pains, while another time her fridge broke and needed to wait for the technician. March was already upon her when she realized – she does not go to the gym anymore.
Her story is one of ours, no matter whether it’s about sports, eating, reading more or working less. I spoke to Jurriaan van Rijswijk, Chairman of the Games for Health Europe Foundation, about why it is so hard to adopt new habits. The gamification expert said that motivation is one factor in changing behavior, but loyalty towards the subject of change is something people usually don’t consider. The money versus time issue is often why desired long–term behavioral change fails. So instead of trying to buy your way into change with sport clothing items or pricey devices, at first, you should start spending time exercising with limited resources and technology. Then gradually the new behavior becomes valuable, and you will spend more and more of your valuable time doing it.
Technology can be your coach supporting lasting change
The key to success is time commitment or loyalty to the subject. Both are really hard to reach, but there are factors making it easier. Some people are motivated by the feeling of community and socializing, others by getting rewards for certain achievements, competing against others, looking at data and measurements about small successes or making the whole process fun.
Technology can combine many of these factors and could become a resource liberating tool helping us spend more time on the desired goal. I have been measuring my health parameters and vital signs for years. I know that sometimes I run for another ten minutes just to beat my score from yesterday. However, there are many people for whom it is not enough motivation if you show their raw data, they need challenges, rewards or some community. Gamification can do the trick for them.
Illustration Credit: Bertalan Meskó, MD, PhD/The Medical Futurist