Not a member yet? Register for full benefits!

Games for Health 2008: Round Up

This two part overview of the Games for Health Conference 2008, split due to length necessity, features five examples that were actually shown.

Both overview segments contain the same introductory speech of some 35 seconds by Ben Sawyer, the co-director of the organisation Serious Games, which is behind the conference.

Part One || Part One Video || Part Two || Part Two Video|| Further Reading

Part One

Part one looks at the following projects:

XRtainment zone

Co-founded by Dr Ernie Medina, XRtainment is a play on the similar sounding exertainment, or exergaming craze that has been building since the late 80s, and is finally making mainstream inroads. Exertainment is the fusion of exercise and playing games, or having fun ang gaining exercise at the same time. The term was coined to refer to videogaming which is specifically designed to burn calories as well. This directly contradicts the stereotypical image presented by both video gaming and full immersion VR.

Working as part of the Weaver Medical Group, Dr Medina's company runs a family fitness centre, which uses videogaming as the predominant way to achieve body toning, and stress elimination. To do this, almost all the exercise equipment in the facility, is directly hooked into a gaming system, that translates the user's physical exertion into a form of advancement within a virtual gameworld. Thus, working out, and working our more regularly, both earn points and give a true sense of progress over a short time-frame that physical workout has traditionally lacked.

XRtainment zone gets a full two minutes of air-time showcasing many of the more physical and community-spirit exergaming options. At the moment there is only one XRtainment zone centre, but given their tremendous success, it is immensely doubtful that there will remain only one.

Pulse: The Virtual Clinical Learning Lab

Created by Texas A&M University, in partnership with Corpus Christi, Pulse is the brainchild of Claudia McDonald. It is an attempt to train physicians in an immersive virtual reality environment.It is essentially her vision for the next level of medical education.

What it is, is a first person role playing environment, which puts the player in the position of being an emergency room doctor, seeing the patients as they first come into the hospital, or even on site in a major disaster. Players see through the eyes of the physician, make the decisions and live with the consequences of those decisions. For example, if you give the right drug in the wrong way, or the right drug in the wrong way, the patient may die, and you have to deal with that. Losing a virtual patient being every bit the wake-up call losing an actual one would be, with none of the actual death after effects.

Additionally, even if you give the right drug in the right way, the patient can still die in Pulse, especially if their wounds were serious enough to begin with. That is intended to show that you as a doctor, can do everything right, work to the best of your ability, and, if they are far enough gone, the patient may still die despite your efforts. Again, preparing the player for the world of medicare. When they die without you understanding why, as a player you can go back, resurrect the patient and give them the same injuries. Then treat them again, diagnose them, run more tests and find things you missed the first time. This is an invaluable tool for teaching to look beyond the obvious, a skill typically only learnt with experience at practising medicine.

As stated loud and clear in the video, Pulse and systems like it are intended both to supplement actual medical practice, and, in some cases, to replace it altogether. To do that, it simply has to be as real as possible - without the real patient deaths, but with the emotional attachment by the user, to simulate hard, the effect on them as a doctor loss of a patient in their care.

Pules gets three full minutes of air-time, with the thoughts of several practising doctors and hospital administrators on it, as well as showing it in action with a medical team.


A commercial videogame this time, ReMission Created by HopeLab, the game is distributed solely to children battling cancer, at no cost whatsoever. Cynthia Carol, the mother of a boy who was diagnosed with leukaemia, opens the segment.

ReMission is an atypical first person shooter, in that the enemies are cancer cells and other parasites.Not just a pick-me-up, the game also tries to educate about the benefits of all manner of cancer treatments, from specific drugs to chemotherapy. Embedded directly into the game, these elements are offered as weapon upgrades, and other enhancements which visually and immediately have a effect on the strength of the cancer cells you are fighting, and on the strength of your equipment.

Additionally, the different types of enemies have optional factsheets that can be summoned. These fact-sheets contain information on the real cancer types the enemies are based on, and the ways to fight them, are the actual ways employed against that type.

Two minutes of coverage, from the perspective of an actual player, with lukemia.

Part One

Part Two

Part two opens out after the same introduction as before, on the organisation games for health, and the marvels they have achieved in getting developers from different walks of life to talk to one another, to support networking, and be there behind the scenes, helping projects grow into fruition. One minute segment


Glucoboy turns the daily chore of a diabetic checking their blood glucose levels, into a game. Glucoboy itself is pretty much a standard meter for all outward appearances, except for some strange ports. Created by Guidance Interactive Healthcare, the Glucoboy is made to interface both with a Nintendo DS and with a PC. The Glucoboy slides into the back of a DS, or plugs into a PC via USB. In either case, the blood sugar data taken by the Glucoboy is taken, and converted into an in-world currency system for a VR gameworld, packaged with Glucoboy, that runs on both platforms. Once connected, Glucoboy transfers its data over where depending on how good the level is, a differing amount of currency is given.

This currency can then be used to buy additional items, and unlock special abilities on the first of what Guidance Interactive hope will be a whole slew of titles, to encourage responsible management of blood sugar levels by purely indirect means.A minute is given to this creation.

Virtual Heroes

Virtual heroes is essentially two programs in one.

The first part, is essentially a flight simulator like system with full physics, which instead of traditional maps, shows organs. The opening example is the heart, that pump that sustains all life. It is hooked to the rest of the body, but the body around it is insubstantial. You can pass into any part of it, as it works in real-time, and see what it looks like, inside and out, as it pumps. Every aspect is as fine a detail as possible, showing exactly what it looks like in the body.

As a secondary system, it is possible to administer a variety of drugs and chemical compounds to the body, and watch in real-time from inside and outside the organ, as the effects that chemical has, take effect upon it.

Once the basics are out of the way the second program is the meatier one. A training virtual environment opens out. The participant is taken to an emergency ambulance, where they are one of two crew members. The second member is there to guide and assist. The ambulance is being sent to a major incident of a known type, and the ambulance crew have to put together the equipment they know they will need.

Next, they are taken to the scene of the crisis, with injured people all about. Some will have broken limbs, others perhaps more serious injuries. The participant talks with various injured people, and assigns help for them, learning to prioritize limited resources. The patients' responses, together with diagnosis you perform, help to pinpoint the problems. Again, the patient's organs all respond to the choice of drugs or constriction as before. Administer the wrong one, and maybe you cure the heart problem, but inflame a punctured liver. Not good for the patient.

Three minutes are assigned to this coverage, including a talk on how game and VR based medical training is most definitely the way forwards, with full support from many doctors and health administrators. Notably the ones under 35.

Closing Speech

A one minute long closing speech by Ben Sawyer, rounds out the presentation.

Part Two

Further Reading

Games for Health

Ben Sawyer & Serious Games


Pulse: The Virtual Clinical Learning Lab



Virtual Heroes

Staff Comments


Untitled Document .