Games for Health: Benjamins, Fundreds and Exergames…oh my!

Games for Health: Benjamins, Fundreds and Exergames…oh my!


Games for Health Founder, Ben Sawyer has been endeavoring to bring games into health practices for just over six years. This year, the conference was held on the Boston Harbor, just across from campuses of SCVNGRIdeaPaint, and Babson College (entrepreneurial leader in education and future site for our Gamification Workshop).

In this year’s coverage, I chose my top 3 takeaways from Games For Health:



Games for Health introduced some interactive game mechanics to get feedback from the audience.

1) Healthification
Games for Health is playing in the “gamification” world, but the buzz has not quite hit the community. They have conquered terms like “exergaming,” “alternate reality games,” “video games,” “virtual worlds,” “health entertainment,” and so on. Gamification is a mouthful, but the ideas behind it can certainly bring value to the discussion. BigDoor, Hopelab/Zamzee, Kairos Labs, Mambo Health, and Health Community Development are a few of the companies at the conference that have helped to define the movement behind gamification. Attendees and other speakers/panelists may have benefitted from more discussion on the subject. Big companies are already playing with and implementing gamification into their businesses (MLB and Aetna to name just a few), so I think it’s fair enough to say that Games for Health needs to join the game as well.


A prompt for the Games for Health game

2) Scaling Health Games
This may have been the most important topic of the Conference. Many health games out there right now are in the genre of “disease games.” Disease games are for people that have been diagnosed with a disease and must change their habits in order to undergo effective treatment. This is awesome and helpful for patients, but it very much limits the market of health games. Ben Sawyer challenged the audience by asking, “What should everyone play?” Some ideas he suggested were, first aid games, exergaming, walking, nutrition, anti-drug/smoking/alcohol/STD, and a few others. Each example being a topic of health that could attract the masses, or what Sawyer called “Super Mario Health.” Speaking to all the Zyngas, Nintendos, Playstations of the world, let’s accept Ben’s challenge! Let’s see more games that are both entertaining and health focused.


One prescription for making a health game

3) Operation Pay Dirt – the audience favorite
If you’re looking to get Congress to fork over $300MM to eliminate a health issue in your town, read on. Mel Chin, an artist with a mission, designed Operation Pay Dirt’s Fundred Dollar Bill Project. When his heart took him to New Orleans post Katrina, he learned that there was a problem with the dirt. It was filled with lead. Using game mechanics to spur social involvement, he set out on a mission to fix the problem. The Fundred Dollar Bill Project works like so: 1. Get the Fundred Template (image of a blank $100 bill) 2. Get creative and draw a picture in the blank space of the Fundred 3. Send the Fundred to Mel Chin. Chin’s goal is to collect 3 million Fundreds (each representing $100) and then deliver them to the steps of Congress in exchange for the $300MM needed to rehabilitate the heavy dirt. The Mission is just over 10% complete and there has been some other positive traction—the Smithsonian has already agreed to place the Fundred Dollar Bill Project in their museum as an installation. Go to to participate. Aside from helping the children of our future, you can get your own personal artwork in the Smithsonian! Very cool project.
*Mel is currently looking for a developer to create an iPad app so Fundreds can be created and uploaded digitally.

Some other upcoming cool events:
Games for Change
Gamification Summit
Gotham Media Ventures


Need help with behavioral science and gamification? Get in touch with our boutique consulting agency Dopamine.