Games, joy and compliance

10 Aug 2012 3min read

Team Consulting

Company update

At a time like this, with the London Olympics in full swing, and an almost palpable sense of inspiration in the air – gosh, I almost want to go out running – it’s good to reflect on the power of games.

I love the idea that games can help make you better. I don’t just mean getting fitter or stronger through endeavours like athletics, cycling or football, although their health benefits will probably be significantly greater than those arising from anything else I’ll describe here. I’m thinking about how we can get people to do the things they should do, because they want to.

vitality health

The corporate world has woken up to this idea. PruHealth in the UK takes a rational approach to this and reduces your health insurance premium if they see the right behaviours. In the US, HealthPrize and KEAS offer social reasons, lotteries and other games to engage people in healthy activities they otherwise might ignore. More related to our work in drug delivery, a pill dispenser connected electronically to a lottery system caused a 7 fold increase in dose compliance – how else could we get that kind of effect?

I think there’s much that we can make use of from this domain, known as behavioural economics or gamification.

As designers and human factors specialists we’re trying to influence people to do the right thing. Sometimes we have to take a very literal approach to that – instructions, getting started guides, directions and warnings. Also we can suggest the right behaviours through great industrial design – you know where to stand on this, right?


Games and other incentives give us some additional, and perhaps more subtle and powerful, ways in which we can influence people. I suspect that in the future clinicians and health managers will want to explore this much more, as a way to squeeze more efficacy out of their health spend.

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