The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded 12 grants totaling $2 million for Health Games Research, a national program that explores how video games can motivate healthy behaviors in children, adults and senior citizens. The 12 grantees were each awarded up to $200,000, and are leading one- to two-year studies of games that engage playersranging in age from 8 to 98in physical activity or games that motivate them to improve their own care through healthy lifestyle choices, prevention behaviors, chronic-disease self-management and adherence to medical-treatment plans.
Based at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Health Games Research is directed by Debra Lieberman, a researcher in the schools Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research. There were 112 research proposals from universities, medical centers and game-industry organizations nationwide for this first round of funding, and the program will issue the next call for proposals in January 2009. The second phase of funding will also total $2 million, according to the Princeton, N.J.-based foundation.
Research at these institutions include mobile phone games to help adolescents make healthy eating choices, game-based therapy maintenance for adults with a chemical dependency, and the effects of two video-game systemsWii and EyeToyon mobility, balance and fear of falling for patients who have chronic mobility and balance deficits after a stroke.
Whats interesting is the games aesthetics doesnt make as much difference as the game play, Lieberman said during a teleconference announcing the award recipients. As she explained, both children and adults care less about how the game is designed than they do if the game is fun to play. Players are not going to be drawn to games because they look good, she said. They have to play good.