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Why (Serious) Games Matter

Via: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Health & Health Care Improvement

New Competition Seeks Innovative Ideas for How Video and Computer Games Can Improve Health and Health Care

Jul 17, 2007 - Princeton, N.J

Entries accepted through September 26, 2007.

A new competition seeks novel ways that video and computer games can be used to help people manage their health and improve how their care is provided. The online competition, "Why Games Matter: A Prescription for Improving Health and Health Care," is sponsored by the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and uses a unique, open source competition model developed by Changemakers, an initiative of Ashoka that promotes enterprising solutions to social problems.

Computer and video games are one of today's fastest growing media forms—their impact goes beyond entertainment to shape how we gain new skills and information. People interact with games at home, in schools, online and on the go, and early applications to health and health care show tremendous promise.

Nintendo® just announced the release of Wii Fit, expanding ways that its wireless console engages users in fitness play through aerobics, yoga and other games.

Research showed that players of HopeLab's Re-Mission game, developed for teens and young adults with cancer, demonstrated higher levels of cancer-related knowledge and better adherence to treatment regimens.

University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed simulation games that train health officials to respond effectively to disasters and infectious disease outbreaks.

While the field of games for health has made substantial gains, it is still early in its development. Through this competition, RWJF's Pioneer Portfolio and Changemakers challenge game developers, researchers, health organizations and others to demonstrate new, imaginative and therapeutic ways in which games can help improve health and health care. The open source structure of the competition also will further build and energize the community of people who see the potential of connecting games and health.

"We expect this competition to shake up conventional wisdom about what constitutes a health game, the market for such games and approaches to designing great games for health," said Chinwe Onyekere, RWJF program officer. "The 'Why Games Matter' competition encourages innovation throughout the gaming and social enterprise communities that can help people lead healthier lives and get the care they need."

Following the September 26 entry deadline, an expert panel of judges—including Onyekere, Janice Nall, director of E-Health Marketing for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Albert “Skip” Rizzo, Ph.D., research scientist, Institute for Creative Technologies, University of Southern California—will select approximately 12 finalists.

The Changemakers global online community will vote on the competition Web site for three winners, who will each receive a $5,000 cash prize from Changemakers. All finalists will win the opportunity to attend the "Why Games Matter" Change Summit at the 2008 Games for Health conference, the premier event for game developers, researchers, funders and other leaders in this growing field.

The collaborative competition model

"Why Games Matter" is the third in a series of idea competitions co-sponsored by RWJF and Changemakers. The collaborative competition model attracts solutions from social entrepreneurs across the United States and around the globe. Innovators submit their ideas online and the Changemakers community provides feedback on the problem and proposed solutions throughout the life of the competition.

This interactive process spurs action on important issues and connects participants' solutions with key decision-makers, investors, and health and social service providers. The first competition on intimate partner violence attracted more than 250 entries and the second competition on disruptive innovation in health and health care, closing July 18, has received more than 140 entries.

"RWJF's Pioneer Portfolio is identifying and nurturing new approaches to health and health care. By using the Changemakers platform, RWJF has a powerful tool for finding and connecting with innovators on the cutting edge," according to Charlie Brown, Changemakers' executive director. "This series of collaborative competitions helps cast a wider net and, in the process, builds stronger communities of practice that will take solutions to scale at unprecedented rates."

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change.The Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio supports innovative ideas and projects that may trigger important breakthroughs in health and health care. Projects in the Pioneer Portfolio are typically future-oriented and look beyond conventional thinking to explore solutions at the cutting edge of health and health care.

For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.

About Changemakers

Changemakers is an initiative of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. Changemakers focuses on the rapidly growing world of social innovation. It provides solutions and resources needed to help everyone become a changemaker and presents compelling stories that explore the fundamental principles of successful social innovation around the world. Changemakers is building the world's first global online "open source" community that competes to surface the best social solutions, and then collaborates to refine, enrich, and implement those solutions. Changemakers begins by providing an overarching intellectual framework for collaborative competitions that bring together individual social change initiatives into a more powerful whole. For details, visit