Eleven Social Games to Promote Wellness

“One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”   But prevention is difficult, because it requires behavior changes, which is difficult.  That’s why wellness through gaming, gamification and social mobile apps is heating up.  It’s easy to change behavior when engaged through a game or working towards the goal with a group of friends.  Over 20 startups were presenting such platforms at the recent Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  After listening to 5-10 pitches, it becomes quite overwhelming because they all seem the same.  So I have created this diagram to better understand the space and product differentiations:

by: Connie Kwan

Social is the basis for behavior change, so all platforms are social, albeit using different engagement modes.  Three main different modes of engagement set them apart.  The first engagement mode is tracking and information.  MedHelp and CaringBridge.org are examples.  MedHelp provides self-tracking apps and an online community for sharing information, while CaringBridge.org provides personalized blogs for patients working through conditions such as cancer.  While they seem divergent, both platforms provide community through information, as well as tools to report self-information.  Indeed, this engagement mode focuses on self-tracking and information empowerment from a community.  These platforms are more established and have wide appeal, because it is an augmentation of a real-life community.  For example, over 2 million users are on MedHelp.

The second engagement mode is gamification of a social platform.  These interfaces have a distinct Facebook feel.  Keas, DailyFeats, and Limeade are examples.  This engagement mode focuses on team challenges.  Users can build teams to support their desire to get well and get better, receive rewards for achieving goals, and publicize their activity on the “social feed.”  It is a platform for communicating online but engaging in the real world to complete challenges.  In one study, there was a 20-30 percent user participation.  But of those participating, the return engagement rate is around 80-90 percent.  These platforms encourage competitiveness, and thus find rapport within the corporate wellness setting.

The third engagement mode is gaming. Gaming is different from gamification.  Gaming is an immersed experience, while gamification is using game techniques such as point systems and leaderboards for engagement.  Gaming for wellness examples include SuperBettter and HubBub.  This engagement mode focuses on self-challenges.  Players are encouraged to take on a game name and personality, and establish “bad guys” to fight.  The in-game lexicon is completely different from real life.  This allows players to take on new, potentially more confident personalities that can overcome behavior change challenges.  The idea is to make behavior change fun.  These platforms are currently in early pilot phases.

One size does not fit all in wellness.  The approach taken depends on the audience in question and the habit or condition being addressed.  It is likely that all of these platforms will thrive in their own way because they are all built on a strong social foundation.  Which platform do you use now or would like to use in the future?


Connie Kwan is the CEO of RealMealz.com in Silicon Valley, CA.  She holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School, and covers stories about triple bottom line businesses and projects. Follow her on Twitter @RealMealz.

Connie Kwan is a Product Manager and Entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, CA. She builds teams to deliver products that benefit people, planet and profit. She holds an MBA in Sustainability at Presidio Graduate School and blogs about sustainability and business at Sustainable Thinking: Applied (http://blog.conniekwan.com)

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