Will, founder and CEO of Playphysio certainly believes that they can. He remembers the daily arguments with his daughter over exactly what the respiratory physiotherapist had told her to do that week.
His families daily routine of confusion over how many blows and the type of blows she’d done into her OPEP therapy device, are now in the past for Wills family: He has found that mobile games have definitely changed his, and his family’s, daily life for the better.
The press and media seem biased against video games, even gamers themselves. There are so many stereotypes against them that we’ve become used to thinking of gamers as unproductive, lazy, and anti-social..
Therefore, to suggest building a mobile game for children to help them enjoy physiotherapy treatment seems very counterintuitive on health grounds. But Playphysio’s combining physiotherapy with games is being supported by doctors at Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, UK: what does Playphysio know that society doesn’t?
A recent University of Oxford study has suggested that video games could actually be good for us: they can improve our overall mental well-being. The study found that the more gamers play a game, the more positive they felt. Interestingly, all participants were over 18 years of age. They encourage playing video games as a way that could improve players’ mental health, which proves what Playphysio has known for a long time: games can make your life better.
Playphysio’s games encourage you into a state of mind that psychologists call ‘flow’. When we’re in flow, we feel excited, positive, and confident. Hard, concentrated work is, surprisingly, one of the best ways to bring us into this mental state, and this is what video games give us.
We choose to play video games, they keep us at the edge of our skill level, and alway push us that little bit harder to do better and reach the next level. Even losing a game makes playing more fun: when your character falls off the rainbow road in your favourite Kart race game with a wail and a dramatic spin, you laugh! You’re not scared of failing, which makes you play better and improve your chances of levelling up (or beating that italian plumber!).
Gamification has also spread to what’s called Augmented Reality games: games which you play to improve your real life. These games can help you in pretty much any aspect of your daily life: from encouraging your family to do chores to making you less scared of flying. They can also be used to help patients make their treatments more fun, less boring, and more motivating to do every day.
And that’s why Playphysio’s physio-games work so well. By turning boring, repetitive, and difficult to measure exercises into a challenge, with clear goals and real-time feedback, it’s easy to become sucked into the game. And once you’re sucked in, you become more positive, more focused, and more motivated to keep playing. This positive reinforcement means that your child is creating a habit of choosing to complete their prescribed treatment.
No more fights over how many blows your child thinks they’ve done versus how many you’ve counted, no more tantrums over having to do the exercises again; physio has become fun, all due to gamification.
Anna Willis is a freelance journalist. She can be found at tellstoriestolive.com and on social media @annawillis101.