Blue Marble was the first game company I ever worked for. Although the team was just starting up, they had big dreams for gamifying therapy.
Sheryl (Flynn PT Ph.D, the company’s founder and CEO) had observed that while there were some great exercises for those suffering from physical and cognitive health concerns, patients would often become frustrated or bored by these exercises. They weren’t fun, and patients rarely had a tangible sense of progress. Sheryl founded Blue Marble to see if physical and cognitive therapy could be fun, using play and rewards to make therapy a more pleasurable experience.
Blue Marble’s first game (for which I was a lead beta tester) was Treasure of Bell Island, designed for veterans with traumatic brain injury. The game combined a diverse cast of characters and a mysterious adventure with mini-games adapted from those cognitive exercises.
While it was great to be a part of the QA process, My main project was developing a prototype ratings system of the rehabilitational benefits of games already on the market. This was focused on physical therapy, so I researched various injuries and determined which motions to test for. I then rapidly iterated on this ratings system, recording which Wii, PlayStation Move, and Xbox Kinect games had these motions and to what degree.
In the initial testing I did that summer, I rated approximately twenty games in areas such as degrees of abduction, adduction, extension, and flexion of muscle groups, as well as balance and cardio—and how well the games adapted their difficulty to users of varying ability. More games were added to the catalogue and the list of games (and their ratings in each category) was eventually released.
While in the intervening years Blue Marble decided to remove this aspect of their platform, the research I did informed their recent project, Health in Motion.
Gamifying therapy still fascinates me, and I hope more companies join the revolution I first experienced at Blue Marble.
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Photo credit: João Silas