Belinda Lange, Sheryl Flynn, Jamie Antonisse, Debra Leiberman: “Games for Rehabilitation: How do we find the balance between play and therapy?”

October 23, 2010 | Lansing, MI

Speaker: Belinda Lange, Sheryl Flynn, Jamie Antonisse, Debra Leiberman
Host: Meaningful Play 2010

The recent release and world wide acceptance and enjoyment of Nintendo(R) Wii(TM) and WiiFit(TM) and Sony PlayStation(R)2EyeToy(TM) has provided evidence for the notion that exercise can be fun, provided it is presented in a manner that is entertaining, motivating and distracting. Off-the-shelf games for commercial gaming consoles have been developed and tested for the purpose of entertainment, however, the games and consoles were not designed as medical devices nor with a primary focus of an adjunct rehabilitation tool. While games on these consoles were not designed with rehabilitation in mind, they have the advantage that they are affordable, accessible and can be used within the home. Many clinics are adopting the use of these off-the-shelf devices for exercise, social interaction and entertainment. The Nintendo(R) Wii(TM) and Sony Playstation(R)2 EyeToy(TM) have demonstrated promising results as a low-cost tool for balance rehabilitation. Furthermore, using these devices for exercise, individuals have anecdotally reported a high level of enjoyment by interacting and exercising with friends and family members. However, the concept of using off-the-shelf video games for rehabilitation alters the context in which these games were initially intended. Since these games were initially designed for entertainment, the game play mechanics are not entirely applicable to those with disabilities. Initial usability tests indicate that off-the-shelf video game devices could be well-received as rehabilitation tools, however, many of the games provide significant barriers for patient groups. These barriers include game-play that is too fast or requires the player to perform movements that are prohibitive to therapy goals, feedback that is not in line with therapy outcomes (game score that does not represent the functional outcome goals) or demeaning for the player (providing feedback that the user failed the task or they are ‘unbalanced’ can reduce motivation). Games used for rehabilitation must focus on specific movement goals, provide appropriate feedback and be tailored to the individual user. Feedback should provide the player with useful information about their actions and improve and motivate skill acquisition without reducing player morale. The level of challenge of the task should be easily changed by the therapist to allow the game to be challenging enough to motivate patients to improve but not too difficult so the task can be achieved eventually. These criteria, if not met by existing games, must be integrated into games designed by researchers in the rehabilitation and game design fields. This panel will discuss the current use of off-the-shelf games for rehabilitation and seek to find the balance between play and therapy. How can we use the positive aspects of off-the-shelf games to improve therapy? Which elements of game-play should be incorporated into rehabilitation games without restricting the key therapy goals?