Health Month, the game

I admit it: I’m not a gamer. But I am competitive. Plus I love micro-fitness challenges and I’ve read (and believe the lessons of) The Decision Tree.

So when Jen McCabe described Health Month, I was intrigued. It’s a game in which you choose the rules for behavior change — from their list or of your own making. You can choose to be social — or keep quiet. And after a month you’ve formed a new habit — or cut bait.

I jumped in for June, choosing 3 rules that would help me with a few “do more” goals: run, stretch, and eat greens.

The first inkVow of Heroismling that I might like this experience was the pledge, which reminded me of the Vow of Heroism that you have to recite when you buy an item at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.

Here’s the Health Month version:

I have chosen these rules in the hopes that I might slowly begin to live a healthier life, and enjoy the process.

If I succeed at following these rules for a full month without running out of life points (I will start with 10 and lose 1 every time I break a rule), I understand that my name will be added to the Wall of Awesomeness. But if I run out of life points, I also accept that my name will be added to the Wall of Almost-But-Not-Quite Awesome.

“Well, I’m TOTALLY going to be on the Wall of Awesomeness,” I said to myself. “Nobody puts baby in a corner.”

I found myself checking in every day, feeling a little rush of satisfaction when I punched in the miles for each run since I was really pushing myself on that rule. My family got used to me talking about my Health Month check-ins, just as they got used to the oven timer being used for my #getupandmove challenges (for months last year my little one thought that every “ding!” meant I was doing push ups).

So how’d I do?

The whimsical prompts and encouragements worked for me, but I was a little shy about joining a team or being active on the Game Wall. I went running, even when I didn’t feel like it, because I wanted to meet my goal. I also made time to stretch, which felt great. And I’ve never eaten so much spinach in my salads as I have this month.

In the end, I met all my goals for two of the weeks and nearly all for the other two. I’m really proud of how I did and that’s driving me forward to take on new goals. I think my name is on the Wall of Awesomeness, but to be honest, I don’t have time to search for it. And as competitive as I am, I was cut to the quick when I missed my running goal by just 2 miles last week. The verdict: “That was an indulgence.” Ouch. And um, no. Eating an entire baguette slathered in Nutella is an indulgence.

For more on health gaming, check out:

Games for Health

Keas: The New Game That Has Officemates Battling Each Other To Get Healthier

Health Month (jump in for July! And if you do, let me know — maybe we can form a team)

Any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments, please.


Posted in: positive patterns





3 Responses to “Health Month, the game”

  1. Susannah,
    You are a terrific agent provocateur! I shy away from participating in games that require sharing personal information and have never tried any multi-player online games. But, I care about my health (and the health of others) and follow the use of games for health and for behavioral change, so I decided to try HealthMonth after reading your post and tweets.

    Now, I’ve agreed to co-host the Society for Participatory Medicine tweetchat on Wednesday, July 6 on the topic. Talk about jumping in with both feet!

    I hope you and other members will join the chat at 8pm ET. For those of you reading this post who haven’t tried tweetchats yet, I suggest using [enter S4PM in the “hashtag to follow box” at the top after you log in with your Twitter account name].

    My thoughts right now are to focus on the following topics:
    T1: What are some of the best ways to encourage people who don’t have chronic conditions to participate in health games?

    T2: Can playing online games help us become more collaborative?

    [Listening to the encore broadcast on On The Media’s program on gaming last week: gave me this idea.]

    T3: How do we avoid rewarding those who are good at “gaming” the system versus those who are truly trying to improve their habits?

    I know we have S4PM members who have a great deal of expertise and far more first-hand experience than I do on this topic, so I look forward to facilitating their contributions. Any feedback on the topics for discussion is welcome, too.

    Hope you can join us.

    • Susannah Fox says:

      Thanks, Janice! Great topic & great questions. I’m still new to the health game world myself, so I’ll read the tweetchat with interest.

      If you haven’t yet read Thomas Goetz’s book, The Decision Tree, the current issue of Wired has his latest take on feedback loops, which figured prominently in the book as a useful behavior change tool.

      Here’s his blog post about it:

  2. Susannah,
    On the sage advice of Marcela Musgrove, we’re kicking off tonight’s #S4PM tweetchat with some basic questions about what it’s like to participate in online health games to share experiences. We’ll get into the benefits of tracking metrics/feedback loop, I hope. I’ll have link to Goetz’s blog at hand.

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