MeYou Health Enters Social Gaming Realm with Daily Challenge for Improving Well-Being

Could social gaming be used to improve people’s health? Boston-based MeYou Health appears to think there’s a good chance the answer to that question is “yes.” The group plans to release an online social game this week called Daily Challenge, which attempts to get players and their friends on Facebook to adopt healthy behaviors and improve their well-being.

Call it an experiment in healthy competition (pun definitely intended), with a social gaming twist.

MeYou Health, a subsidiary of health improvement services firm Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY), is banking on the power of social networks to influence people’s physical actions, and the mechanics of gaming to make Daily Challenge a consumer success. While video games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars have exploded in popularity on Facebook, MeYou Health is venturing into mostly uncharted territory with its health-focused social game. Still, Seattle-based Mindbloom has created a social game to motivate players to take actions to improve their health, and the Boston-based startup Practically Green launched a beta website in June to help people live “greener” lifestyles.

“There’s lots of successful examples out there that make it clear that these types of game mechanics really can engage large populations,” Chris Cartter, the general manager and head of MeYou Health, said. “Whether or not [game mechanics] have specific positive health consequences is something we have to prove to ourselves, our customers, and our users.”

Daily Challenge sends players simple tasks for them to complete on a daily basis, and the game encourages them to share their results with their Facebook cronies, who can provide encouragement and (ideally) participate in the game themselves. If players do something healthy—such as taking a walk, eating a vegetable-rich salad, or wearing lip balm that provides ample sun protection—they hit a “Done” button and gain points, earn health badges, and progress toward higher levels of the game. (It’d be easy to cheat in this game since there’s no mechanism to prove that a challenge has been done, but then players would really only be wasting their time and, potentially, misleading their friends.)

The game also includes what it calls the Well-Being Tracker, which gives players an online questionnaire to gauge their overall well-being. To measure people’s well-being, players answer questions about things such as their emotional and physical health and get an overall score. They can see how their score compares with the average score of the people in their network who play the game, Cartter said.

Playing the game will be free, yet its developer plans to … Next Page »

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