Video Games

Gamafication and the diagnosis of Learning Disabilities

Screenshot of Arty The Aardvark -- The game used in the pionering Gamification study

Last week during one of our favorite tweetchats (#HITSM -- Fridays at 12noon Eastern) the topic of gamification in Healthcare came up.

Gamification has been a fairly hot topic for a few years now, and many industries are scrambling to understand it, and to find ways that they can use gamification to improve client engagement in their product(s)

Wikipedia defines Gamification as

Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self contributions.

During that tweetchat our CXO, Bennett Lauber, came to the realization that a 1986 study he conducted while in graduate school at UCLA -- published by the Journal Of Learning Disabilities in 1989 ( see Toward a Procedure for Minimizing and Detecting False Positive Diagnoses of Learning Disability was probably one of the first scientific studies promoting the benefits of Gamification.

In the study he developed a test that was based upon performance on an interactive video game for the Apple IIe platform called "Arty The Aardvark"

Assessment procedures that can significantly enhance motivation to perform are needed so that poor performance due to low or avoidance motivation is not misdiagnosed as indicating ability deficits or as symptomatic of learning disabilities (LD). In this connection, research is under way to investigate the degree to which a highly motivating computer game learning task can improve differential diagnoses of LD. Findings from the initial investigation indicate that a large proportion of students diagnosed as LD were able to learn effectively when pursuing such a task. The results illustrate the key role motivation plays in determining the validity of diagnostic assessment and demonstrate the potential value of similar tasks for use in differentiating, from among individuals diagnosed as LD, those who do not have impaired learning processes.

Although this study was conducted a long time ago, and computers have made significant improvements, the fact remains that providing highly interactive and motivating tasks can provide significant positive performance enhancements. Much like in this 1989 study, many current systems could benefit from applications of gamification theory.

The benefits of Gamification, much like interface design, can be further enhanced when organized by someone with a background and experience in understanding the psychological principles that are at work.