Wednesday, August 24, 2011

SuperBetter Wrap-up Part II - Challenges and Moving Forward

See Part I: Successes

Challenges: It took us a while to work out how to manage achievements and missions, especially with ten people playing. I think this should probably be added as a component to the “Recruit Allies” step: establish a framework for how missions will be managed and achievements awarded. When a lot of people are playing, and especially when they are new to social gaming, they may be eager to participate but not really know what to do.  They may fear looking stupid, or “doing it wrong.” Setting up weekly mission and achievement managers and creating a backup person for each of these let everyone participate but not feel as if they had to shoulder a big burden.  Backups and rotating the manager positions is essential when the game becomes a long endeavor.  Mine spanned several months, and it was just not possible for one person to be the Mission Manager that entire time.  The number one thing I did NOT want from this game was to make it an annoyance, hassle, or a source of stress for my allies.  It’s a game; I wanted it to be fun.  I think we achieved that in the end, but it took a little tweaking. 

One thing that worked well in this regard was having a Game Master, which I informally asked JP to do. He is one of the best GMs and storytellers I’ve ever met, so it seemed natural to ask him to help create the mythos for my game, as well as help with the structure.  It helps take the pressure off of the sick or injured person to come up with the game system, and allows a point of contact for the other players to ask questions.

I was also pretty horrible in keeping track of my points. With Matt traveling, I really didn’t have anyone with me to help with this, and I often just forgot to record things.  I got in the habit later in the game of posting points updates nightly, and collecting these in one post per week, and that seemed to work pretty well.

It was hard for me to see what I needed in order to develop missions and powerups, and this was another area where my allies performed beautifully. I think I probably could have done better in creating these myself though, and to actually utilize the rewards I’d created as well.  JP gave an excellent suggestion of creating rewards that were not attached to money, and I wish I had done more of those.  I think he made a very important point that rewards to ourselves should come from a variety of sources, and shouldn’t necessarily be attached to material items or expenses. 

Moving Forward: We are reasonably sure that my infection is gone, as it’s been four months and 20 days since my surgery and I am still symptom free.  I feel comfortable closing this round of SuperBetter, but this experience has been so powerful, and so meaningful for me, that I’d like to transform this blog into something else.  I’ve become a SuperBetter evangelist, telling nearly everyone I meet about it. I brought it up to coworkers, to fellow patients in the infusion center, to people online. It worked so well for me, and I want to share it with others in the hope that it will help them too. Last month, I had a non-medical appointment with my infectious disease doctor to discuss SuperBetter and get his perspective on it as a healthcare provider. My ID doctor is about 75 years old (not kidding, he’s been in practice nearly 50 years) and is not the most tech-savvy person or knowledgeable about games. In fact, when I told him I work in social media, he asked if that meant I worked for a TV station. After I explained SuperBetter to him and how I had implemented it, though, he was extremely enthusiastic about its potential as part of a treatment plan. We talked about utilizing the game to increase patient compliance (the bane of doctors treating the chronically ill), and ways to implement test cases.  He gave me the names of doctors at Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation hospital in Englewood specializing in treating spinal cord and brain injuries, to speak with about running a SuperBetter trial with patients recovering from serious injury.  I plan to continue interviewing healthcare practitioners to gain their perspectives about how to implement the principles of gamification – whether that’s SuperBetter or something else – as part of treatment plans, and to work with Craig Hospital to run a session with patients there.  These plans got derailed somewhat by purchasing a home at the end of July, which ate up all my spare time, but this is how I plan to continue my SuperBetter experience.

I’d like to use this blog to track the progress of my plans, as well as to discuss how to use the SuperBetter principles in different scenarios.  I think the game works really, really well when there’s an endpoint in sight – when you can “win” by recovering.  This was phenomenal for dealing with my bone infection, but I am still ruminating on how it can be used for the management of chronic disease.  For my Crohn’s, for example, there is no endpoint – I will never recover from that illness. I may have periods, even years, of remission, but it is always with me.  I would love to hear ideas about how to adapt the game for these chronic conditions, and that brings me to another way I’d like to use this blog: to write about and exchange ideas on chronic illness management.  Particularly, I’d like to talk about how technology can help, whether that’s through the traditional online support groups, social media applications and games, or something else.

I would like to invite all of my allies to continue on this journey with me, and to help me continue battle these evils that haunt so many of us. SuperBetter not only helped me recover from a terrible illness, but it ignited in me a passion for “gaming for good”, an area of which I had no prior knowledge. It’s a natural fit for my interests in social media, technology, and healthcare, and I’m excited to continue my education in this arena. So will you join me, allies, for another adventure?

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