Games For Change 2017 (Part I): A Healthcare Market Researcher's Perspective

This is part 1 of a 4 part report on the 2017 Games for Change Festival held in NYC (July 31-August 2). Click here to see Part 2. Click here for part 3. Click here for part 4.

The 2017 Games for Change Festival (G4C) finished up today at the New School in NYC. For 14 years now, the Festival has brought together a diverse cross-section of the serious games community, including game designers, academics, government representatives, NGOs, investors and, increasingly, stakeholders in healthcare and biopharma. In 2016, the Festival debuted a track of presentations devoted to neurogaming and health – a track which returned again this year as a particularly thought-provoking part of the conference.

In the three years that I’ve attended the G4C Festival, I’ve yet to meet a fellow market researcher there—much less a healthcare market researcher. Quite possibly I’ve overlooked them. But I suspect that researchers aren’t there because the link between G4C and market research is less than obvious. Games for Change is focused on the development and use of games to generate beneficial societal change. In the words of Susanna Pollack, keynote speaker at the Festival, G4C embraces a faith that “games can be used for social good…that they can make the world better.” Market researchers may also be concerned with social good and making the world better, but they generally contribute by understanding behavior and attitudes and how they can be changed. As a rule, researchers are not directly responsible for creating and implementing actual change-effecting interventions—much less games.

So G4C is not on the radar screens of healthcare market researchers. Yet, in listening to the various sessions at this year’s Games for Change Festival, I am struck by the sense that our inattention to the world of serious games deprives us of a rich resource of new ideas that can help us reimagine and refine our practice of market research in healthcare. Innovation often finds its most fertile soil at the intersection of disciplines. The intersection here is not so much that of games and market research, but of designed experiences (virtual or otherwise), created either to generate change or understand how change can be effected.

While I don’t code, have yet to produce my first “serious game” and therefore lack any qualification to speak on behalf of the G4C community, my time at the Festival this year did inspire me to share what I learned with my colleagues in the healthcare market research community. In the coming week, I’ll push out several bite-size blog posts intended to convey some of the flavor of Games for Change—as seen from the perspective of a market researcher. Some of the topics I’ll touch on are: games as FDA approved treatments, the relationship between behavior within games and in real life, leveraging neuroscience in the design of games and the overlap in skills demanded of both game designers and market researchers.

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