Mindbloom, a Seattle based social media company, has announced a partnership with Aetna to offer the insurance company’s customers a more fully featured version of its Mindbloom: Life Game program.
Life Game was released last July and aims to keep players motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle by growing and maintaining a tree. Each leaf stands for a task, such as taking the stairs or drinking water. After assigning a task onto a leaf, the player then schedules a time and day to complete that task. Finishing tasks yields seeds, the in-game equivalent of points, which can then be used to grow a Life Tree with more branches and leaves on it and level up trees. Players can also earn achievements to show off by collecting blooms. While it can be played solo, it’s oriented around building a support network and offers connectivity with Facebook.
Aetna will begin offering Life Game to its customers in the fall. There are plans to add enhancements and mobile features. Kyra Bobinet, MD, MPH, medical director of health and wellness innovation at Aetna, has this to say: “Considering that Americans are spending over $200 billion a year on healthy living products and services, but the rates of chronic health conditions and obesity continue to rise, the time is right for a new approach to engaging people in achieving better overall health. We think the Mindbloom Life Game will provide a fun, rewarding and effective way for Aetna’s members to make lasting improvements in their physical and emotional well-being.”
Analysis: Games as a tool for encouraging health and fitness isn’t exactly a new phenomenon and took off with games like the Wii Fit titles. In addition, tracking apps that serve a similar purpose are also available for smartphones. When used right, they can be helpful towards that end. In this case, Life Game does also allow room for tracking other kinds of tasks besides health and fitness, as well as providing a way to incorporate a more social experience for those who thrive off of support from those around them. The reward system in the form of seeds and achievements acts as incentive to keep using it, similar to other social network based games like you’d find on Facebook. While it’s doubtful this would be a panacea for less-than-ideal lifestyles and health, it does provide a tool for those who want to use a program like this to help keep themselves on track and improve their health and habits. At the very least there doesn’t seem to be any harm in providing the option.