Online Game, Facebook App Makes Case For Health
"We wanted to use game technology to make health content a little more fun and to expose people to look at health content in more fun ways," said Paul Puopolo, a director at Humana's Innovation Center. "We felt it was important for people to remember--particularly around the holidays--there's some things to think about in the decisions that we make and how they impact our health."
One game, the "Freewheelin' Cycle Challenge," is inspired by the company's bike-sharing program. In the online game, users race against virtual opponents--such as a cheerleader or Marine drill sergeant--in a bicycle race. Energy and speed are gained by capturing nutritious snacks while running over junk food.
The game is available at www.humanagames.com, a Web site set up in May by the health insurance company as a way to explore how to use games and technology to further messages of health, Puopolo says. The game is being promoted through information and blogs on popular casual gaming sites, and can be emailed for maximum viral effect. "We're using the power of social networking to promote the games," Puopolo says.
The other application, available via Facebook, is called "The Battle of the Bulge." Through the social networking site, users answer a few questions and are assigned a virtual waistline. Through the Facebook network, other users can "fling fat" at you, which would expand your waistline and lead to a possible online heart attack. Answering health-related questions correctly can shrink the size of the virtual waistline and enable you to throw fat at your friends.
"It's a fun way to learn about some of the health things you might not have already been aware of when it comes to food choices and health," Puopolo says. "And it leverages the competitive aspect of the social networking site that is popular."