Embracing the pervasiveness of games

We have talked with Laura Anna Ripamonti, Dario Maggiorini (University of Milan), and Daniela Villani (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan), General Co-Chairs of GOWELL 2016, EAI International Conference on Games for Well-being (14-16 June, Budapest, Hungary), co-located with eHealth 360° Summit 2016. In their research work, they span the areas of online social interaction in virtual worlds, software and network architecture to support entertainment applications, the use of interactive simulations for the training of psychological skills, and the cognitive factors related to the use of mediated technologies in education and clinical domains. We talked about what role games play in the modern society, and where their potential could take them in the future.

What is the central topic of GOWELL 2016 and why is it important? What is this event’s vision?

The starting point of GOWELL 2016 is the assumption that there is an emerging confluence of technologies that are being used more and more to support our daily activities, and the search for well-being that is a transversal goal of multiple disciplines. Thus, the conference builds upon the increasing relevance of applied gaming approaches, gamification techniques and game-related technologies and devices for health and well-being management and recovering. The objective is to bring together researchers, technologists and visionaries from Academia, research labs and industry to foster a lively discussion about the theory and practice of games as a way to improve health and well-being in tomorrow’s society.

What have been the recent developments in games for well-being? What are the biggest challenges that this area is currently facing?

Over the last five to ten years, increasing attention has been given to the possibility of games improving health and well-being. Using games as a medium presents a wide range of opportunities for the format of the intervention, since playing digital games and other playful activities are so pervasive in our modern-day lives. Current research suggests that video games already have a positive impact on different aspects of well-being, including positive social relations, environmental mastery, emotional regulation, relaxation, and stress reduction. The experience of engagement while playing video games, also leveraged by ubiquitous modern portable technology, has been proven to have a positive influence on well-being. Furthermore, other studies are interested in better understanding the optimal levels of game play, the influence of factors such as gender, personality, and other psycho-social characteristics, on well-being. Future research should attempt to monitor evidence regarding links between games and positive mental health and to provide guidelines for use by other researchers as they design specific tools and games to improve quality of life in a broader sense.

What are your expectations for GOWELL 2016?

The goal is to build a community of experts with a broad range of expertise in games and well-being-related research. This will allow us to share research results and to develop new multidisciplinary projects in a cooperative context involving multiple countries.