Sat Apr 22, 2017, 4:17 PM – 5:02 PM, Plenary Hall, Medicine ​X  | ​Ed, Li Ka Shing Center, Stanford University



The panel highlights concepts and examples related to the potential of challenging and engaging game experiences to aid medical and health skills development. The talk reviews evidence that well designed games can confer problem solving skills and effect change in knowledge, attitude, confidence, and skills. Successful games borrow established design and development standards from the entertainment game industry as seen in first-person shooter games, mystery games, or a find-and-seek (e.g., Pokeman Go) games. Successful game design and development strategies focus on user experience, choice, exploration, self-expression, creativity, matching challenge with skills, receiving feedback, and expanding social connections through communication with other players.

A multi-player, exploratory, and immersive game is a format familiar to the audience of Millennials. Health professional or lay students expect game-based learning to be a similarly personalized experience that rewards cooperation, improvement, and group success. They want an immersive and motivating experience that depends on intrinsic reward rather than extrinsic motivation. Such enthusiasm and engagement can arise from standard multi-player game elements: narrative, mechanics, environment, an avatar with health/strength elements, co-players (real and computer-generated), choice and quick/medium/slow decision-making, feedback, levels of improvement, and the thrill of success.

Sophisticated learning games where learners investigate history and findings, establish diagnoses, and determine treatment in rich game environment offer an opportunity to rethink how we establish and refine medical and health-related skills. In a medical game, instead of building a civilization, causing mayhem, or working with a team of players to destroy the other team, the end goal is the acquisition of skills and understanding necessary to navigate the complicated science and psychological principles of health care. These well designed games can help medicine navigate the radical changes happening as we move from older models of health care to models emphasizing patient empowerment, easier data access, team models of treatment, and most importantly prevention vs. treatment of disease. Since ongoing change is inevitable, game frameworks must be flexibly designed to allow for easy upgrades, revisions, and repurposing for novel topics.

Pedagogy based on immersive games can become the standard by which training is based and overtake older lecture/didactic models, “gamification” of existing approaches, and resource intensive solutions including problem-based learning, team learning, and simulated/standardized patient-based training. Existing and future games offer stakeholders in the ever expanding field of medicine a unique way to master knowledge and skills.


 Bradley Tanner, MD, President, Clinical Associate Professor Psychiatry , Clinical Tools Inc., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Board Certified in Psychiatry and in Obesity Medicine​

 Debra Lieberman, PhD, Director, Center for Digital Games Research University of California, Santa Barbara