Our video games are scientific simulations that promote discovery and adoption of techniques for managing a chronic disease.
The simulations facilitate authentic recognition, understanding, control, and improvement of determinants of health. They reinforce a person’s autonomous ability to avoid, prevent, and mitigate risk. We call this ability constructive health competence (CHC) and describe it in a CHC Model for Metabolic Disorders.
Though our simulations empower people to practice self-care and participatory healthcare in real life, the experience they generate is unreal. It is interactive pretend-play that induces people to believe they can overcome real-world problems — at least in their imagination.
Thus our simulations are works of art rather than education or therapy. They are not used in classrooms or paired with textbooks. They are not FDA approved, dispensed by prescription, covered by health insurance, or recommended by doctors. People use them because they want to, not because they have to; and pay as they would for other entertainment.
In line with popular, commercial entertainment, our simulations are escapist flights of fancy. They let people defeat ineluctable threats to life with impossibly satisfying triumphs. The simulations are constructive fantasies in which players heroically fabricate their health and well-being in a magic circle of play. Such outcomes may be difficult if not impossible to achieve outside a magic circle, but the simulations develop the competence needed to try.
Normally, simulations take place in a facsimile of the real world to promote an illusion that they are true to life. Our contrarian simulations feature aesthetics of adventure, strategy, role-play, and puzzle. They are blatantly fabulous and for that reason more engaging, relatable, enjoyable, and aspirational.
The simulations are “scientific” because they harness evidence-based, mathematical models of determinants of health. Math forces our games to “follow the science,” but models (even behind a dashboard) are unfathomable to most people (even scientists). So we use models the way they do the most good: as puppet masters. Models do an invisible job in our simulations; they form a grid that transparently organizes content and modulates interactivity. Storytelling and stagecraft absorb people’s attention and labor during a simulation. Nobody sees the puppet master; if they did, it would break the circle.
By making science steer but not limit creativity, we gain the benefits of reductionism: the making of complex and onerous but useful subject matter more accessible to people who would otherwise be unwilling to consider or experience it, even with the payoff of greater health and well-being.