Augmented Reality Games and Gamification apps as a Motivator and Reinforcement.

Augmented Reality presents brilliant potential for therapies and health care, this household has explored Pokémon Go and Ingress over the years, thoroughly enjoyed both, including AR on the 3DS and Playstation 3. All we need now is battle to endure between the Resistance and the Enlightened, to maintain portals or to tear them down, a life or death struggle to stop the Great Old Ones from invading the world with tentacles and madness spewing forth from the portals, held open long enough for the thousand young to invade!


They are corny, a passing fad, drain batteries; everyone has Pidgey coming out their ears. But people playing AR games walk further, they park further than the front door of where they are going, often go out as groups, sharing gear, upgrades, XP, power banks and have a little fun on their short walk. I used both Ingress and Pokémon Go to encourage my daughters and their step father to keep their mobile phones with them, charged, turned on, and with location turned on.

In 2014 and 2015 things got a little hectic around here, stress reached a peak following the death of a family member, family outside the household incarcerated, starting high school, hitting puberty, developing hypertension, diabetes, heart disease. Everything happened at once. Individuals were exercising their flight or fight response during panic attacks, going into hypertensive crisis and hypoglycaemic seizures, low speed police chases (I was not there, I just received the phone call), disassociating and going missing for hours at a time with no recall of where they were. These games went a long way toward establishing routine necessary for their mobile devices to be with them, when it mattered! even during an abduction scare in 2016 of my youngest, that girl was an amber alert for all of 20 minutes! I got the phone call from the school informing me she had been snatched by individuals at the front gate of the school, the alarm was raised by the lollipop lady who identified them. We found her!

The AR games themselves didn’t do the tracking, that is done by an app called Life360. Ingress and Pokémon Go merely incentivised the habits necessary to ensure their phone was with them and providing their location information, to ensure they were getting to where they needed to be and hadn’t been side-tracked or derailed.


At the time, GPS tracking was critical for all their safety.

At one point their step father who weighed 180kg, has bipolar and was progressively spiralling into heart disease, diabetes and hypertension, was covering as much as 10-18km a day simply walking to maintain portals. It went a long way towards reducing symptoms of his Bipolar; until the day he was threatened by a local thug while on the train, which brought his wanders to a screeching halt, and instigated a sudden spiral into depression and Isolation.

There are also apps specifically designed to be used to apply the principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to habit forming and breaking; encouraging behaviours which are conducive to good management of mental health, changing harmful behaviours to good.

Superbetter was given a fair trial run at the time by myself, but I was not able to get anyone else within the house to share the experience with me. I was being cheered on from Western Australia. I did find it a bit limited and confusing but well worth an explore, particularly if focusing on one goal at a time, it allows you to encourage your friends to participate, cheer you on, and contribute towards goals, keeping reminders that you have support, front and centre.

If LARPing is right up your street with moans of encouragement on your tail Zombies Run Game could be just the thing, I have limited mobility so won’t be able to trial this one for you, if you give it a go, let me know how it went! If we ever had a Zombie Apocalypse, I will be the lady who throws away her walking stick and starts moving with enthusiasm towards your brains!

I discovered a new one which we will now be trialling over coming weeks as an alternative to OurHome! Feel free to explore Habitica with me! Oh! Look it just congratulated me for working by going to Gamerati!

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Being able to breakdown and progressively complete tasks by their requisite steps, marking off each part as you go and seeing the next is essential to challenge symptoms of inattentive type ADHD, along with aiding recovery from depression and bipolar episodes, lists are law. Habiticas more flexible task and dailies format should make health reminders, routine tasks, and goals quite easy to set up or even import directly from google calendar where the reminders are already configured. It’s all about what you make of it.

These for the most part are applying the principles of game design to therapy providing a basic routine structure, reinforcement, guidance and a selection of resources to produce a tool which can help motivate, remind, and prod in the right direction with rewards for those who follow through.

Some critical aspects to managing mental health include;

  • Routine
  • Good Sleep Habits
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Goal setting

Such app’s can make the difference between sinking or swimming through a bad week, simply by maintaining habits when doing so is the hardest.

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