Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Book Review: Handbook of Research on Holistic Perspectives in Gamification for Clinical Practice

Obviously I am biased.
Nonetheless, this book is quite an interesting opus.

Handbook of Research on Holistic Perspectives in Gamification for Clinical Practice

It can be found here.

Health games are becoming quite a popular trend now, and given their potential, it is indeed legitimate. We hear more about that regularly in the media, and we see more and more of them at specialized conferences. As for myself, as one of the associate editors of Computers in Human Behavior, I can see that more and more papers are submitted - and get published - on this topic. However, I can also see that Reviewers are getting more and more familiar with health games, and, therefore, that they are getting more and more strict in what is good and should be published ... and what is less strong should be rejected.

Therefore, it is critical for people working on this field, or willing to work on this field (and that is obviously true for researchers interested in getting their work published, but also, and maybe more importantly, for clinical specialists willing to develop optimal applications using and based on the most up-to-date knowledge in the field) to know what is going on around, and to know what is the state-of-the-art in health games. That being said, finding a single source which would cover topics as diverse as one could expect to meet in developing an health game paradigm is almost impossible.

This book answers this need. Interestingly, this handbook is that the approach it takes is an heuristic approach. Thus, the various chapters of this book cover very various topics, from angles and perspectives not commonly seen in the field (let's take for instance my own chapter (the Chapter 1: Ethical Challenges in Online Health Games) specifically deals with some ethical aspects of health games - a topic which is obviously extremely important, but which would classically not be covered in a conventional book on health games focusing more on technical approaches or applications to specific pathologies). Don't get me wrong here, this book also covers some of the technical issues and provides examples of      applications to specific pathological conditions. But it goes further, and thus offers a more globalized ("heuristic", huh !) of this emerging field.

For those not familiar with the format of IGI books, there are also a few characteristics which makes this handbook extremely useful and convenient :
- First, the book is made in a truly didactic way. For each chapter, in addition to the main text, there are summarizing tables, key definitions, etc ... making this book a pretty good pedagogical tool in the lab, if you have, let's say, graduate students beginning on this topic and coming from field not related to gamification or health games (such as psychology, conventional health sciences, etc ...), or even coming from fields related to Internet studies, but lacking a specification on online health.
- Second - and I would say that this is of major interest for researchers willing to gain time - all the chapters have, in addition to the references mentionned in the main text, a list of supplementary references, specifically selected for their relevance to the topic of the chapter. Given that all the chapters have been peer reviewed by experts in health games, this makes the book a fantastic resources to locate the "must-to-read" basic references in the field ... hence to get some fundamental information before stating anything on this topic.

In conclusion, this book would definitively find its place - and that would be a place handy, easy to access since it is going to be accessed quite regularly - on the shelves of the personal library of any researcher or health specialist interested in health games.

And if you are interested by this topic in general, I would also recommend to read our "My avatar is pregnant" paper from Dr Anna Lomanowska and myself:

Lomanowska AM, Guitton MJ (2014) My avatar is pregnant! Representation of pregnancy, birth, and maternity in a virtual world. Computers in Human Behavior, 31:322-331. [PDF]