We're proud to say that another innovation entered in the DiabetesMine Design Challenge back in 2009 is making strides. And this one has to do with slaying giant dinosaur monsters!
It's a new video game being developed by a fellow type 1 that aims to teach players about daily diabetes tasks such as blood sugar checks, carb counts and insulin and meal doses, all within a fantasy adventure world that isn't about diabetes at all. That's the magic!
Unlike most health education games out there, in which it's glaringly obvious that you're playing for health reasons, this one lets you focus on saving the world from robot soldiers to giant dinosaur warriors wearing robotic machine parts and weapons.
The Magi and The Sleeping Star, being billed as "a health education game unlike any before," is being developed by professional game designer Adam Grantham in California who's been living with type 1 for almost 20 years.
Adam says he's always wanted to make a game that could help people better understand the condition that he was diagnosed with at age 10 back in 1994.
He's been working to make this happen since founding his own company called Game Equals Life back in 2008, and has recently created a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for moving ahead with the prototype game.
Gamification isn't anything new; we've written about it and trial-tested some other health education games in the past. Sadly, most aren't all that engaging since the focus is really on whatever you're meant to do in regard to health. Not so here! Diabetes is just along for the ride, as your magic warrior character faces villains -- like he would in any graphic videogame experience worth its salt.
"Health education games all seem pretty boring, and they're centered around whatever condition or health issue you're trying to resolve. They come from the realms of medical research and academia, but The Magi and The Sleeping Star is straight from the game industry," Adam says. "I knew from the beginning that if the game wasn't fun, it wasn't going to be teaching anyone anything. So we designed a core game that was strong enough to stand alone as an exciting, evocative adventure."
Adam's no stranger to the gaming world, as his day job is in game design at The Workshop Entertainment and he's been with Sony Santa Monica, using his skill to help create cool games like Sorcery and God of War: Ascention, among others! His wife, Nikki, also works at Sony Santa Monica now and helps market games -- so they're a dynamic duo (so to speak) in working to get this game off the ground.
As someone who used to play my share of video games growing up (and even at times in the past several years as an adult), this one looks really cool. The demo shows that it's got the style and feel of games like Warcraft, God of War, and even the old-school games like Zelda and the Final Fantasies, or the Resident Evil line that I've dabbled in through the years.
Here's the premise of Magi, whether you're playing as a guy or girl character:
An ancient king returns to enslave your world and only you have the power to stop him! As a descendant of the noble line of warrior-wizards known as Magi, you'll have to master your powers in order to awaken the hero within. But you face another challenge, for you have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and before you can master your magic you must master your blood sugar. Equipped with the powerful arrow launching Witch-Cannon, an arsenal of spells, and your trusty robotic assistant AIMO, you must venture into the enemy's land and defeat the tyrant who threatens your world!
The D-Management is embedded into the game so it almost feels natural, and instead of the typical "find food or a heart" to boost your health, you have to actually check your blood sugar, balance that number with insulin dosing and gather up food that you find around the game landscape, including ham sandwiches and apples. Then of course you have to calculate the carb counts! To deal with insulin, you enter sensitivity and correction factors that help you pinpoint where you need to be. There's a default for these settings in the game, but players can also insert their own factors to make the experience more personalized.
"You get to take ownership, knowing that if your blood sugars are off or your diabetes is unbalanced then it becomes more difficult to use your magic spells and abilities," Adam explains. "You might fire the Witches Cannon at half right, or your learning is slower."
Although it hasn't been created in the prototype, Adam plans to design a little virtual glucose meter within the game that doesn't require the player to pause the game to check their sugars or take insulin -- it will be a part of whatever's happening "in real life" with the Magi, just like it happens to us PWDs in actual real life.
"It can be such a hurdle to get to that point where you're in control," Adam says. "Video games are such a powerful educational tool, and so I thought it was just a good thing to do, to use my skills to give back and help people. This is a way to experience and play it out in a fun way, and have diabetes education seep in as part of the game mechanics. That's a more effective way to learn it."
Adam points out that you don't have to know anything about diabetes to play this game... there's a tutorial at the game's start and the robot assistant AIMO teaches you the D-basics early in the story. You can also ask AIMO diabetes questions at any point in the game, and FYI, there will also be a way to bypass the D-simulation and play the game in raw format to just enjoy the gameplay, world and story (wish we could bypass the real thing!)
As noted, I've seen my share of health-related games that just aren't very fun. There are just so few that feel like an actual game, and are not focused on diabetes as the main point of the story. There's a Sanofi game called Monster Manor available overseas that looks interesting, but as of now, us "gamerz" can't access it from here in the States. Darn!
I'd say this type of game is sorely missing, especially in the game-crazed U.S., and could do a lot of good -- so I'd encourage people to check it out and help support it, if at all possible.
And act now, please! Because the Kickstarter campaign only lasts through Nov. 28. If the crowd-funding doesn't materialize, Adam says he'll have to re-examine what happens next and this project may have to take a backseat to his regular game design job. But, if the funding does materialize, Adam says his Magi game would likely take about a year to develop and refine in order to be sold. He plans to work with designers at The Workshop to advance the game, and then he's hoping the JDRF, American Diabetes Association and others in the D-Community can help get the word out.
OK, so the world may not actually be hanging in the balance... but sometimes it does feel like the Big D is like a giant dinosaur monster that's after us. The metaphoric battle is underway, so why not create a video world in which we can do epic battle and learn some useful D-management techniques along the way?