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Gamification in VR therapy with CUREO

In this blog post, we would like to take a closer look at gamification. We answer the questions of what is meant by gamification, what scientific findings have been made so far and how CUREO uses gamification.

Gamification definition

Gamification is used to increase motivation by using principles of playing in a usually non-playful environment or situation. This is achieved by using of game design elements such as scoring, competition with others, special rules of the game and graphical performance overviews. The concept is used in a variety of areas such as marketing, education, and health care.

Gamification types

There are different types of gamification which can also be combined: reward gamification, status gamification, identification gamification and self-determination gamification. All types lead to greater motivation to achieve a goal. Gamification is successful when the following points are met:

  • Transparent information: why did I fail? Why now? How do I have to do something?

  • (Real-time) feedback: the opportunity to learn from mistakes and change behaviour

  • Clear goals and rules

  • Freedom to choose how to achieve a goal

  • Challenge: no excessive demands or boring tasks


Gamification games

It is important that the player participates voluntarily since a resistance to play makes the „game“ a chore. The other important point is that the challenges must be variable so that the player doesn't get used to the tasks. Just like with small children who playfully discover their environment as they grow up, gamification aims to elicit curiosity and confirmation through a sense of achievement.

Flow and reward

Gamification uses the principle of flow and reward. Success in the game releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter, which activates the pleasure centre in the brain and makes the player feel good. This approach is much more efficient than a therapy session that is driven only by necessity, due to the added positive effect of neurotransmitters.

Scientific background studies and research about Gamification

The aspect of immersive gamification of therapies through virtual reality represents a promising alternative to conventional therapy approaches. It has been shown that captivating environments, playful scenarios and motivating task feedback improve the therapy results in various scenarios. A study focusing on rehabilitation programs for children concludes that immersive gamification is a viable and exciting new therapeutic tool (Bortone et al., 2017).

Gamification in pain therapy

In addition, the use of gamified VR-based rehabilitation programs in pain therapy led to an improvement in the condition in several cases (Dunn et al. 2017). It has also been shown that the positive feedback through gamification significantly increases the motivation of the patient compared to conventional therapy methods (Karamians et al. 2020). Finally, in a study of Parkinson's patients, improved coordination was found in patients exposed to immersive VR exergames, and improved motivation and engagement were reported by (Chen et al. 2020).

Gamification at CUREosity

Our virtual therapy modules offer playful character that integrate the movement sequences that are important for recovery in small "games". For example, fruit is picked from a tree and stowed in a basket to encourage certain arm movements.

In addition, elements from gamified applications in the entertainment industry have been incorporated into the presentation and functionality of our medical software CUREO. There is a modular structure with different levels. The successes within a level are presented in an appealing way, for example as a score or in the form of motivating jingles or sounds.


Games in VR therapy

One of the biggest hurdles in the rehabilitation of patients with motor impairments is the high frequency of therapy and repetition needed for improvement. Movements are difficult for patients, e.g. post stroke with a paresis and motivation for therapy is low. Gamification in virtual reality not only makes mundane repetitive tasks engaging for patients, but also supports rehabilitative goals through a higher patient adherence to therapy. Patients are fully immersed in the virtual world and are driven to complete games with a motivation that is difficult to achieve with conventional therapy methods. Thus, CUREO can contribute to improving the quality of life of patients.


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