Android, BlackBerry, iPhone Game Helps Users Maintain Daily Health Routines
Online startup MeYou Health has a noble mission: to challenge gamers to maintain daily health rituals the company hopes they'll continue for the rest of their lives.
Formed in September 2009, MeYou Health develops games using open-source technology. MeYou Health is a division of Healthways, a wellness application developer.
Daily Challenge, launched in September 2010, is a social well-being game that encourages users to complete health goals it sends daily through email. The company plans to launch a mobile Web version of Daily Challenge optimized for Android, BlackBerry and iPhone devices.
In designing games for mobile devices, MeYou Health has discovered that using the mobile browser works better than stand-alone mobile applications, Trapper Markelz, MeYou Health's head of product, told eWEEK. "We felt it was much more important to build a good experience," he said. "There's been a lot of debate on HTML5 versus native applications."
"A lot of people are looking to HTML-based applications," Markelz said. "If you're a game that requires animation and movement, you can't do that very easily in HTML5-you want to be able to use Flash."
A text environment allows game developers to embed URLs, Markelz noted. Developing games this way is less expensive and allows for the user experience to be maintained, he said.
JQuery Mobile, a unified touch-screen interface for smartphones and tablets, allows MeYou Health to integrate sliding features and flip animations, according to Markelz.
MeYou Health's other products include Twitter Well-Being Tracker and Community Clash, an online card game that allows players to discover how the health of their community compares with others. The company launched Community Community in response to the Obama administration's Community Health Data Initiative, an effort to boost the health of communities by sharing data.
As with the company's other products, Daily Challenge allows users to log in using Facebook Connect, the log-in interface of the popular social networking platform.
Each day, the game emails players a new challenge, Markelz said. Daily rituals in the game include hitting the gym seven days a week, reading a nutrition label, unplugging from technology for five minutes, finding fruits and vegetables of a certain color, calling an old friend and drinking eight glasses of water a day.
Game mechanics present a journey along the path to wellness, he suggested.
To achieve engagement, MeYou Health incorporates animation along with points and badges in the games to celebrate when users achieve health milestones. Players can share their progress using Facebook.
"Twenty percent of our population is active daily within the product, and 52 percent of the people that sign up are still doing the Daily Challenge after 30 days," Markelz said.
MeYou Health's wellness philosophy builds on research from Stanford professor B.J. Fogg, Markelz said. The behaviors begin with a "dot" as a onetime activity, and can progress to a "span," or a period of time. A "path," or lasting change, would follow, according to the research.
"Everybody has to start with a dot," Markelz explained. "You take seemingly impossible things and get them to do it one time. It makes it seem more accomplishable."