Help, My Avatar Is Sick
A recent article in Health Affairs titled: “Games for Health: the Latest Tool in the Medical Care Arsenal” stated that “computer-based simulations and interactive programs are introducing a powerful new force in health care: FUN”. At the same time the article also noting that “new tools in health care are proliferating like viral spoors in a virtual pond.” While there is a growing proliferation of stand alone health games, this panel will consider the specific use of health games embedded in persistent avatar-based worlds where users manage the health and well being of their avatars as virtual substitutes for their own health and wellness. The panel will present actual data from use cases ranging from tweens to boomers, including what evidence is available to suggest that virtual behavior crosses into behavior in the real world. The panel will also discuss how new mobile health devices are likely to contribute to the blending of virtual and real worlds.
Ben Sawyer is the co-founder of Digitalmill, a games consulting firm based in Portland, Maine. Since beginning his career in game development over ten years ago, Sawyer has pioneered major initiatives in the field of serious games and has become a nationally recognized leader within the games community.
For the past seven years, Sawyer has dedicated his professional life to discovering new ways to expand the use of games beyond entertainment. In 2002, he co-founded the Serious Games Initiative, a project of the U.S. Government's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The following year, Sawyer organized the first-ever Serious Games Summit – a conference which now attracts 300-500 attendees annually, who meet to share best practices in the development of serious games. The Serious Games Initiative continues to serve as one of the leading organizations in the field of serious games.
In 2004, Sawyer also co-founded the Games for Health project, an initiative which has built the primary social and professional networks of the health games industry. Through on-line resources and regular regional and national events, Games for Health connects health professionals, researchers, and game developers in order to advance the development of health games and game technologies. The Games for Health project receives major funding from the Pioneer Portfolio, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
As a game developer, Sawyer has worked on over one dozen major serious game projects. In 2000, Sawyer began producing the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's university simulation game, "Virtual U," which was an award finalist at that year’s Independent Games Festival. Sawyer has also served as a designer, producer, advisor, and/or manager on projects for Cisco, DARPA, ONR, Leimandt Foundation, Cadbury, USAID, Lockheed Martin, and several other Fortune 500 organizations.
An avid and sought-after speaker, Sawyer presents at numerous conferences and events each year. Prior to founding Digitalmill, Sawyer was a technical book author, writing about emerging consumer technologies and game development. His written work has been recognized by both Game Developer Magazine and the Independent Publishing Association. A lifelong gamer, Sawyer often draws his professional inspiration from his extensive personal knowledge of games - including those developed since the original Pong.
Prior to pursuing his professional career, Sawyer graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and studied at Baruch College. He currently resides in Freeport, Maine with his wife Olivia and their two sons (and future gamers), ages 7 and 5
Erin Edgerton is Senior Director for Health Communication and Marketing at Danya, Intl. Before joining Danya in January of 2012, she served as the Director of New Media and Strategic Communication at the White House Office of Drug Policy. During her time at the White House, she also worked for the Office of Digital Strategy on the government's response to the H1N1 epidemic, the website and new media strategy for the First Lady's Let's Move! initiative, and other public health priorities. Erin also previously served as Senior Social Media Strategist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she developed the Agency's first centralized social media strategy.
Professor Fefferman is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, and is also an active member of the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS). She also serves as the Co-Director of the Tufts University Initiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Disease (InForMID). She is the author of over 30 academic papers and edited volumes, has been the PI on multiple funded research studies, and her work has been the focus of international media attention in television, radio, and print media. Prof. Fefferman uses mathematical modeling to examine how behavior and societal organization can impact the spread of infectious disease and what insights can be gained from systems in the natural world for application in areas of public health, bio-defense, and pandemic preparedness. Her lab also works to produce novel mathematical techniques for outbreak detection and spatial modeling for health risk assessment. Fefferman has been an active member of CCICADA (the Command, Control, and Interoperability Center for Advanced Data Analysis; a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence), and has consulted for the National Defense University, DARPA, and multiple private companies. She received her Ph.D. in biology from Tufts University in 2004, her MS in mathematics from Rutgers University in 2001, and her AB in mathematics from Princeton University in 1999.