Patients with intermittent claudication experience leg pain when walking, which is caused by plaque building up inside the arteries. Over time, this limits the blood flow. Treadmill exercise is an effective therapeutic intervention. The goal for patients is to push themselves beyond their pain barrier, and thereby increase their maximum walking distance. It is hard to motivate patients for such painful exercise, and in the Netherlands only 14 percent of the patients are prescribed this treatment. We therefore created a Virtual Reality environment which is designed to distract patients from the pain during walking. While walking on the treadmill, patients have the feeling they move forward through a colourful forest. Here, they can collect gems that are spread throughout the environment. Experiencing less pain does not only make the treadmill exercise a lot more fun, but it also allows patients to walk further. This in turn increases therapy effectiveness.
Best Serious Game: The primary purpose of this project was allowing patients to walk further during treadmill exercise than during regular exercise. Preliminary test results indicate this is the case. Furthermore, we are also looking into whether stretching the environment (by increasing the distance between elements in the environment by 10 percent) in subsequent VR walking sessions has an effect on maximum walking distance. The therapist can place a flag at the previously reached distance, which also increases by 10 percent. Preliminary results indicate that this goes unnoticed and that patients pass the flag nevertheless, which may increase therapy efficacy even further.
Some reactions from patients:
- "I have never been in a forest this beautiful!"
- "I did not believe I was capable of walking this far!" (Patient after reaching nearly double her personal record.)
- "Next time, I will pass those pink monkeys no matter what!"
Motivatie 2e categorie
Best Applied Game Design: This game seeks to distract patients from their pain during their treadmill exercise.
We've chosen to do this by offering patients something unique, providing a rich forest environment to people who sometimes can't walk further than a few hundred meters.
We've added special landmarks to serve as places of interest, motivating players to keep going and discover what's next, as well as providing reference points for improving on achievements from previous sessions.
The gameplay is deliberately kept simple, since the target audience consists of people with little gaming experience, who have to put conscious effort into the physical process of walking on the treadmill as well.
Motivatie 3e categorie
Special Award: Because movement in this game is linked to movement of the patient during his treadmill exercise, it is not merely informational or educational, but it becomes part of the actual physical healing process. Furthermore, it's a game in which the function of the game world and game mechanics mainly is distraction, taking the attention of patients away from their pain.