New virtual gaming universe seeks to make children and young people ‘monstrously active’!

​Thanks to a grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation worth DKK 3,567,000, BørneRiget is now able to develop a virtual gaming universe for long-term hospitalised children and young people, where, among other things, they can grow virtual monster plants and play with them. The donation also secures research into the effects of virtual gaming.

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From left to right: Professor and consultant Jette Led Sørensen, Kikko Henriksen, game developer and project manager, and Dr Line Klingen Gjærde, postdoc received the grant for the project on behalf of BørneRiget, Rigshospitalet

They’re growing monster plants at Rigshospitalet! But only if diligent gardeners tend them. That’s the description of a new virtual gaming universe for children and young people in hospital. The universe is designed to make them more physically active in everyday life while in hospital, and to make being a patient more fun.

Kikko Henriksen, project manager and game developer at BørneRiget – the new hospital building for children, young people and expectant mothers – says there has been a lack of digital provision for patients:

“Being admitted to hospital can be daunting for children and young people, especially when it’s long term. Many spend a lot of their time in bed, even if they have the energy to participate in physical activities. In particular, there’s been a gap in digital provision that could make getting out of your hospital bed and moving around much more fun. That’s why we’re so excited about the generous grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, which means we can now press ahead with developing the gaming universe we began in 2019 with the support of the Danish Cancer Society,” says Kikko Henriksen, project manager and game developer at BørneRiget.

The gaming universe uses augmented reality technology, where a virtual layer is superimposed on reality. In one of the games, accessible via a phone or tablet app, participants acquire their own monster plants, which they can feed, for instance, and take with them to seek out surprises in the hospital corridors. Gamers can also equip their monster plants with everything from samurai swords to colourful lights, and meet other hospitalised patients, friends and siblings to test the strength and abilities of the plants. The various activities in the game get patients out of bed and moving around, to the extent their condition allows.
 
Resultant research will disseminate knowledge about play and gaming in hospitals

Besides the development of the gaming universe, the donation also makes it possible to carry out research into physical activity through virtual play when children and young people are in hospital. 

“We know very little about the significance of physical activity – for example through gaming and other play – for chronically sick and long-term hospitalised children, in terms of better treatment outcomes, for instance. Research also indicates the importance of starting physical activity during admission and motivating children and young people to move around. Our research project will use validated tools to measure physical activity to enable us to assess the impact of physical activity from things like virtual gaming and play – whether this brings about better treatment outcomes, whether it makes the child or young person feel more reassured and boosts physical activity during hospitalisation,” says Professor Jette Led Sørensen, the consultant at BørneRiget in charge of the research project.  

The gaming universe is yet to be named, but the working title for the project is DUOPLAY (Digital Universe of Play and Activity for Youth) 





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