Pharmaceutical company Bayer has recently introduced a new blood glucose monitor for kids with diabetes. The device, called “Didget,” tries to encourage good monitoring habits by rewarding users with points based on the frequency and regularity of their blood checks.
This kind of reward system—offering some intangible gold star for desired user behavior—is quite familiar. It shows up in everything from video games to brand loyalty programs. Where the Didget is interesting is in how these points are used: kids can redeem them for items, costumes and other unlockables in a Nintendo DS game that comes with the device. Didget itself plugs into the Game Boy Advance cartridge slot on compatible DS systems, allowing the DS game to read the relevant data directly from the device.
You can check out a fairly comprehensive introduction to the Didget on Bayer’s website. It’s worth watching both the “for kids” and the “for health care professionals” intros. The kid-focused version talks about the game and how the reward mechanism works, while the health care version explains the ultimate goal behind introducing this kind of video game reward system: better lifelong health due to good health care habits developed early.
Whether the Didget succeeds in encouraging this kind of behavior will of course depend partly on the quality of the related game, Knock ‘Em Downs: World’s Fair, and on whether the in-game rewards for monitoring are meaningful. I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has seen or used a Didget, or who has played the game that accompanies it. This is a clear application of the “game-like motivational systems” approach to teaching with video games (see this past blog post for more). Incidentally, that post led to a much longer paper which will soon be published in the online journal Currents in Electronic Literacy… my first professional publication. Self-props!