Disruptive technology #1: Video games

by Hans on 2005/05/19

In light of the recent announcements at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), I will start by profiling my first prediction for a disruptive technology: video games.

The video game industry has exploded from being entertainment for children to a $11 billion industry in the United States alone! What may surprise even more is that 50% of all Americans play video games, and the average age video-game players is 30 years (source: Entertainment Software Association). Believe me – they are in a living room near you! There are at least 120 million units out there already, and 2006 looks like it will be a blitz for new games and systems.
This past week, three new console systems were announced.

Microsoft announced its Xbox 360 slated for release during Christmas 2005.

Sony revealed the Playstation 3, scheduled for mid 2006.
Nintendo announced its latest system, called “Revolution”.

I haven’t even discussed portable/mobile game systems like Nintendo’s Gameboy family, Sony’s recent Playstation Portable (PSP), or Nokia’s game playing mobile phones.

What is quite remarkable is that video game systems are no longer units to play only games – they are slowly becoming media centres able to play and record music and videos.

I think that video games have the potential to change radically how people interact with the health care system. Honestly, I don’t really know how, but I think that video games will be very important in the future, moreso than we can imagine. I was surprised to learn that there is a professional video-game player circuit/league/tour. Top tier players earn in excess of $100,000 a year.

In terms of specific applications to health care, some early applications could include:

  • Education & Teaching – Video games could be used for education and training. Nature published an article discussing how playing video games boosts visual spacial skills – could this be the new medium for training surgeons? The US Army already uses video games as a recruitment tool – why can’t health care use video games to educate future practitioners?
  • New Interfaces – The entertainment industry seems to push the boundaries in terms of developing new interfaces to technology. Could we apply some of the innovation for health care purposes?
  • Modelling & Simulation – Could video games help us simulate future changes to the health care system? There are already a successful line of “simulation” games (e.g., SimCity to “The Sims”).
  • Health Promotion – Perhaps video games can be the medium to reach young children and teens with healthy living messages and other health promotions information. We know that existing/traditional activities are not as successful as we hope – maybe video games can be the next frontier.
  • Public Engagement - With all of the above possible applications, video games could be used to engage the public on how the system works and what directions policy makers should take. Having the general population become familiar with the health system would provide a good foundation for discussion. Why can’t we engage the public using entertainment media? Can video games be used to inspire and create future workers by getting young people interested in health care?

The above are only a few possible avenues that I think video games can take. By no means are these final. But, I’m pretty sure that video games have great potential to affect health care in the future. Who knows, maybe surgeries will look more like video games. The surgeon may use a controller to manipulate miniature robots complete the “mission” of healing the body.

Stay tuned for my next prediction on disruptive technologies.

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