Games for health: Is the FDA holding them back?

"The qualities of a good video game, things that hook you, what makes the brain -- snap -- engage and go, could be a perfect vessel for actually delivering medicine."
"The qualities of a good video game, things that hook you... could be a perfect vessel for actually delivering medicine."

- Matt Omernick, executive creative director at health-gaming startup Akili, speaking about how the qualities that make games great could also make them therapeutic

A new story from NPR, which includes both text and a radio segment, looks at how games could be a positive, direct force for health -- but considers whether the U.S. government's Food and Drug Administration, which regulates them like medicine, might get in the way of that progress.

The game developer profiled in the story, Akili, bills itself as offering "a different type of medical product" on its homepage: "we're in the process of building clinically-validated cognitive therapeutics, assessments, and diagnostics that look and feel like high-quality video games." Where do you draw the line?

If the FDA is delaying the uptake of these games, that is, in some sense, the goal: To make sure that anything marketed as having a positive effect on health is effectively regulated and safe.

But is it too much, the story's author asks? "Most startups can bring a new video game to market in six months. Going through the FDA approval process for medical devices could take three or four years — and cost millions of dollars."

It's an interesting issue to consider, and one that will necessarily be sorted out. Games will continue to evolve to fill in the cracks in our lives. NPR considers the issue more fully in its story.

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