I Heart Jellyfish: The iPhone Game That Rewards You For A Healthy Heartbeat

This game will actually make you want to regulate your heartbeat. Score one for gamification.


Gamification–the use of gaming mechanics to solve problems and engage audiences–is a hot topic, with everyone from terrorists to the New York Public Library getting in on the concept. It’s hard to find a truly engaging example of gamification, but Ayogo Games may have pulled it off with I ❤ Jellyfish, an iPhone game that asks users to navigate a perilous aquatic world, all while teaching them to regulate their heartbeat.

The game, developed in partnership with USC’s Center For Body Computing, was shown off at last week’s Body Computing Conference. It’s a familiar gaming concept, but with a twist: upon entering the game, the player’s heartbeat is immediately connected to his avatar’s (in this case, a jellyfish) bioluminescence via a patch. As the player’s heartbeats per minute fluctuate, the radius of light around the jellyfish also fluctuates. A larger radius of light attracts more nearby creatures. Much like the popular game Osmos, players “level up” by absorbing smaller creatures and avoiding larger ones. Users can also compete against each other in multiplayer mode.

The key to the game is its flexibility–parents and clinicians can generate a program for a child and have the game report back progress against those metrics. A child who needs to keep a low heart rate (before surgery, for example), will be rewarded in the game for doing so, and vice versa for a player who needs to keep a higher heartbeat to increase physical fitness.

“The game illustrates how we can bring something as basic to our health and existence as heart rate to teens and make it fun,” explained Dr. Leslie Saxon, founder of the Center of the Center For Body Computing, at the conference. But while the game is geared toward kids and teenagers–it is the brainchild of Saxon’s teenage daughter–we imagine that plenty of adults could get hooked on I ❤ Jellyfish too. And that’s one big key to successful gamification: making a seemingly boring task so much fun that everyone wants to get involved.

I ❤ Jellyfish will be released in the iTunes store next year.


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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.