Play to be healthy, one month at a time

Can playing a game online help you be healthier? Buster Benson thinks so.

He’s the creator of, a social game that starts on the first day of every month and ends on the last day. In November, 3406 people are playing.

It’s a simple, powerful idea. You choose measurable goals for yourselfthat you want to do or not do, and you commit to them for 30 or 31 days. My goals for November are to meditate for 15 minutes 5 times a week, do social things 2 times a week, and get 7 hours of sleep every night. (That last one will be the biggest challenge for me.)

Every day during the month, you check in and report how you did, earning points and pieces of virtual fruit for meeting your goals. You start off with 10 life points, and each time you miss a goal, you lose 1 life point. The idea is to try to end the month with at least 1 life point left – so basically you get 9 chances to be unhealthy, however you measure that for yourself.

And there’s a social piece too. Check-ins are posted to a big game wall where you can see how other people are doing. You can also ask people to give you some of their virtual fruit to give you extra life points and help save you when you inevitably mess up. Some people even get sponsors or form teams to raise the stakes for meeting their health goals.

In Buster’s words:

“Health Month is all about designing your own health rules, and then trying to stick to them. We provide the points and the motivation.

We all know how to be healthy. This game is about finding your limits, giving you incentives to make new habits stick, and helping you learn what works for you.”

Behavior change was a primary topic at this year’s IFTF Future of Persuasion conference, where Stanford’s BJ Fogg gave an insightful keynote presentation on his model for behavior change. It seems like HealthMonth can help people both get started on new behaviors and turn them into habits – the two hardest parts of changing our actions, decisions, and habits into healthier ones.

It’s only day 3 for me, but having the check-ins and fear of losing life points is really helping me to focus on my health intentions to meditate, socialize, and sleep more. It’s like a gentle reminder in the chaos of everyday life, when long-term goals often get pushed aside for immediate urgencies. So here’s a “thank you!!” shoutout to Buster and HealthMonth for making behavior change easier and fun.

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