If you’ve never heard of the Games4Health Grand Prix, now’s the time to learn about it. The competition is underway, and there’s big money at stake—$60,000 in prizes in five different categories. The competition is for students who want to create games that promote mental and physical health.This year the categories are:

  • Corporate Wellness Challenge—Games that “help promote health behaviors that lead to creativity, productivity and well being” for workers
  • Adolescent Mental Wellbeing Challenge—Mods for existing games (like Minecraft) that encourage mental health
  • Happy Fitness Challenge—Games and apps that help people get more engaged in fitness.
  • Chronic Disease Challenge—Games that encourage better management of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, mental illness, etc.
  • Clinical Health Challenge—apps and games that help medical providers provide good “digital experiences” in healthcare

According to contest organizer Chris Wasden of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, several events will be associated with the 2016 competition. Students will develop prototypes of their games this fall. Then, on the afternoon of March 31, 2016, hundreds of high school students from the community around the University of Utah “will come to the campus to meet the game developers, play with the game prototypes, watch videos of the games, and vote for the Kids Choice and People’s Choice awards.” In the evening, there will be a Gala at the David Eccles School of Business, where video clips of the best entries will be shown and the big checks will be awarded in each category. On April 8, a workshop for healthcare and gaming professionals will be held at the Deer Valley ski resort. At the workshop, called Ski Symposium, attendees will discuss how they can move some of the most promising games toward commercialization.

The $60,000 in prize money will come from a variety of sponsors. Last year’s sponsors were MetLife, the Korean Culture Foundation, Centerstone Research Institute, United Healthcare, Intermountain Healthcare, and Arches Health.

According to their website, Games4Health is “the premier global community for digital, gaming, and health technologies engaging students from universities across the world.”

Last year’s competition—the second year of the event—was entered by 190 students from 10 universities. Prize money amounted to $50,000.  Two of the games from last year went on to get investor funding, and they’re launching beta versions of their games this year. Those games are Step Pets and FitCraft. Step Pets is a mobile game that encourages exercise. FitCraft is a mobile Minecraft mod that lets people earn in-game currency by engaging in physical activity.

Step Pets started out as an idea for an app that would encourage people to walk virtual pets. With advice from a game development expert, the team refined gameplay. They found that building a game was harder than they thought it would be. “Any time we made a tweak in the code it affected everything else. This also would show flaws in the game design, so we would have to add a feature to complete the experience. This again changed everything. We had to tweak tiny details to make it feel right and that took hours,” said developer Tim Cooley.

Step Pets will be available on the app stores in November. There’s no release date yet for FitCraft.

This article was written by

Linda learned to play video games as a way to connect with her teenaged kids, and then she learned to love video games for their own sake. At Pixelkin she wrangles the business & management side of things, writes posts as often as she can, reaches out on the social media, and does the occasional panel or talk. She lives in Seattle, where she writes, studies, plays video games, spends time with her family, consumes vast quantities of science fiction, and looks after her small cockapoo. She loves to hear from people out there. You can read more about her at her website, Linda Breneman.com or her family foundation's website, ludusproject.org.