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Using video game monsters to teach future doctors

This monster is Type One Diabetes. He’s got eyeglasses, he’s holding some donuts, and he’s being stung by strange little bees. Each one of these characteristics mean something specific to what happens to someone with this disease.
Medimon
/
University of Idaho
This monster is Type One Diabetes. He’s got eyeglasses, he’s holding some donuts, and he’s being stung by strange little bees. Each one of these characteristics mean something specific in the medical world.

You may have noticed that a lot of kids today play video games and that may be the understatement of the year.

A lot of those games involve monsters, like Pokemon, where you catch, tame and battle these creatures.

Some University of Idaho faculty members started thinking about using video games like Pokemon to teach their students.

That led to “Medimon,” a monster-taming video game that teaches health education students about things like your pancreas and the diseases that affect it, by turning them into delightfully drawn monsters. It helps the students memorize things like diabetes, Graves’ disease, ulcerative colitis, and cirrhosis of the liver.

Each "Medifamily" is based on a character, like this blue octo-monster which stands in for the kidney. Each version of the monster represents a different disease or symptom.
Medimon
/
University of Idaho
Each "Medifamily" is based on a character, like this blue octo-monster which stands in for the kidney. Each version of the monster represents a different disease or symptom.

The game was invented by Tyler Bland. He's an assistant clinical professor in the Idaho WWAMI Medical Education Program.

“I teach the pharmacology portion … And so I have to know a little bit about everything. And to help myself, I tried to develop mnemonics to do this. And when I first started developing them, they kind of looked like Pokemon and then it just exploded from there,” says Bland.

This is what happens with the pancreas goes bad. This monster represents pancreatitis. He's holding a bottle, because the disease can be caused by alcohol.
Medimon
/
University of Idaho.
This is what happens with the pancreas goes bad. This monster represents pancreatitis. He's holding a bottle, because the disease can be caused by alcohol.

He says Medimon is similar to Pokemon but “we have this kind of underlying stealth education where we are teaching players about important aspects of the health sciences. And so all of our monsters represent a cell type or an organ system or some sort of disease."

He asked some U of I Virtual Technology Design graduates to create the colorful monsters. Ciara Bordeaux and Emma Ferguson helped design the game and the monsters.

“For me, it's like my first official character design job. So it was super fun to like, get to design them and think of unique ways to incorporate all of the mnemonics, but then also design a really cute or kind of epic character,” says Ferguson.

Her favorite monster is Pancreatitis.

Bland says the game can appeal to everyone.

“The cool thing about this is because these mnemonics are somewhat hidden inside the characters, this allows players to learn them if they so choose and if they have no interest in the health sciences or they have no background, they can play it purely on the esthetic level. So, for instance, my medical students enjoy it and my four-year-old daughter enjoys it.”

Bland says Medimon should be out soon and he’s eager to get it online so students can start learning.

This Medimon Monster has all the characteristics and symptoms of Crohn's disease.
Medimon
/
University of Idaho
This Medimon Monster has all the characteristics and symptoms of Crohn's disease.

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