Proud and honoured, to be sure, but not surprised. After all, when Biba was founded in 2014, extensive research had already revealed a stark correlation between increasing screen time and decreasing fitness levels among children.
As a parent, I remain deeply concerned by this trend. Indeed, as a veteran of the game-development industry, it has been my job to know exactly how appealing mobile games can be. That’s why the team at Biba set out to produce a series of games that leverage the appeal of smart devices in directing kids towards healthy outdoor play instead of the couch.
The fact that our augmented-reality tags are now in place in almost 5,000 sites around the world speaks volumes about this concept, as do the millions of parents and caregivers who are using Biba’s free apps to turn screen time into healthy, imaginative outdoor play on and around any real-world playground.
But there is one aspect of Biba’s success that has been an especially pleasant surprise: the support and recognition we have received from those in the traditional gaming industry. Game industry folks typically dedicate their careers to creating compelling screen-based experiences that keep kids glued to their seats – but game developers are often parents too. So when these industry moms and dads see what we are doing with our mobile games, they remark on how refreshing it is to see someone creating digital experiences that spur kids to get out of their seats.
According to Brenda Bailey, the Executive Director of the Digital Media Industry Association of British Columbia, “the games community in B.C. was delighted to see Biba’s forward-thinking ingenuity recognized in TIME magazine’s list of the most innovative companies in 2019. It’s wonderful to see the talented team at Biba using video games to engage children and families in the playground setting. Video games are a powerful medium and can be harnessed in many ways beyond traditional entertainment. For example, B.C. studios are building games for behaviour change in illness management, an app chore for enticing kids to be responsible contributors to the family, and in Biba’s case, making the playground more interactive and connected.”
Deployed after months of in-depth user research performed in collaboration with child psychology experts and those in the field of education design, Biba games have been shown to produce heart rates that are more than 40 percent higher than standard playground play. Our usage data also confirms that children who use Biba apps more than once experience 45 percent more moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per play session than one-time users. This is a significant outcome for us, and provides further validation that Biba games are hitting the mark when it comes to fostering healthy family habits.
TIME says the inventions on its 2019 list are “making the world better, smarter and even a bit more fun.” As far as I’m concerned — as a dad and as a game developer — Biba makes the grade on all three counts.