Play the Pain

Play the Pain project is a collaborative initiative to bring Neuroscientists, Clinicians, Game and Media scholars and Data/Computer Scientists together to design and implement a theory-based gamified mHealth platform for individualized suffering of chronic pain.

Chronic pain (CP) is a debilitating public health concern that affects anywhere between 16%-41% of Canadians, with factors such as age, gender, cultural context and socioeconomic status explaining the high variability. Chronic pain challenges researchers, clinicians, pharmacists, and policy-makers at several levels, because the elusive nature of pain perception makes it difficult to quantify and qualify pain thus increases the need for a personalized and trial-and-error based pain management system. This increased the cost of care for untreated patients, and also increased the risks of secondary effects due to stress, disability or medication toxicity. Play the Pain is conceptualized with recognition of the tremendous benefit of mHealth approaches to involved patients in self-monitoring, pain tracking and data recording as a way of collaborative decision making with clinicians. In pain research, electronic pain diaries were introduced about two decades ago, with the explicit purpose to create a taxonomy of pain with attention to the psychological and temporal profile of pain experience. 

Play the Pain creates a Gamified version of a pain diary with specific attention to four user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design elements:

  • Pain is a psychologically complex and very individual phenomena; element of choice is paramount. 

  • Pain is an unpleasant experience; the experience must be meaningful, enjoyable and rewarding.

  • Pain sensation can be contextual; real time tracking in real life settings is essential.

  • Pain is a private feeling, reliable, transparent and secure data-collection must respect patient's willingness to participate.

Play the Pain is a ludic mHealth platform to interface between chronic pain patients to allow them participate in researching their pain by momentary evaluation of their emotions and sensation; while giving them various options to try non-pharmacological analgesic interventions (e.g. medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, playing distraction games, meditation, and expressive writing).

This project relies on collaborative decision making between Patient (who inform the expectation from the app), Clinicians (who ensure the scientific validity of the intervention or data), Designers (who use the information from the first two groups and create the user interface and game scenarios) and Computer and Data Scientists who develop a data management system that connects users and clinicians with personal and population data in a secure manner.

The game prototype is completed and we are awaiting additional funding to define the design and begin testing. The project is currently supported by the PERFORM Centre, TAG and MCIN.

We welcome additional academic and industry partnerships. Please address your inquiries to Dr Mahani (