American Optometric Association Creates Mobile Game to Promote Eye Health

“Blink Land” is designed to encourage players to take frequent breaks from screens, and visit an eye doctor.

A leading medical association has translated its concern about gamers’ eye health into an educational game.

In June, the American Optometric Association (AOA) released Blink Land, a free mobile game that offers tips for players about addressing eye strain via quizzes and other in-game challenges. As an eye-themed avatar bounces around a pastel-colored landscape, players are given vision-related statistics, asked to answer true or false questions, respond to cues to remember to blink, and given tips to avoid eye strain like the “20-20-20 rule”—taking a break from screens every 20 minutes for 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away. The game also includes a link to a page on the AOA website where players can find an optometrist.

Some groups are spending about double the screen time that they were pre-pandemic.

According to Dr. Belinda Starkey, an AOA trustee, the game is just the latest part of AOA’s efforts to encourage people to see an eye doctor, now that more people spend more time on screens. “The popularity of gaming has increased since the pandemic,” she said. “We estimate that people are spending about double the screen time spent, in some groups, that they were pre-pandemic.”

“Blink Land” was developed in conjunction with two AOA initiatives that were launched during the pandemic. The first, Eye Deserve More, was unveiled in 2021 as a public awareness campaign to encourage the public to visit an eye doctor and maintain good eye-health practices. A related campaign, the Screen Time Alliance, launched in 2022, with a specific focus on gamers, in response to AOA research that found that fewer than half of gamers scheduled annual eye exams, but that the average gamer experiences “various eye-related symptoms from gaming, including eye strain, headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision.”

Starkey said “Blink Land” had been in development for about eight months, with many of the technical details handled by Playcrafting, a gaming software developer that is also a member of the Screen Time Alliance. But AOA also called on a lot of the association’s internal expertise. “We drew from leadership and had a selection of AOA doctors who are also gamers, and small groups of our own volunteers who were our beta testers,” she said. 

The game, which is available for free for iOS and Android devices, officially launched on June 15 at AOA’s annual conference in Washington, DC. Since then, Starkey said the game has been downloaded approximately 1,500 times, adding that in time the game can help AOA meet its goal of encouraging more gamers to visit an eye doctor—who, Starkey notes, can often detect other non-vision-related ailments via an eye exam.  

“The hope is that ‘Blink Land’ will encourage more gamers to think about their eyes as their most important gaming accessory—that they establish a relationship with a doctor of optometry if they don’t already have one, in order to maintain their eyesight,” she said. “We hope the tips will encourage gamers and all screen users to practice healthy habits daily—because we’re all on our screens every day—so their eyes are protected.”

(Photo courtesy of AOA)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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