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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #221639

Title: In Pursuit of Change: Youth Response to Intensive Goal Setting Embedded in a Serious Video Game

item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Baranowski, Thomas
item Buday, Richard
item Baranowski, Janice
item Juliano, Melissa
item Frazior, Mckee
item Wilsdon, Jon
item Jago, Russell

Submitted to: Popular Publication
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/1/2007
Publication Date: 11/1/2007
Citation: Thompson, D.J., Baranowski, T., Buday, R., Baranowski, J., Juliano, M., Frazior, M., Wilsdon, J., Jago, R. 2007. In pursuit of change: Youth response to intensive goal setting embedded in a serious video game. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. 1(6):907-917.

Interpretive Summary: Videogames, enhanced by behavior-change technology and motivating storylines, offer promise for promoting diet and physical activity change for youth diabetes and obesity prevention. Early testing with the intended audience offers an opportunity to identify problems that may limit functionality, usability, and understanding. Because these problems could have a negative effect on enjoyment, knowledge, and skill development, it is important to detect them prior to final production. This article reports on early alpha testing of several episodes of two videogames. Few technical problems occurred, but several problems related to comprehension and functionality were identified. Identifying these issues early in the development process enabled them to be addressed prior to final production, emphasizing the importance of early testing with youth.

Technical Abstract: Type 2 diabetes has increased in prevalence among youth, paralleling the increase in pediatric obesity. Helping youth achieve energy balance by changing diet and physical activity behaviors should decrease the risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity. Goal setting and goal review are critical components of behavior change. Theory-informed video games that emphasize development and refinement of goal setting and goal review skills provide a method for achieving energy balance in an informative, entertaining format. This article reports alpha-testing results of early versions of theory-informed goal setting and reviews components of two diabetes and obesity prevention video games for preadolescents. Two episodes each of two video games were alpha tested with 9- to 11-year-old youth from multiple ethnic groups. Alpha testing included observed game play followed by a scripted interview. The staff was trained in observation and interview techniques prior to data collection. Results show that although some difficulties were encountered, alpha testers generally understood goal setting and review components and comprehended they were setting personal goals. Although goal setting and review involved multiple steps, youth were generally able to complete them quickly, with minimal difficulty. Few technical issues arose; however, several usability and comprehension problems were identified. In conclusion, theory-informed video games may be an effective medium for promoting youth diabetes and obesity prevention. Alpha testing helps identify problems likely to have a negative effect on functionality, usability, and comprehension during development, thereby providing an opportunity to correct these issues prior to final production.