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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Serious video games for health: How behavioral science guided the development of a serious video game

item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Baranowski, Tom
item Buday, Richard
item Baranowski, Janice
item Thompson, Victoria
item Jago, Russell
item Juliano Griffith, Melissa

Submitted to: Simulation & Gaming
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/1/2010
Publication Date: 8/1/2010
Citation: Thompson, D.J., Baranowski, T., Buday, R., Baranowski, J., Thompson, V., Jago, R., Juliano Griffith, M. 2010. Serious video games for health: How behavioral science guided the development of a serious video game. Simulation & Gaming. 41(4):587-606.

Interpretive Summary: Children are not meeting guidelines for healthy nutrition and physical activity behaviors. Effective ways to help them adopt these behaviors are needed. Video games guided by behavioral theory may be an effective way to do this. This article shows how behavioral science was used to design a videogame to reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity in pre-adolescents. The impact of this research is that it may ultimately provide an effective method for helping children make healthy nutrition and physical activity choices that reduce their risk of becoming obese and developing type 2 diabetes.

Technical Abstract: Serious video games for health are designed to entertain players while attempting to modify some aspect of their health behavior. Behavior is a complex process influenced by multiple factors, often making it difficult to change. Behavioral science provides insight into factors that influence specific actions that can be used to guide key game design decisions. This article reports how behavioral science guided the design of a serious video game to prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity among youth, two health problems increasing in prevalence. It demonstrates how video game designers and behavioral scientists can combine their unique talents to create a highly focused serious video game that entertains while promoting behavior change.

Last Modified: 06/22/2017
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