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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Adapting a videogame to the needs of pediatric cancer patients and survivors

item Beltran, Alicia
item Li, Rhea
item Ater, Joann
item Baranowski, Janice
item Buday, Richard
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Chandra, Joya
item Baranowski, Tom

Submitted to: The Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/30/2013
Publication Date: 8/1/2013
Citation: Beltran, A., Li, R., Ater, J., Baranowski, J., Buday, R., Thompson, D.J., Chandra, J., Baranowski, T. 2013. Adapting a videogame to the needs of pediatric cancer patients and survivors. The Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications. 2(4):213-221.

Interpretive Summary: Pediatric cancer patients and survivors suffer from serious complications from their disease and treatment, which increases their risk of ensuing obesity. This research addressed the issue of whether two video games shown to enable healthy children to eat healthier, and possibly be more physically active, would also be acceptable to pediatric cancer patients and survivors. Data from 9- to 12-year-old pediatric cancer patients, survivors, and their parents revealed that the children enjoyed seeing their stories and playing the games; did not need to have the characters be pediatric cancer patients and survivors; but a few were upset by the demise of two characters, one in each game. Changes will be made in the games to accommodate the needs of these participants.

Technical Abstract: This study assessed whether two serious video games, "Escape from Diab" (Diab) and "Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space" (Nano) (both from Archimage, Inc., Houston, TX), shown to effect change in healthy children's diet and possibly physical activity are acceptable for obesity prevention among pediatric cancer patients and survivors at high risk of obesity. Pediatric (9– to 12-year-old) cancer patients and survivors (n = 28) were randomly assigned to one of three groups: Group A, watched film adaptations of both game stories and played the first two episodes of each game; Group B, played all of Diab; or Group C, played all of Nano. Qualitative interviews about what the children liked and didn’t like and what should be changed were conducted midway and at the end of each group’s participation. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Pediatric cancer patients and survivors enjoyed playing both games. Two themes emerged to guide future modifications of the game: Three patients reported difficulty with the energy balance and meal selection portion of Nano, and four patients stated endings showing a character dying made them sad. Two serious videogames designed to promote healthier diet and increased physical activity among healthy children were also found to be acceptable by pediatric cancer patients and survivors. Easier options needed to be programmed into energy balance games in Nano. To avoid possible emotional reactions, such as sadness, Nano's ending will be revised so that a character does not die from his affliction. Minor changes will be made in other gameplay mechanics and storylines to meet target audience needs and preferences.

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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