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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: An educational video game for nutrition of young people: Theory and design

Author
item Ledoux, Tracey - University Of Houston
item Griffith, Melissa - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Nguyen, Nga - Md Anderson Cancer Center
item Watson, Kathy - Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDCP) - United States
item Baranowski, Janice - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Buday, Richard - Archimage, Inc
item Abdelsamad, Dina - Johns Hopkins University
item Baranowski, Tom - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)

Submitted to: Simulation & Gaming
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/20/2016
Publication Date: 2/17/2016
Citation: Ledoux, T., Griffith, M., Thompson, D.J., Nguyen, N., Watson, K., Baranowski, J., Buday, R., Abdelsamad, D., Baranowski, T. 2016. An educational video game for nutrition of young people: Theory and design. Simulation & Gaming. doi: 10.1177/1046878116633331.

Interpretive Summary: Games for Health (G4H) are a relatively new form of behavioral intervention for preventing child obesity through diet and physical activity change. Enhancing knowledge of aspects of behavior change is important for more complex behaviors (e.g. energy balance). How to optimally include knowledge enhancing activities in G4H is not known. This paper describes key elements of knowledge enhancing games in two multi-media adventures, Escape from Diab and Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space. Mastery learning experiences (i.e. repeated taking of a test until achieving success) was deemed to be "fun" in the context of a video game, and resulted in high levels of subject mastery. Other G4H should employ mastery learning to enable players to master understanding of complex issues necessary for behavior change.

Technical Abstract: Playing Escape from Diab (DIAB) and Nanoswarm (NANO), epic video game adventures, increased fruit and vegetable consumption among a multi-ethnic sample of 10-12 year old children during pilot testing. Key elements of both games were educational mini-games embedded in the overall game that promoted knowledge acquisition regarding diet, physical activity and energy balance. 95-100% of participants demonstrated mastery of these mini-games suggesting knowledge acquisition. This article describes the process of designing and developing the educational mini-games. A second purpose is to explore the experience of children while playing the games. The educational games were based on Social Cognitive and Mastery Learning Theories. A multidisciplinary team of behavioral nutrition, PA, and video game experts designed, developed, and tested the mini-games. Alpha testing revealed children generally liked the mini-games and found them to be reasonably challenging. Process evaluation data from pilot testing revealed almost all participants completed nearly all educational mini-games in a reasonable amount of time suggesting feasibility of this approach. Future research should continue to explore the use of video games in educating children to achieve healthy behavior changes.