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Research Project: Childhood Obesity Prevention

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Photorealistic avatar and teen physical activity: Feasibility and preliminary efficacy

Author
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe
item Cantu, Dora - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Callender, Chishinga - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item Liu, Yan - Baylor College Of Medicine
item Rajendran, Mayur - University Of Houston
item Rajendran, Madhur - University Of Houston
item Zhang, Yuting - University Of Houston
item Deng, Zhigang - University Of Houston

Submitted to: The Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/19/2017
Publication Date: 2/6/2018
Citation: Thompson, D.J., Cantu, D., Callender, C., Liu, Y., Rajendran, M., Rajendran, M., Zhang, Y., Deng, Z. 2018. Photorealistic avatar and teen physical activity: Feasibility and preliminary efficacy. The Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/g4h.2017.0103.

Interpretive Summary: Exergames are videogames that require the player to move his or her body to move their avatar through the game. This type of active videogame has the potential to help youth be more physically active. This research constructed the avatar from a digital image of the player. Players attained a vigorous level of physical activity and maintained it for most of game-play. Although the game was physically challenging, playing with a self-representational avatar was reported to be enjoyable. This research provides important insights into how to design enjoyable videogames for children that encourage high levels of physical activity.

Technical Abstract: Exergames played with a photorealistic avatar may enhance motivation to play, as well as frequency, duration, and intensity of game-play. This manuscript reports the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of an exergame played with a photorealistic avatar on physical activity intensity in a laboratory-based study. Teens (12-14 year olds) were recruited from a large, metropolitan area of the southwestern United States. Parents provided written informed consent. Teens completed online data collection, played an exergame with a photorealistic avatar in an observed laboratory setting, and then participated in post-assessment data collection which included online questionnaires and a telephone interview. The program was feasible: 42 out of 48 teens recruited (87.5%) completed all data collection activities; game enjoyment was 21.9+/-8.4 out of possible score of 32; immersion, 49.7+/-15.6 out of a possible score of 88; avatar identification, 43.9+/-16.5 out of a possible score of 68; and program satisfaction, 15.6+/-3.6 out of possible score of 20. Objectively-assessed physical activity indicated that 15.88 minutes of the laboratory-based game-play session (74.9% of total time) was in vigorous physical activity; small effect sizes were observed in autonomy (ES=0.45; p=0.01) and competence (ES=0.36; p=0.03). Little change was observed in relatedness (ES=0.04; p=0.82) Qualitative data confirmed participants enjoyed playing the game with a photorealistic avatar and provided suggestions to enhance the game-play experience. Playing an exergame with a photorealistic avatar holds promise as a method for increasing physical activity among youth. Additional research is needed to further explore its effects on game-play frequency, intensity, and duration in non-laboratory setting.