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Research Project: Preventing the Development of Childhood Obesity

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Teen reactions to a self-representational avatar: A qualitative exploration

item BAYSDEN, EMILY - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item MENDOZA, NINNA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item CALLENDER, CHISHINGA - Children'S Nutrition Research Center (CNRC)
item DENG, ZHIGANG - University Of Houston
item Thompson, Deborah - Debbe

Submitted to: Journal of Sport and Health Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/25/2021
Publication Date: 7/20/2021
Citation: Baysden, E., Mendoza, N., Callender, C., Deng, Z., Thompson, D.J. 2021. Teen reactions to a self-representational avatar: A qualitative exploration. Journal of Sport and Health Science.

Interpretive Summary: Many children, particularly adolescents, do not meet physical activity (PA) guidelines. With closures and safety measures implemented since the pandemic began, concerning decreases in PA have been observed. Therefore, there is an urgent need to identify safe ways for adolescents to be physically active. This secondary data analysis revealed that navigating an exergame (active video game) with an avatar created from a series of scans of the player, was positively viewed by adolescents. Players reported they felt connected to their avatar, wanted to protect it from harm, and worked harder in the game as a result. Objective data revealed that most of the 29 minute gameplay session was spent in vigorous PA. This study provides suggestive evidence that navigating an avatar that looks like the player through an exergame may enhance engagement and PA intensity.

Technical Abstract: This research presents findings from a qualitative exploration of the reactions of adolescents (12–14 years old) to navigating an exergame with an avatar created from multiple scans of the player (referred to as a self-representational avatar). Post-gameplay interviews were conducted with adolescents following participation in a 20-min laboratory session (21.2+/-0.8 min) where the self-representational avatar was navigated through an exergame. Verbatim transcripts (n=40) were coded and analyzed by 2 independent coders using hybrid thematic analysis for this secondary data analysis. Codes were reviewed to identify themes representing adolescents' reactions. Four themes emerged. Adolescents connected with their avatars and felt protective towards them, which influenced their actions in the exergame and contributed to their overall game enjoyment. Creating exergames navigated by a self-representational avatar was an enjoyable experience and influenced gameplay. Future research should explore the effect of this approach on gameplay frequency and intensity over time.