Computer Games for Obesity and Diabetes Prevention: Interfacing Behavior Change Techniques to Game Elements

Brian Mayrsohn


With the increasing burden of chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes, there is a strong need for a low cost solution that can be scaled for the masses. Games for health is touted as that solution. A major benefit is that they can improve the delivery of care across the healthcare continuum while also increasing reach and patients buy in. Successful health games are based on theoretical frameworks, which require the successful implementation of game elements. However, terminology used by researchers is either asynchronous or totally lacking making it difficult for others to refer to a consistent approach. The purpose of this study is to bridge the gap between game designers and behavioral scientists to enable them to create games based on behavior change game-elements (BCGEE) that are optimally designed not only to be fun and engaging but also transformative. To merge these two fields, a tool was developed to create a common language that could assist researchers and game designers in the identification of BCGEE necessary to create more efficacious games that can create behavioral changes. The tool was constructed using research obtained during a systematic review of the literature, the expert guidance of one game designer and three behavioral scientists that develop games for change. The tool was then tested through one-on-one interviews with world renown game designers and behavioral scientists to validate. A mixed method research approach was taken by utilizing thematic analysis and likert scales to objectively and subjectively evaluate the transcripts obtained from the interviews as they contrast against the tool. The analysis of the transcripts led to redefining the game element definitions and links between the two fields. By including all stakeholders, a common language was developed that both fields can utilize to develop games for change.

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