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Journal Description

JMIR Serious Games (JSG, ISSN 2291-9279) is a sister journal of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), one of the most cited journals in health informatics. In June 2018, JSG received an official inaugural journal impact factor of 2.226 (Journal Citation Reports 2017, Clarivate Analytics). This ranks JSG at the top of all gaming related academic journals, ahead of (for example) more established competitor journals such as the Games for Health Journal. 

JSG is a multidisciplinary journal devoted to computer/web/mobile/augmented and virtual reality applications that incorporate elements of gaming to solve serious problems such as health education/promotion, teaching and education, or social change.
The journal also considers commentary and research in the fields of video games violence and video games addiction.

JMIR Serious Games is indexed in Pubmed, PubMed Central, and in Clarivate/Thomson Reuters Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE).

 

Recent Articles:

  • Man wearing a virtual reality head-mounted device while walking in nature. Source: Pexels; Copyright: Bradley Hook; URL: https://www.pexels.com/photo/sea-landscape-nature-sky-123318/; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Head-Mounted Virtual Reality and Mental Health: Critical Review of Current Research

    Abstract:

    Background: eHealth interventions are becoming increasingly used in public health, with virtual reality (VR) being one of the most exciting recent developments. VR consists of a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment viewed through a head-mounted display. This medium has provided new possibilities to adapt problematic behaviors that affect mental health. VR is no longer unaffordable for individuals, and with mobile phone technology being able to track movements and project images through mobile head-mounted devices, VR is now a mobile tool that can be used at work, home, or on the move. Objective: In line with recent advances in technology, in this review, we aimed to critically assess the current state of research surrounding mental health. Methods: We compiled a table of 82 studies that made use of head-mounted devices in their interventions. Results: Our review demonstrated that VR is effective in provoking realistic reactions to feared stimuli, particularly for anxiety; moreover, it proved that the immersive nature of VR is an ideal fit for the management of pain. However, the lack of studies surrounding depression and stress highlight the literature gaps that still exist. Conclusions: Virtual environments that promote positive stimuli combined with health knowledge could prove to be a valuable tool for public health and mental health. The current state of research highlights the importance of the nature and content of VR interventions for improved mental health. While future research should look to incorporate more mobile forms of VR, a more rigorous reporting of VR and computer hardware and software may help us understand the relationship (if any) between increased specifications and the efficacy of treatment.

  • The user's character riding te Hokioi, a giant eagle, within the SPARX program. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/3/e13/; License: Licensed by the authors.

    Indigenous Adolescents’ Perception of an eMental Health Program (SPARX): Exploratory Qualitative Assessment

    Abstract:

    Background: Depression is a major health issue for indigenous adolescents, yet there is little research conducted about the efficacy and development of psychological interventions for these populations. In New Zealand there is little known about taitamariki (Māori adolescent) opinions regarding the development and effectiveness of psychological interventions, let alone computerized cognitive behavioral therapy. SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts) is a computerized intervention developed in New Zealand to treat mild-to-moderate depression in young people. Users are engaged in a virtual 3D environment where they must complete missions to progress to the next level. In each level there are challenges and puzzles to completeIt was designed to appeal to all young people in New Zealand and incorporates several images and concepts that are specifically Māori. Objective: The aim was to conduct an exploratory qualitative study of Māori adolescents’ opinions about the SPARX program. This is a follow-up to an earlier study where taitamariki opinions were gathered to inform the design of a computerized cognitive behavior therapy program. Methods: Taitamariki were interviewed using a semistructured interview once they had completed work with the SPARX resource. Six participants agreed to complete the interview; the interviews ranged from 10 to 30 minutes. Results: Taitamariki participating in the interviews found SPARX to be helpful. The Māori designs from the SPARX game were appropriate and useful, and the ability to customize the SPARX characters with Māori designs was beneficial and appeared to enhance cultural identity. These helped young people to feel engaged with SPARX which, in turn, assisted with the acquisition of relaxation and cognitive restructuring skills. Overall, using SPARX led to improved mood and increased levels of hope for the participants. In some instances, SPARX was used by wider whānau (Māori word for family) members with reported beneficial effect. Conclusions: Overall, this small group of Māori adolescents reported that cultural designs made it easier for them to engage with SPARX, which, in turn, led to an improvement in their mood and gave them hope. Further research is needed about how SPARX could be best used to support the families of these young people.

  • Web-Based Immersive Patient Simulator ALICE (montage). Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/3/e10693/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Web-Based Immersive Patient Simulator as a Curricular Tool for Objective Structured Clinical Examination Preparation in Surgery: Development and Evaluation

    Abstract:

    Background: Objective Structured Clinical Examination is a standard method of testing declarative and process knowledge in clinical core competencies. It is desirable that students undergo Objective Structured Clinical Examination training before participating in the exam. However, establishing Objective Structured Clinical Examination training is resource intensive and therefore there is often limited practice time. Web-based immersive patient simulators such as ALICE (Artificial Learning Interface of Clinical Education) can possibly fill this gap as they allow for the training of complex medical procedures at the user’s individual pace and with an adaptable number of repetitions at home. ALICE has previously been shown to positively influence knowledge gain and motivation. Objective: Therefore, the aim of this study was to develop a Web-based curriculum that teaches declarative and process knowledge and prepares students for a real Objective Structured Clinical Examination station. Furthermore, we wanted to test the influence of ALICE on knowledge gain and student motivation. Methods: A specific curriculum was developed in order to implement the relevant medical content of 2 surgical Objective Structured Clinical Examination stations into the ALICE simulator framework. A total of 160 medical students were included in the study, where 100 students had access to ALICE and their performance was compared to 60 students in a control group. The simulator performance was validated on different levels and students’ knowledge gain and motivation were tested at different points during the study. Results: The curriculum was developed according to the Kern cycle. Four virtual clinical cases were implemented with different teaching methods (structured feedback, keynote speech, group discussion, and debriefing by a real instructor) in order to consolidate declarative and process knowledge. Working with ALICE had significant impact on declarative knowledge gain and Objective Structured Clinical Examination performance. Simulator validation was positive for face, content, construct, and predictive validity. Students showed high levels of motivation and enjoyed working with ALICE. Conclusions: ALICE offers Web-based training for Objective Structured Clinical Examination preparation and can be used as a selective didactic intervention as it has positive effect on knowledge gain and student motivation.

  • Adults playing tabletop board game at gaming convention. Source: Flickr; Copyright: dooley; URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dooleynoted/21607509202; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Physical Wellness Among Gaming Adults: Cross-Sectional Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Video and hobby gaming are immensely popular among adults; however, associations between gaming and health have primarily been investigated in children and adolescents. Furthermore, most research has focused on electronic gaming, despite traditional hobby gaming gaining prominence. Objective: To determine whether the number of platforms used, platform preference, and gaming time are associated with obesity, physical activity, sedentary behavior, and cardiovascular risk factors in an adult gaming population. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using data obtained from 292 participants who attended a large Midwestern gaming convention. We collected data using a computer-based questionnaire that comprised questions on gaming behavior, demographics, physical activity (using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire), and health characteristics. In addition, we used multivariable-adjusted linear and logistic regression to model health outcomes as a function of the number of platforms used, platform preference, and weekday and weekend gaming time quartile. Results: After adjusting for covariates, we observed a significant linear trend for increasing odds of being obese and higher weekend sitting time by the number of platforms used (P=.03 for both). The platform preference and weekend gaming time quartile exhibited significant associations with odds of meeting physical activity recommendations (P=.047 and P=.03, respectively). In addition, we observed higher odds of being obese among those reporting that they sat most or all of the time while gaming [odds ratio (OR) 2.69 (95% CI 1.14-6.31) and OR 2.71 (95% CI 1.06-6.93), respectively]. Conclusions: In adult gamers, the number of platforms used, which platforms they prefer to play on, and the amount of time spent gaming on weekends could have significant implications for their odds of being obese and meeting physical activity recommendations.

  • The <italic>Inspired</italic> game (montage). Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e11/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    A Mobile Game to Support Smoking Cessation: Prototype Assessment

    Abstract:

    Background: Cigarette smoking results in an estimated seven million deaths annually. Almost half of all smokers attempt to quit each year, yet only approximately 6% are successful. Although there are multiple effective interventions that can increase these odds, substantial room remains for improvement. One effective approach to helping smokers quit is contingency management, where quitting is incentivized with the delivery of monetary rewards in exchange for objective evidence (eg, exhaled carbon monoxide levels) of abstinence. Objective: We assessed the feasibility and promise of Inspired, a contingency management mobile app for smoking cessation that uses game-based rewards to incentivize abstinence from smoking instead of the monetary (or material) rewards typically used. We sought participant feedback and limited objective data on: the features and design of Inspired, interest in using Inspired when it becomes available, the likelihood of Inspired being an effective cessation aid, and the rank order preference of Inspired relative to other familiar smoking cessation aids. Methods: Twenty-eight treatment-seeking smokers participated in this study. Participants attended a single one-hour session in which they received an overview of the goals of the Inspired mobile game, practiced submitting breath carbon monoxide (CO) samples, and played representative levels of the game. Participants were then told that they could play an extra level, or they could stop, complete an outcome survey, receive payment, and be dismissed. A sign-up sheet requesting personal contact information was available for those who wished to be notified when the full version of Inspired becomes available. Results: Using binary criteria for endorsement, participants indicated that, assuming it was currently available and fully developed, they would be more likely to use Inspired than: any other smoking cessation aid (21/28, 75%), the nicotine patch (23/28, 82%), a drug designed to reduce smoking cravings (23/28, 82%), or a program involving attendance in training sessions or support group meetings (27/28, 96%). In the questionnaire, participants indicated that both the Inspired program (26/28, 93%) and the Inspired game would be “Fun” (28/28, 100%), and 71% (20/28) reported that the program would help them personally quit smoking. Fifty-eight percent of participants (15/26) chose to continue playing the game rather than immediately collecting payment for participation and leaving. Eighty-two percent of participants (23/28) signed up to be notified when the full version of Inspired becomes available. Conclusions: This was the first study to evaluate a game-based contingency management app that uses game-based virtual goods as rewards for smoking abstinence. The outcomes suggest that the completed app has potential to be an effective smoking cessation aid that would be widely adopted by smokers wishing to quit.

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit.net; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e10/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Training Working Memory in Adolescents Using Serious Game Elements: Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Working memory capacity has been found to be impaired in adolescents with various psychological problems, such as addictive behaviors. Training of working memory capacity can lead to significant behavioral improvements, but it is usually long and tedious, taxing participants’ motivation to train. Objective: This study aimed to evaluate whether adding game elements to the training could help improve adolescents’ motivation to train while improving cognition. Methods: A total of 84 high school students were allocated to a working memory capacity training, a gamified working memory capacity training, or a placebo condition. Working memory capacity, motivation to train, and drinking habits were assessed before and after training. Results: Self-reported evaluations did not show a self-reported preference for the game, but participants in the gamified working memory capacity training condition did train significantly longer. The game successfully increased motivation to train, but this effect faded over time. Working memory capacity increased equally in all conditions but did not lead to significantly lower drinking, which may be due to low drinking levels at baseline. Conclusions: We recommend that future studies attempt to prolong this motivational effect, as it appeared to fade over time.

  • VANESSA encounter. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e8/; License: Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike (CC-BY-NC-SA).

    Virtual Antenatal Encounter and Standardized Simulation Assessment (VANESSA): Pilot Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Prenatal counseling at the limits of newborn viability involves sensitive interactions between neonatal providers and families. Empathetic discussions are currently learned through practice in times of high stress. Decision aids may help improve provider communication but have not been universally adopted. Virtual standardized patients are increasingly recognized as a modality for education, but prenatal counseling simulations have not been described. To be valuable as a tool, a virtual patient would need to accurately portray emotions and elicit a realistic response from the provider. Objective: To determine if neonatal providers can accurately identify a standardized virtual prenatal patient’s emotional states and examine the frequency of empathic responses to statements made by the patient. Methods: A panel of Neonatologists, Simulation Specialists, and Ethicists developed a dialogue and identified empathic responses. Virtual Antenatal Encounter and Standardized Simulation Assessment (VANESSA), a screen-based simulation of a woman at 23 weeks gestation, was capable of displaying anger, fear, sadness, and happiness through animations. Twenty-four neonatal providers, including a subgroup with an ethics interest, were asked to identify VANESSA’s emotions 28 times, respond to statements, and answer open-ended questions. The emotions were displayed in different formats: without dialogue, with text dialogue, and with audio dialogue. Participants completed a post-encounter survey describing demographics and experience. Data were reported using descriptive statistics. Qualitative data from open ended questions (eg, “What would you do?”) were examined using thematic analysis. Results: Half of our participants had over 10 years of clinical experience. Most participants reported using medical research (18/23, 78%) and mortality calculators (17/23, 74%). Only the ethics-interested subgroup (10/23, 43%) listed counseling literature (7/10, 70%). Of 672 attempts, participants accurately identified VANESSA’s emotions 77.8% (523/672) of the time, and most (14/23, 61%) reported that they were confident in identifying these emotions. The ethics interest group was more likely to choose empathic responses (P=.002). Participants rated VANESSA as easy to use (22/23, 96%) and reported that she had realistic dialogue (15/23, 65%). Conclusions: This pilot study shows that a prenatal counseling simulation is feasible and can yield useful data on prenatal counseling communication. Our participants showed a high rate of emotion recognition and empathy in their responses.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e9/; License: Creative Commons Attribution + NoDerivatives (CC-BY-ND).

    Using Mobile Health Gamification to Facilitate Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Skills Practice in Child Anxiety Treatment: Open Clinical Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Cognitive behavioral therapy is an efficacious treatment for child anxiety disorders. Although efficacious, many children (40%-50%) do not show a significant reduction in symptoms or full recovery from primary anxiety diagnoses. One possibility is that they are unwilling to learn and practice cognitive behavioral therapy skills beyond therapy sessions. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including a lack of motivation, forgetfulness, and a lack of cognitive behavioral therapy skills understanding. Mobile health (mHealth) gamification provides a potential solution to improve cognitive behavioral therapy efficacy by delivering more engaging and interactive strategies to facilitate cognitive behavioral therapy skills practice in everyday lives (in vivo). Objective: The goal of this project was to redesign an existing mHealth system called SmartCAT (Smartphone-enhanced Child Anxiety Treatment) so as to increase user engagement, retention, and learning facilitation by integrating gamification techniques and interactive features. Furthermore, this project assessed the effectiveness of gamification in improving user engagement and retention throughout posttreatment. Methods: We redesigned and implemented the SmartCAT system consisting of a smartphone app for children and an integrated clinician portal. The gamified app contains (1) a series of interactive games and activities to reinforce skill understanding, (2) an in vivo skills coach that cues the participant to use cognitive behavioral therapy skills during real-world emotional experiences, (3) a home challenge module to encourage home-based exposure tasks, (4) a digital reward system that contains digital points and trophies, and (5) a therapist-patient messaging interface. Therapists used a secure Web-based portal connected to the app to set up required activities for each session, receive or send messages, manage participant rewards and challenges, and view data and figures summarizing the app usage. The system was implemented as an adjunctive component to brief cognitive behavioral therapy in an open clinical trial. To evaluate the effectiveness of gamification, we compared the app usage data at posttreatment with the earlier version of SmartCAT without gamification. Results: Gamified SmartCAT was used frequently throughout treatment. On average, patients spent 35.59 min on the app (SD 64.18) completing 13.00 activities between each therapy session (SD 12.61). At the 0.10 significance level, the app usage of the gamified system (median 68.00) was higher than that of the earlier, nongamified SmartCAT version (median 37.00, U=76.00, P<.01). The amount of time spent on the gamified system (median 173.15) was significantly different from that of the earlier version (median 120.73, U=173.00, P=.06). Conclusions: The gamified system showed good acceptability, usefulness, and engagement among anxious children receiving brief cognitive behavioral therapy treatment. Integrating an mHealth gamification platform within treatment for anxious children seems to increase involvement in shorter treatment. Further study is needed to evaluate increase in involvement in full-length treatment.

  • Take Control player silhouettes. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/2/e7/; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Virtual Reality Cue Refusal Video Game for Alcohol and Cigarette Recovery Support: Summative Study

    Abstract:

    Background: New technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, and video games hold promise to support and enhance individuals in addiction treatment and recovery. Quitting or decreasing cigarette or alcohol use can lead to significant health improvements for individuals, decreasing heart disease risk and cancer risks (for both nicotine and alcohol use), among others. However, remaining in recovery from use is a significant challenge for most individuals. Objective: We developed and assessed the Take Control game, a partially immersive Kinect for Windows platform game that allows users to counter substance cues through active movements (hitting, kicking, etc). Methods: Formative analysis during phase I and phase II guided development. We conducted a small wait-list control trial using a quasi-random sampling technique (systematic) with 61 participants in recovery from addiction to alcohol or tobacco. Participants used the game 3 times and reported on substance use, cravings, satisfaction with the game experience, self-efficacy related to recovery, and side effects from exposure to a virtual reality intervention and substance cues. Results: Participants found the game engaging and fun and felt playing the game would support recovery efforts. On average, reported substance use decreased for participants during the intervention period. Participants in recovery for alcohol use saw more benefit than those in recovery for tobacco use, with a statistically significant increase in self-efficacy, attitude, and behavior during the intervention. Side effects from the use of a virtual reality intervention were minor and decreased over time; cravings and side effects also decreased during the study. Conclusions: The preliminary results suggest the intervention holds promise as an adjunct to standard treatment for those in recovery, particularly from alcohol use.

  • Focus group discussing user requirements. Source: Wikipedia; Copyright: Lekomun; URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e9/%D0%98%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2_%D0%B1%D1%8E%D1%80%D0%BE.jpg; License: Creative Commons Attribution + ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA).

    Gamified Cognitive Control Training for Remitted Depressed Individuals: User Requirements Analysis

    Abstract:

    Background: The high incidence and relapse rates of major depressive disorder demand novel treatment options. Standard treatments (psychotherapy, medication) usually do not target cognitive control impairments, although these seem to play a crucial role in achieving stable remission. The urgent need for treatment combined with poor availability of adequate psychological interventions has instigated a shift toward internet interventions. Numerous computerized programs have been developed that can be presented online and offline. However, their uptake and adherence are oftentimes low. Objective: The aim of this study was to perform a user requirements analysis for an internet-based training targeting cognitive control. This training focuses on ameliorating cognitive control impairments, as these are still present during remission and can be a risk factor for relapse. To facilitate uptake of and adherence to this intervention, a qualitative user requirements analysis was conducted to map mandatory and desirable requirements. Methods: We conducted a user requirements analysis through a focus group with 5 remitted depressed individuals and individual interviews with 6 mental health care professionals. All qualitative data were transcribed and examined using a thematic analytic approach. Results: Results showed mandatory requirements for the remitted sample in terms of training configuration, technological and personal factors, and desirable requirements regarding knowledge and enjoyment. Furthermore, knowledge and therapeutic benefits were key requirements for therapists. Conclusions: The identified requirements provide useful information to be integrated in interventions targeting cognitive control in depression.

  • Researcher analyzing two visual outputs communicating instructions and game play to users (montage). Source: The Authors / Smartmockups.com; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/1/e4/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Development of an Exergame to Deliver a Sustained Dose of High-Intensity Training: Formative Pilot Randomized Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Sport science can play a critical role in reducing health inequalities. The inverse relationship between life expectancy, cardiorespiratory fitness, and socioeconomic status could be addressed by performing high-intensity training (HIT), delivered in a class salient and accessible approach. Commercially available exergames have shown encouraging compliance rates but are primarily designed for entertainment purposes rather than focusing on health-related outcomes. A serious game tailored toward delivering an exercise stimulus, while reducing the aversive protocols associated with HIT, could be beneficial to engage and improve health outcomes in socially deprived males. Objective: The aims of this study were to develop an exergame capable of delivering HIT and evaluate the effect on selected health outcomes in men recruited in regions of socioeconomic deprivation. Methods: We conducted an exploratory trial in our target population, and participants were allocated to intervention (n=14) or control groups (n=10) by third-party minimization. The intervention was a 6-week training program consisting of three sessions of exergaming per week. The sessions involved a structured warm-up, then brief intermittent repetitions in the form of boxing rounds (10 s, 20 s, and 30 s) against their peers with a work/rest ratio of 0.25. Results: Retention to the intervention was 87.5% (21/24). Over the duration of the intervention, session attendance was 67.5% (170/252); repetition mean and peak heart rates (% of maximal) and session ratings of perceived exertion (AU, arbitrary units) were 86.3 (5.4%), 89.9 (6.1%), and 7.5 (2.2 AU), respectively. The effect of the intervention, when compared with the control, was a likely small beneficial improvement in predicted maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max, 3.0; 90% confidence limits ±2.6%). Effects on body mass, waist circumference, and blood pressure were either trivial or unclear. Conclusions: Over the 6-week intervention, the exergame delivered a consistent and sustained dose of HIT, with some beneficial effects on aerobic fitness in the target population. Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT03477773; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03477773 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6yDLgVs35)

  • ASD participant undergoing an intervention session. Source: Image created by the authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL: http://games.jmir.org/2018/1/e5/; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Virtual Travel Training for Autism Spectrum Disorder: Proof-of-Concept Interventional Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by impairments in social interaction and repetitive patterns of behavior, which can lead to deficits in adaptive behavior. In this study, a serious game was developed to train individuals with ASD for an important type of outdoor activity, which is the use of buses as a means of transportation. Objective: The aim of this study was to develop a serious game that defines a “safe environment” where the players became familiar with the process of taking a bus and to validate if it could be used effectively to teach bus-taking routines and adaptive procedures to individuals with ASD. Methods: In the game, players were placed in a three-dimensional city and were submitted to a set of tasks that involved taking buses to reach specific destinations. Participants with ASD (n=10) underwent between 1 to 3 training sessions. Participants with typical development (n=10) were also included in this study for comparison purposes and received 1 control session. Results: We found a statistically significant increase in the measures of knowledge of the process of riding a bus, a reduction in the electrodermal activity (a metric of anxiety) measured inside the bus environments, and a high success rate of their application within the game (93.8%). Conclusions: The developed game proved to be potentially useful in the context of emerging immersive virtual reality technologies, of which use in therapies and serious games is still in its infancy. Our findings suggest that serious games, using these technologies, can be used effectively in helping people with ASD become more independent in outdoor activities, specifically regarding the use of buses for transportation.

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  • 3MD for Chronic conditions, a condition-oriented model for designing gamified behavioral change mHealth solutions: Embedded Case Study

    Date Submitted: Jul 19, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Jul 19, 2018 - Jul 27, 2018

    Chronic conditions are the leading cause of death in the world. Major improvements in acute care and diagnostics have created a tendency towards the chronification of formerly terminal conditions, req...

    Chronic conditions are the leading cause of death in the world. Major improvements in acute care and diagnostics have created a tendency towards the chronification of formerly terminal conditions, requiring people with these conditions to learn how to self-manage. Mobile technologies hold promise as self-management tools due to their ubiquity and cost-effectiveness. The delivery of health-related services through the use of mobile technologies (mHealth) has grown exponentially in recent years. However, only a fraction of these solutions takes into consideration the views of relevant stakeholders like healthcare professionals or even patients. The use of behavioral change models (BCM) has proven important in developing successful health solutions, yet engaging patients remains a challenge. There is a trend in mHealth solutions called gamification that attempts to use game elements to drive user behavior and increase engagement. As it stands, designers of mHealth solutions for behavioral change in chronic conditions have no clear way of deciding what factors are relevant to consider. The focus of this work is to discover factors for the design of mHealth solutions for chronic patients; to do so, negotiations between medical knowledge, BCM, and gamification were explored through an embedded case study research methodology. The data obtained was thematically analyzed to create the Model for Motivational Mobile-health Design for chronic conditions (3MD). The 3MD model guides the design of condition-oriented gamified behavioral change mHealth solutions. The main components are: 1) Condition-specific, which describe factors that need to be adjusted and adapted for each particular chronic condition; 2) Motivation-related; which are factors that address how to influence behaviors in an engaging manner; and 3) Technology-based, which are factors that are directly connected to the technical capabilities of mobile technologies. 3MD also provides a series of high level illustrative design questions for designers to use and consider during the design process. The present work addresses a recognized gap in research and practice, and proposes a unique model that could be of use in the generation of new solutions to help chronic patients.

  • Framework for developing theory-driven evidence-based Serious Games for Health: leveraging insights of the research community towards an instructive approach for developers.

    Date Submitted: Jul 11, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Jul 15, 2018 - Sep 9, 2018

    Background: The idea of using serious games to effectuate better outcomes in healthcare has gained significant traction among a growing community of researchers, developers and healthcare professional...

    Background: The idea of using serious games to effectuate better outcomes in healthcare has gained significant traction among a growing community of researchers, developers and healthcare professionals. Many now recognize the importance of creating evidence-based games that are purposefully designed to address relevant challenges faced by end users. To date, no regulatory resources have been established to guide the development of serious games for health (SGH). Developers must therefore look elsewhere for guidance. Although a more robust level of evidence exists in the research literature, it is not structured, nor is there any clear consensus. Developers currently use a variety of approaches and methodologies. The establishment of a well-defined framework that represents the consensus views of the SGH research community would help developers improve the efficiency of internal development processes, as well as chances of success. A consensus framework would also benefit the wider SGH research community by enhancing the credibility of SGH and providing quality evidence of their effectiveness. Objective: This research aims first, to identify and evaluate the requirements, recommendations and guidelines proposed by the SGH research community in the research literature, and second, to develop a consensus framework that can guide developers in the development of evidence-based SGH. Methods: A critical review of the literature was performed in Nov-Dec 2016. A three-step search strategy and a predefined set of inclusion criteria were used to identify relevant articles in PubMed, ScienceDirect, and Google Scholar. A supplemental search of publications from regulatory authorities was also conducted to capture requirements of these specific stakeholders. Three researchers independently evaluated the identified articles. The associated evidence was coded and categorized for analysis and evaluation. Results: Our review identified 4 categories of high-level requirements as well as 19 low-level requirements, suggested by the SGH community. These advocate a methodological approach that is multi-disciplinary, iterative and participatory. Based on the requirements identified, we propose a framework for developing theory-driven evidence-based SGH. It consists of 5 distinct stages that are informed by various stakeholders and focusses on building strong scientific and design foundations that inform and guide the creative and technical development. It includes qualitative trials to evaluate whether the SGH achieves the intended outcomes, as well as efforts to disseminate trial findings and follow-up monitoring after the SGH is rolled out for use. Conclusions: Review resulted in the formulation of a framework for developing theory-driven, evidence-based SGH that represents many of the requirements set out by SGH stakeholders in the literature. The framework covers all aspects of the development process (scientific, technological and design) and is transparently described in sufficient detail to allow developers to implement it in a wide variety of projects, irrespective of discipline, healthcare segments or focus.

  • How do LGBT+ youth utilize the internet in relation to their mental health and envisage the use of e-therapy?

    Date Submitted: Jun 7, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: Jun 8, 2018 - Aug 3, 2018

    Background: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youth and other young people diverse in terms of their sexuality and gender (LGBT+) are at an elevated risk of mental health problems, such as depre...

    Background: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender youth and other young people diverse in terms of their sexuality and gender (LGBT+) are at an elevated risk of mental health problems, such as depression. Factors such as isolation and stigma mean that accessing mental health services can be particularly challenging for LGBT+ young people, and previous studies have highlighted that many prefer to access psychological support online. Research from New Zealand has demonstrated promising effectiveness and acceptability for an LGBT+focused computerized cognitive behavioral therapy program, Rainbow SPARX. However, there has been limited other research conducted in the area of e-therapy for LGBT+ people. Objective: We aimed to explore how and why LGBT+ youth in the United Kingdom (UK) use the internet to support their mental health. We also sought to explore LGBT+ young people’s and professionals’ views about e-therapies, drawing upon the example of Rainbow SPARX. Methods: Three focus groups and five semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 LGBT+ young people (aged 15 to 22 years old) and six professionals (four health and social care practitioners and two National Health Service commissioners) in England and Wales. A general inductive approach was used to analyze qualitative data emanating from the interview and focus group transcripts. Results: : LGBT+ youth participants considered that use of the internet was ubiquitous and that it was valuable for support and information. However, youth participants also thought that internet use could also be problematic, and they highlighted certain internet safety and personal security considerations. They drew on a range of gaming experiences and expectations to inform their feedback about Rainbow SPARX, and their responses focused on the need for this e-therapy program to be updated and refined. LGBT+ young people experienced challenges related to stigma and mistreatment, and they suggested that strategies addressing their common challenges should be included in e-therapy content. Professionals also emphasized the need to update and refine Rainbow SPARX. Moreover, professionals also highlighted some of the issues associated with e-therapies needing to demonstrate effectiveness and the difficulties associated with commissioning processes. Conclusions: LGBT+ young people use the internet to obtain support and access information, including information related to their mental health. They are interested in LGBT+ specific e-therapies, however these must be up-to-date, engaging, and adequately acknowledge their LGBT+ youth experiences.

  • JIB, a game to deal with alcohol abuse: development and game experience evaluation

    Date Submitted: May 28, 2018

    Open Peer Review Period: May 31, 2018 - Jul 26, 2018

    Background: Alcohol abuse is the primary cause of (public) health problems in most parts of the world. However, it is undeniable that alcohol consumption is a practice widely accepted socially in many...

    Background: Alcohol abuse is the primary cause of (public) health problems in most parts of the world. However, it is undeniable that alcohol consumption is a practice widely accepted socially in many places, even being protected by law as a cultural and historical heritage. The issue of alcohol abuse is complex and urgent and, consequently, it is necessary to create innovative approaches to treatment, such as the proposal explored in this research. Objective: This research explores the development and evaluation of a serious game for mobile devices (Android) to present a novel approach to address the issue of alcohol abuse. Methods: Development of a serious game to instill the consequences of alcohol abuse into the player through experimentation in the game. The consequences of alcohol use are represented by increasing the game speed, giving an illusion of fun, but also leading, proportionally to its abuse, to a premature death. The evaluation employs an assessment based on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the Game Experience Questionnaire (GEQ). The evaluation participants belong to the university student’s house. Results: The general game development process is presented, including its mechanics and gameplay. The game developed in Unity3D has the style of action and adventure games, in which the player controls an indigenous avatar that can deflect or attack opponents coming his way. The game evaluation comprised an assessment based on 23 participants, aged 20 to 29. According to the AUDIT assessment, 18 reported having a low or nonexistent degree of alcohol dependence, and 5 declared an average dependence. Regarding their habit of playing games on smartphones, 9 participants declared they have this habit (H) and among the 14 that do not have this habit (NH), 3 participants declared not having a smartphone at all. The GEQ core assessment shows a higher positive affect among the participants with a habit of playing games, getting 2.80 (H), in a scale to 4.0, vs 1.61 (NH), and a higher tension as an opposite relationship of 0.81 (NH) vs 0.37(H). The overall GEQ evaluation shows the game presents more positive than negative effects to all users, besides showing the other desirable characteristics for serious games. Conclusions: The authors present a new way of dealing with issue of alcohol abuse through a game designed for mobile devices. It promotes an overall positive user experience, having a greater impact on users accustomed to games. The proposed game-based approach has its niche, though it is still a minority in the evaluated population. Further research would explore new game features, like new styles, to become more attractive to a wider audience, in addition to performing an in-depth study of the game playing effect.

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