JMIR Publications

JMIR Serious Games

A multidisciplinary journal on gaming and gamification for health education/promotion, teaching and social change.

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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 (Impact Factor 2015: 4.532). JSG is a multidisciplinary journal devoted to computer/web/mobile 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 also in Thomson Reuters new Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) and has a projected impact factor (2015): 1.8.

 

Recent Articles:

  • The Shots Game implementation of the Visual Probe paradigm. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Attentional Bias Modification With Serious Game Elements: Evaluating the Shots Game

    Abstract:

    Background: Young adults often experiment with heavy use of alcohol, which poses severe health risks and increases the chance of developing addiction problems. In clinical patients, cognitive retraining of automatic appetitive processes, such as selective attention toward alcohol (known as “cognitive bias modification of attention,” or CBM-A), has been shown to be a promising add-on to treatment, helping to prevent relapse. Objective: To prevent escalation of regular use into problematic use in youth, motivation appears to play a pivotal role. As CBM-A is often viewed as long and boring, this paper presents this training with the addition of serious game elements as a novel approach aimed at enhancing motivation to train. Methods: A total of 96 heavy drinking undergraduate students carried out a regular CBM-A training, a gamified version (called “Shots”), or a placebo training version over 4 training sessions. Measures of motivation to change their behavior, motivation to train, drinking behavior, and attentional bias for alcohol were included before and after training. Results: Alcohol attentional bias was reduced after training only in the regular training condition. Self-reported drinking behavior was not affected, but motivation to train decreased in all conditions, suggesting that the motivational features of the Shots game were not enough to fully counteract the tiresome nature of the training. Moreover, some of the motivational aspects decreased slightly more in the game condition, which may indicate potential detrimental effects of disappointing gamification. Conclusions: Gamification is not without its risks. When the motivational value of a training task with serious game elements is less than expected by the adolescent, effects detrimental to their motivation may occur. We therefore advise caution when using gamification, as well as underscore the importance of careful scientific evaluation.

  • Quittr. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Quittr: The Design of a Video Game to Support Smoking Cessation

    Abstract:

    Background: Smoking is recognized as the largest, single, preventable cause of death and disease in the developed world. While the majority of smokers report wanting to quit, and many try each year, smokers find it difficult to maintain long-term abstinence. Behavioral support, such as education, advice, goal-setting, and encouragement, is known to be beneficial in improving the likelihood of succeeding in a quit attempt, but it remains difficult to effectively deliver this behavioral support and keep the patient engaged with the process for a sufficient duration. In an attempt to solve this, there have been numerous mobile apps developed, yet engagement and retention have remained key challenges that limit the potential effectiveness of these interventions. Video games have been clearly linked with the effective delivery of health interventions, due to their capacity to increase motivation and engagement of players. Objective: The objective of this study is to describe the design and development of a smartphone app that is theory-driven, and which incorporates gaming characteristics in order to promote engagement with content, and thereby help smokers to quit. Methods: Game design and development was informed by a taxonomy of motivational affordances for meaningful gamified and persuasive technologies. This taxonomy describes a set of design components that is grounded in well-established psychological theories on motivation. Results: This paper reports on the design and development process of Quittr, a mobile app, describing how game design principles, game mechanics, and game elements can be used to embed education and support content, such that the app actually requires the user to access and engage with relevant educational content. The next stage of this research is to conduct a randomized controlled trial to determine whether the additional incentivization game features offer any value in terms of the key metrics of engagement–how much content users are consuming, how many days users are persisting with using the app, and what proportion of users successfully abstain from smoking for 28 days, based on user-reported data and verified against a biochemical baseline using cotinine tests. Conclusions: We describe a novel, and theoretically-informed mobile app design approach that has a broad range of potential applications. By using the virtual currency approach, we remove the need for the game to comprehensively integrate the healthy activity as part of its actual play mechanics. This opens up the potential for a wide variety of health problems to be tackled through games where no obvious play mechanic presents itself. The implications of this app are that similar approaches may be of benefit in areas such as managing chronic conditions (diabetes, heart disease, etc), treating substance abuse (alcohol, illicit drugs, etc), diet and exercise, eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating), and various phobias.

  • Quit Genius App. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors.

    Game On? Smoking Cessation Through the Gamification of mHealth: A Longitudinal Qualitative Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Finding ways to increase and sustain engagement with mHealth interventions has become a challenge during application development. While gamification shows promise and has proven effective in many fields, critical questions remain concerning how to use gamification to modify health behavior. Objective: The objective of this study is to investigate how the gamification of mHealth interventions leads to a change in health behavior, specifically with respect to smoking cessation. Methods: We conducted a qualitative longitudinal study using a sample of 16 smokers divided into 2 cohorts (one used a gamified intervention and the other used a nongamified intervention). Each participant underwent 4 semistructured interviews over a period of 5 weeks. Semistructured interviews were also conducted with 4 experts in gamification, mHealth, and smoking cessation. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematic analysis undertaken. Results: Results indicated perceived behavioral control and intrinsic motivation acted as positive drivers to game engagement and consequently positive health behavior. Importantly, external social influences exerted a negative effect. We identified 3 critical factors, whose presence was necessary for game engagement: purpose (explicit purpose known by the user), user alignment (congruency of game and user objectives), and functional utility (a well-designed game). We summarize these findings in a framework to guide the future development of gamified mHealth interventions. Conclusions: Gamification holds the potential for a low-cost, highly effective mHealth solution that may replace or supplement the behavioral support component found in current smoking cessation programs. The framework reported here has been built on evidence specific to smoking cessation, however it can be adapted to health interventions in other disease categories. Future research is required to evaluate the generalizability and effectiveness of the framework, directly against current behavioral support therapy interventions in smoking cessation and beyond.

  • A typical usability testing session involving participant, equipment and gesture-based game. Image taken and copyright owned by authors.

    Usability Evaluation Methods for Gesture-Based Games: A Systematic Review

    Abstract:

    Background: Gestural interaction systems are increasingly being used, mainly in games, expanding the idea of entertainment and providing experiences with the purpose of promoting better physical and/or mental health. Therefore, it is necessary to establish mechanisms for evaluating the usability of these interfaces, which make gestures the basis of interaction, to achieve a balance between functionality and ease of use. Objective: This study aims to present the results of a systematic review focused on usability evaluation methods for gesture-based games, considering devices with motion-sensing capability. We considered the usability methods used, the common interface issues, and the strategies adopted to build good gesture-based games. Methods: The research was centered on four electronic databases: IEEE, Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Springer, and Science Direct from September 4 to 21, 2015. Within 1427 studies evaluated, 10 matched the eligibility criteria. As a requirement, we considered studies about gesture-based games, Kinect and/or Wii as devices, and the use of a usability method to evaluate the user interface. Results: In the 10 studies found, there was no standardization in the methods because they considered diverse analysis variables. Heterogeneously, authors used different instruments to evaluate gesture-based interfaces and no default approach was proposed. Questionnaires were the most used instruments (70%, 7/10), followed by interviews (30%, 3/10), and observation and video recording (20%, 2/10). Moreover, 60% (6/10) of the studies used gesture-based serious games to evaluate the performance of elderly participants in rehabilitation tasks. This highlights the need for creating an evaluation protocol for older adults to provide a user-friendly interface according to the user’s age and limitations. Conclusions: Through this study, we conclude this field is in need of a usability evaluation method for serious games, especially games for older adults, and that the definition of a methodology and a test protocol may offer the user more comfort, welfare, and confidence.

  • A study on the validity of an interactive computer game to assess cognitive processes, reward mechanisms, and time perception in children aged 4-8 years. Image sourced and copyright owned by Peijnenborgh et al.

    A Study on the Validity of a Computer-Based Game to Assess Cognitive Processes, Reward Mechanisms, and Time Perception in Children Aged 4-8 Years

    Abstract:

    Background: A computer-based game, named Timo’s Adventure, was developed to assess specific cognitive functions (eg, attention, planning, and working memory), time perception, and reward mechanisms in young school-aged children. The game consists of 6 mini-games embedded in a story line and includes fantasy elements to enhance motivation. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the validity of Timo’s Adventure in normally developing children and in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Methods: A total of 96 normally developing children aged 4-8 years and 40 children with ADHD were assessed using the game. Clinical validity was investigated by examining the effects of age on performances within the normally developing children, as well as performance differences between the healthy controls and the ADHD group. Results: Our analyses in the normally developing children showed developmental effects; that is, older children made fewer inhibition mistakes (r=−.33, P=.001), had faster (and therefore better) reaction times (r=−.49, P<.001), and were able to produce time intervals more accurately than younger children (ρ=.35, P<.001). Discriminant analysis showed that Timo’s Adventure was accurate in most classifications whether a child belonged to the ADHD group or the normally developing group: 78% (76/97) of the children were correctly classified as having ADHD or as being in the normally developing group. The classification results showed that 72% (41/57) children in the control group were correctly classified, and 88% (35/40) of the children in the ADHD group were correctly classified as having ADHD. Sensitivity (0.89) and specificity (0.69) of Timo’s Adventure were satisfying. Conclusions: Computer-based games seem to be a valid tool to assess specific strengths and weaknesses in young children with ADHD.

  • Participant playing Virtual Dodgeball with HMD. Image sourced and copyright owned by authors Thomas et al.

    Effects of Visual Display on Joint Excursions Used to Play Virtual Dodgeball

    Abstract:

    Background: Virtual reality (VR) interventions hold great potential for rehabilitation as commercial systems are becoming more affordable and can be easily applied to both clinical and home settings. Objective: In this study, we sought to determine how differences in the VR display type can influence motor behavior, cognitive load, and participant engagement. Methods: Movement patterns of 17 healthy young adults (8 female, 9 male) were examined during games of Virtual Dodgeball presented on a three-dimensional television (3DTV) and a head-mounted display (HMD). The participant’s avatar was presented from a third-person perspective on a 3DTV and from a first-person perspective on an HMD. Results: Examination of motor behavior revealed significantly greater excursions of the knee (P=.003), hip (P<.001), spine (P<.001), shoulder (P=.001), and elbow (P=.026) during HMD versus 3DTV gameplay, resulting in significant differences in forward (P=.003) and downward (P<.001) displacement of the whole-body center of mass. Analyses of cognitive load and engagement revealed that relative to 3DTV, participants indicated that HMD gameplay resulted in greater satisfaction with overall performance and was less frustrating (P<.001). There were no significant differences noted for mental demand. Conclusions: Differences in visual display type and participant perspective influence how participants perform in Virtual Dodgeball. Because VR use within rehabilitation settings is often designed to help restore movement following orthopedic or neurologic injury, these findings provide an important caveat regarding the need to consider the potential influence of presentation format and perspective on motor behavior.

  • Blood glucose monitor. Image source:http://www.public-domain-image.com/free-images/science/medical-science/check-blood-glucose-level/attachment/check-blood-glucose-level. License: public domain (CC0).

    Gamifying Self-Management of Chronic Illnesses: A Mixed-Methods Study

    Abstract:

    Background: Self-management of chronic illnesses is an ongoing issue in health care research. Gamification is a concept that arose in the field of computer science and has been borrowed by many other disciplines. It is perceived by many that gamification can improve the self-management experience of people with chronic illnesses. This paper discusses the validation of a framework (called The Wheel of Sukr) that was introduced to achieve this goal. Objective: This research aims to (1) discuss a gamification framework targeting the self-management of chronic illnesses and (2) validate the framework by diabetic patients, medical professionals, and game experts. Methods: A mixed-method approach was used to validate the framework. Expert interviews (N=8) were conducted in order to validate the themes of the framework. Additionally, diabetic participants completed a questionnaire (N=42) in order to measure their attitudes toward the themes of the framework. Results: The results provide a validation of the framework. This indicates that gamification might improve the self-management of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes. Namely, the eight themes in the Wheel of Sukr (fun, esteem, socializing, self-management, self-representation, motivation, growth, sustainability) were perceived positively by 71% (30/42) of the participants with P value <.001. Conclusions: In this research, both the interviews and the questionnaire yielded positive results that validate the framework (The Wheel of Sukr). Generally, this study indicates an overall acceptance of the notion of gamification in the self-management of diabetes.

  • Screenshot of the layout and design of Re-Mission. Image sourced by authors and copyright held by Robin Raskob, HopeLab.

    A Video Game Promoting Cancer Risk Perception and Information Seeking Behavior Among Young-Adult College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Risky behaviors tend to increase drastically during the transition into young adulthood. This increase may ultimately facilitate the initiation of carcinogenic processes at a young age, highlighting a serious public health problem. By promoting information seeking behavior (ISB), young adults may become aware of cancer risks and potentially take preventive measures. Objective: Based on the protection motivation theory, the current study seeks to evaluate the impact of challenge in a fully automated video game called Re-Mission on young adult college students' tendency to perceive the severity of cancer, feel susceptible to cancer, and engage in ISB. Methods: A total of 216 young adults were recruited from a university campus, consented, screened, and randomized in a single-blinded format to 1 of 3 conditions: an intervention group playing Re-Mission at high challenge (HC; n=85), an intervention group playing Re-Mission at low challenge (LC; n=81), and a control group with no challenge (NC; presented with illustrated pictures of Re-Mission; n=50). Measurement was conducted at baseline, immediate posttest, 10-day follow-up, and 20-day follow-up. Repeated-measures mixed-effect models were conducted for data analysis of the main outcomes. Results: A total of 101 young adults continued until 20-day follow-up. Mixed-effect models showed that participants in the HC and LC groups were more likely to increase in perceived susceptibility to cancer (P=.03), perceived severity of cancer (P=.02), and ISB (P=.01) than participants in the NC group. The LC group took until 10-day follow-up to show increase in perceived susceptibility (B=0.47, standard error (SE) 0.16, P=.005). The HC group showed an immediate increase in perceived susceptibility at posttest (B=0.43, SE 0.14, P=.002). The LC group exhibited no changes in perceived severity (B=0.40, SE 0.33, P=.24). On the other hand, the HC group showed a significant increase from baseline to posttest (B=0.39, SE 0.14, P=.005), maintaining this increase until 20-day follow-up (B=−0.007, SE 0.26, P=.98). Further analyses indicated that perceived threat from virtual cancer cells in the game is related to the increase in perceived severity (B=0.1, SE 0.03, P=.001), and perceived susceptibility is related to changes in ISB at 10-day follow-up (B=0.21, SE 0.08, P=.008). Conclusions: The feature of challenge with cancer cells in a virtual environment has the potential to increase cancer risk perception and ISB. The results are promising considering that the Re-Mission intervention was neither designed for cancer risk communication, nor applied among healthy individuals. Further research is needed to understand the theoretical framework underlying the effects of Re-Mission on ISB. The findings call for the development of a Web-based, game-based intervention for cancer risk communication and information seeking among young adults. ClinicalTrial: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 15789289; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN15789289 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6jGYZC3lZ)

  • Physiomat® including a three-dimensional moveable plate with integrated sensors for displacement measurement. It is connected with a computer and a monitor. Grab rails on each side ensure stability of the patients during training and assessment.

    Validation of a Computerized, Game-based Assessment Strategy to Measure Training Effects on Motor-Cognitive Functions in People With Dementia

    Abstract:

    Background: Exergames often used for training purpose can also be applied to create assessments based on quantitative data derived from the game. A number of studies relate to these use functionalities developing specific assessment tasks by using the game software and provided good data on psychometric properties. However, (1) assessments often include tasks other than the original game task used for training and therefore relate to similar but not to identical or integrated performances trained, (2) people with diagnosed dementia have insufficiently been addressed in validation studies, and (3) studies did commonly not present validation data such as sensitivity to change, although this is a paramount objective for validation to evaluate responsiveness in intervention studies. Objective: Specific assessment parameters have been developed using quantitative data directly derived from the data stream during the game task of a training device (Physiomat). The aim of this study was to present data on construct validity, test–retest reliability, sensitivity to change, and feasibility of this internal assessment approach, which allows the quantification of Physiomat training effects on motor-cognitive functions in 105 multimorbid patients with mild-to-moderate dementia (mean age 82.7±5.9). Methods: Physiomat assessment includes various tasks at different complexity levels demanding balance and cognitive abilities. For construct validity, motor-cognitive Physiomat assessment tasks were compared with established motor and cognitive tests using Spearman’s rank correlations (rs). For test–retest reliability, we used intra-class correlations (ICC3,1) and focused on all Physiomat tasks. Sensitivity to change of trained Physiomat tasks was tested using Wilcoxon statistic and standardized response means (SRMs). Completion rate and time were calculated for feasibility. Results: Analyses have mostly shown moderate-to-high correlations between established motor as well as cognitive tests and simple (rs=−.22 to .68, P ≤.001-.03), moderate (rs=−.33 to .71, P ≤.001-.004), and complex motor-cognitive Physiomat tasks (rs=−.22 to .83, P ≤.001-.30) indicating a good construct validity. Moderate-to-high correlations between test and retest assessments were found for simple, moderate, and complex motor-cognitive tasks (ICC=.47-.83, P ≤.001) indicating good test–retest reliability. Sensitivity to change was good to excellent for Physiomat assessment as it reproduced significant improvements (P ≤.001) with mostly moderate-to-large effect sizes (SRM=0.5-2.0) regarding all trained tasks. Completion time averaged 25.8 minutes. Completion rate was high for initial Physiomat measures. No adverse events occurred during assessment. Conclusions: Overall, Physiomat proved to have good psychometric qualities in people with mild-to-moderate dementia representing a reliable, valid, responsive, and feasible assessment strategy for multimorbid older adults with or without cognitive impairment, which relates to identical and integrated performances trained by using the game.

  • Compilation of screenshots of tasks reviewed in the paper, copyright the authors, licensed under cc-by. Screenshots used under fair use/ fair dealings.

    Gamification of Cognitive Assessment and Cognitive Training: A Systematic Review of Applications and Efficacy

    Abstract:

    Background: Cognitive tasks are typically viewed as effortful, frustrating, and repetitive, which often leads to participant disengagement. This, in turn, may negatively impact data quality and/or reduce intervention effects. However, gamification may provide a possible solution. If game design features can be incorporated into cognitive tasks without undermining their scientific value, then data quality, intervention effects, and participant engagement may be improved. Objectives: This systematic review aims to explore and evaluate the ways in which gamification has already been used for cognitive training and assessment purposes. We hope to answer 3 questions: (1) Why have researchers opted to use gamification? (2) What domains has gamification been applied in? (3) How successful has gamification been in cognitive research thus far? Methods: We systematically searched several Web-based databases, searching the titles, abstracts, and keywords of database entries using the search strategy (gamif* OR game OR games) AND (cognit* OR engag* OR behavi* OR health* OR attention OR motiv*). Searches included papers published in English between January 2007 and October 2015. Results: Our review identified 33 relevant studies, covering 31 gamified cognitive tasks used across a range of disorders and cognitive domains. We identified 7 reasons for researchers opting to gamify their cognitive training and testing. We found that working memory and general executive functions were common targets for both gamified assessment and training. Gamified tests were typically validated successfully, although mixed-domain measurement was a problem. Gamified training appears to be highly engaging and does boost participant motivation, but mixed effects of gamification on task performance were reported. Conclusions: Heterogeneous study designs and typically small sample sizes highlight the need for further research in both gamified training and testing. Nevertheless, careful application of gamification can provide a way to develop engaging and yet scientifically valid cognitive assessments, and it is likely worthwhile to continue to develop gamified cognitive tasks in the future.

  • NOGO app screenshot. Image owned and permission granted by NeuroCog Solutions Pty Ltd, the developer of the NOGO app.

    A Serious Game to Increase Healthy Food Consumption in Overweight or Obese Adults: Randomized Controlled Trial

    Abstract:

    Background: Obesity is a growing global issue that is linked to cognitive and psychological deficits. Objective: This preliminary study investigated the efficacy of training to improve inhibitory control (IC), a process linked to overeating, on consumption and cognitive control factors. Methods: This study utilized a multisession mobile phone–based intervention to train IC in an overweight and obese population using a randomized waitlist-control design. A combination of self-assessment questionnaires and psychophysiological measures was used to assess the efficacy of the intervention in terms of improved general IC and modified food consumption after training. Attitudes toward food were also assessed to determine their mediating role in food choices. A total of 58 participants (47 female) completed 2 assessment sessions 3 weeks apart, with 2 weeks of intervention training for the training group during this time. The groups did not differ in baseline demographics including age, body mass index, and inhibitory control. Results: Inhibitory control ability improved across the training sessions, with increases in P3 amplitude implying increased cognitive control over responses. Inhibitory control training was associated with increased healthy and reduced unhealthy food consumption in a taste test and in the week following training, as measured by the Healthy Eating Quiz and the food consumption test. Cognitive restraint was enhanced after training for the training but not the waitlist condition in the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, implying that attempts to avoid unhealthy foods in the future will be easier for the training group participants. Conclusions: Inhibitory control training delivered via a purpose-designed mobile phone app is easy to complete, is convenient, and can increase cognitive restraint and reduce unhealthy food consumption. Trial Registration: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12616000263493; http://www.ANZCTR.org.au/ACTRN12616000263493.aspx (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6ioHjGING)

  • SpaPlay. Source and copyright: the authors.

    Effects of Playing a Serious Computer Game on Body Mass Index and Nutrition Knowledge in Women

    Abstract:

    Background: Obesity and weight gain is a critical public health concern. Serious digital games are gaining popularity in the context of health interventions. They use persuasive and fun design features to engage users in health-related behaviors in a non-game context. As a young field, research about effectiveness and acceptability of such games for weight loss is sparse. Objective: The goal of this study was to evaluate real-world play patterns of SpaPlay and its impact on body mass index (BMI) and nutritional knowledge. SpaPlay is a computer game designed to help women adopt healthier dietary and exercise behaviors, developed based on Self-Determination theory and the Player Experience of Need Satisfaction (PENS) model. Progress in the game is tied to real-life activities (e.g., eating a healthy snack, taking a flight of stairs). Methods: We recruited 47 women to partake in a within-subject 90-day longitudinal study, with assessments taken at baseline, 1-, 2-, and 3- months. Women were on average, 29.8 years old (±7.3), highly educated (80.9% had BA or higher), 39% non-White, baseline BMI 26.98 (±5.6), who reported at least contemplating making changes in their diet and exercise routine based on the Stages of Change Model. We computed 9 indices from game utilization data to evaluate game play. We used general linear models to examine inter-individual differences between levels of play, and multilevel models to assess temporal changes in BMI and nutritional knowledge. Results: Patterns of game play were mixed. Participants who reported being in the preparation or action stages of behavior change exhibited more days of play and more play regularity compared to those who were in the contemplation stage. Additionally, women who reported playing video games 1-2 hours per session demonstrated more sparse game play. Brief activities, such as one-time actions related to physical activity or healthy food, were preferred over activities that require a longer commitment (e.g., taking stairs every day for a week). BMI decreased significantly (P<.001) from baseline to 3-month follow-up, yielding a large effect size of 1.28. Nutritional knowledge increased significantly (P<.001) from first to third month follow-ups, with an effect size of .86. The degree of change in both outcomes was related to game play, baseline readiness to change, and the extent of video game play in general. Conclusions: This work demonstrates initial evidence of success for using a serious game as an intervention for health behavior change in real world settings. Our findings also highlight the need to understand not only game effectiveness but also inter-individual differences. Individualizing content and the intervention medium appears to be necessary for a more personalized and long-lasting impact.

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  • Development, usability and efficacy of a post-operative pain management computer game: an evaluation study

    Date Submitted: Nov 7, 2016

    Open Peer Review Period: Nov 10, 2016 - Jan 5, 2017

    Background: Postoperative pain is a persistent problem after surgery and can delay recovery and develop into chronic pain. Better patient education has been proposed to improve pain management of pati...

    Background: Postoperative pain is a persistent problem after surgery and can delay recovery and develop into chronic pain. Better patient education has been proposed to improve pain management of patients. Serious games have not been previously developed to help patients to learn managing their postoperative pain. Objective: To describe the development of a computer-based game for surgical patients about post-operative pain management and to evaluate the usability, user experience and efficacy of the game. Methods: A computer game was developed by an interdisciplinary team following a structured approach. The usability, user experience and efficacy of the game were evaluated using self-reported questionnaires (AttrakDiff2, Post-operative Pain Management Game Survey (POP-MGS), Patient Knowledge About Post-operative Pain Management questionnaire (PAK-PPM)), semi-structured interviews and direct observation in one session with 20 participants recruited from the general public via Facebook (mean age 48 ±14, 11 women). Adjusted Barriers Questionnaire II and three questions on health literacy were used to collect background information. Results: Theories of self-care and adult learning, evidence for the educational needs of patients about pain management and principles of gamification were used to develop the computer game. Ease of use and usefulness received a median scores between 2.00 (IQR 1.00) and 5.00 (IQR 2.00) (possible scores 0-5), and ease of use was further confirmed by observation. Participants expressed satisfaction with this novel method of learning, despite some technological challenges. The attributes of the game, measured with AttrakDiff2 received a mean scores above 0 in all dimensions; highest for Attraction (1.350.78), followed by Pragmatic Quality (1.230.84), Hedonic Quality Interaction (0.920.69) and Hedonic Quality Stimulation (0.670.60). Knowledge of pain medication and pain management strategies improved after playing the game (P=0.001). Conclusions: A computer game can be an efficient method of learning about pain management; it has the potential to improve knowledge and is appreciated by users. To assess the game’s usability and efficacy in the context of preparation for surgery, an evaluation with a larger sample, including surgical patients and older people, is required.

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