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Journal Description

JMIR Serious Games (JSG, ISSN 2291-9279; Impact Factor: 2.226) is a multidisciplinary journal devoted to computer/web/virtual reality/mobile applications that incorporate elements of gaming, gamification or novel hardware platforms such as virtual reality headsets or Microsoft Kinect to solve serious problems such as health behavior change, physical exercise promotion (exergaming), medical rehabilitation, diagnosis and treatment of psychological/psychiatric disorders, medical education, health 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.

The journal is indexed in PubMed, PubMed Central, DOAJ, and SCIE/Web of Science, and JCR (Journal Citation Reports) where it received an official impact factor by Clarivate. In June 2018, JSG received an official inaugural journal impact factor of 2.226 (Journal Citation Reports 2017, Clarivate Analytics), ranking 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. 


Recent Articles:

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Acceptability of a Plasticity-Focused Serious Game Intervention for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: User Requirements Analysis


    Background: Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is a first-line treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Despite a solid evidence base, TF-CBT response and attrition rates vary considerably. Plasticity-focused interventions, including the use of serious games, have the potential to improve TF-CBT response and treatment retention. Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the acceptability of a mobile phone–delivered plasticity-focused serious game to improve response to TF-CBT for PTSD, and carry out a user requirements analysis should the development of a prototype be warranted. Methods: We conducted 2 one-to-one interviews (n=2), one focus group involving service users who had received a diagnosis of PTSD (n=3) and one focus group involving psychological trauma service clinicians (n=4). Results: We found that the concept of a plasticity-focused mobile phone intervention for PTSD is acceptable to patients and clinicians. Service users and clinicians both believed that the usage should be guided by a therapist, and both contributed useful inputs regarding the audiovisual aspects of the proposed serious game. It was accepted that the game would not be suitable for all patients and that clinicians would need to appropriately prescribe the usage of the game. Conclusions: The findings highlight the acceptability of the proposed serious game and clarify the user requirements for such an intervention. It is the intention of the authors to carry out a user experience evaluation using a prototype serious game in a clinical population.

  • Development of AKUTNE.CZ. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    What Can Be Achieved With Motivation-Based Teaching of Medical Students? A Monocentric Retrospective Audit of Retention Among Highly Motivated Graduates Who...


    Background: Medical education, in general, is undergoing a significant shift from traditional methods. It becomes very difficult to discover effective teaching methods within the limited possibilities in patient hands-on education, especially as seen in anesthesiology and intensive care medicine (AIM) teaching. Motivation-based teaching is very popular in all other aspects of education, but it has received scant attention in medical education literature, even though it can make a real difference for both students and physicians. Objective: The primary aim of this retrospective audit was to find out if proper motivation-based teaching of students via the development of AKUTNE.CZ’s serious games can help retain graduates of the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University (FMMU) for the AIM specialty. Methods: Motivation-based teaching and the learning-by-doing concept were applied to a subject called Individual Project. Our topic, The Development of the Multimedia Educational Portal, AKUTNE.CZ, has been offered since 2010. The objective has been the development of supportive material in the form of interactive algorithms, serious games, and virtual patients for problem-based learning or team-based learning lectures aimed at acute medicine. We performed a retrospective questionnaire evaluation of all participants from the 2010-2017 period, focusing on their choice of medical specialty in 2017. The data were reported descriptively. Results: We evaluated 142 students who passed Individual Project with topic The Development of the Multimedia Educational Portal, AKUTNE.CZ during 2010 to 2017. In this period, they developed up to 77 electronic serious games in the form of interactive multimedia algorithms. Out of 139 students in general medicine, 108 students (77.7%) had already graduated and 37 graduates (34.3%) worked in the AIM specialty. Furthermore, 57 graduates (52.8%) chose the same specialty after graduation, matching the topic of their algorithm, and 37 (65%) of these graduates decided to pursue AIM. Conclusions: Motivation-based teaching and the concept of learning-by-doing by the algorithm/serious game development led to the significant retention of FMMU graduates in the AIM specialty. This concept could be considered successful, and as the concept itself can also be well integrated into the teaching of other medical specialties, the potential of motivation-based teaching should be used more broadly within medical education.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    FightHPV: Design and Evaluation of a Mobile Game to Raise Awareness About Human Papillomavirus and Nudge People to Take Action Against Cervical Cancer


    Background: Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection globally. High-risk HPV types can cause cervical cancer, other anogenital cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer; low-risk HPV types can cause genital warts. Cervical cancer is highly preventable through HPV vaccination and screening; however, a lack of awareness and knowledge of HPV and these preventive strategies represents an important barrier to reducing the burden of the disease. The rapid development and widespread use of mobile technologies in the last few years present an opportunity to overcome this lack of knowledge and create new, effective, and modern health communication strategies. Objective: This study aimed to describe the development of a mobile app called FightHPV, a game-based learning tool that educates mobile technology users about HPV, the disease risks associated with HPV infection, and existing preventive methods. Methods: The first version of FightHPV was improved in a design-development-evaluation loop, which incorporated feedback from a beta testing study of 40 participants, a first focus group of 6 participants aged between 40 and 50 years and a second focus group of 23 participants aged between 16 and 18 years. Gameplay data from the beta testing study were collected using Google Analytics (Google), whereas feedback from focus groups was evaluated qualitatively. Of the 29 focus group participants, 26 returned self-administered questionnaires. HPV knowledge before and after playing the game was evaluated in the 22 participants from the second focus group who returned a questionnaire. Results: FightHPV communicates concepts about HPV, associated diseases and their prevention by representing relationships among 14 characters in 6 episodes of 10 levels each, with each level being represented by a puzzle. Main concepts were reinforced with text explanations. Beta testing revealed that many players either failed or had to retry several times before succeeding at the more difficult levels in the game. It also revealed that players gave up at around level 47 of 60, which prompted the redesign of FightHPV to increase accessibility to all episodes. Focus group discussions led to several improvements in the user experience and dissemination of health information in the game, such as making all episodes available from the beginning of the game and rewriting the information in a more appealing way. Among the 26 focus group participants who returned a questionnaire, all stated that FightHPV is an appealing educational tool, 69% (18/26) reported that they liked the game, and 81% (21/26) stated that the game was challenging. We observed an increase in HPV knowledge after playing the game (P=.001). Conclusions: FightHPV was easy to access, use, and it increased awareness about HPV infection, its consequences, and preventive measures. FightHPV can be used to educate people to take action against HPV and cervical cancer.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Exploring Efficacy of a Serious Game (Tobbstop) for Smoking Cessation During Pregnancy: Randomized Controlled Trial


    Background: Tobacco use during pregnancy entails a serious risk to the mother and harmful effects on the development of the child. Europe has the highest tobacco smoking prevalence (19.3%) compared with the 6.8% global mean. Between 20% to 30% of pregnant women used tobacco during pregnancy worldwide. These data emphasize the urgent need for community education and implementation of prevention strategies focused on the risks associated with tobacco use during pregnancy. Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy of an intervention that incorporates a serious game (Tobbstop) to help pregnant smokers quit smoking. Methods: A two-arm randomized controlled trial enrolled 42 women who visited 2 primary care centers in Catalonia, Spain, between March 2015 and November 2016. All participants were pregnant smokers, above 18 years old, attending consultation with a midwife during the first trimester of pregnancy, and had expressed their desire to stop smoking. Participants were randomized to the intervention (n=21) or control group (n=21). The intervention group was instructed to install the game on their mobile phone or tablet and use it for 3 months. Until delivery, all the participants were assessed on their stage of smoking cessation during their follow-up midwife consultations. The primary outcome was continuous tobacco abstinence until delivery confirmed by the amount of carbon monoxide at each visit, measured with a carboxymeter. Results: Continuous abstinence until delivery outcome was 57% (12/21) in the intervention group versus 14% (3/21) in the control group (hazard ratio=4.31; 95% CI 1.87-9.97; P=.001). The mean of total days without smoking until delivery was higher in the intervention group (mean 139.75, SD 21.76) compared with the control group (mean 33.28, SD 13.27; P<.001). In addition, a Kapplan-Meier survival analysis showed that intervention group has a higher abstinence rate compared with the control group (log-rank test, χ21=13.91; P<.001). Conclusions: Serious game use is associated with an increased likelihood to maintain abstinence during the intervention period if compared with those not using the game. Pregnancy is an ideal opportunity to intervene and control tobacco use among future mothers. On the other hand, serious games are an emerging technology, growing in importance, which are shown to be a good tool to help quitting smoking during pregnancy and also to maintain this abstinent behavior. However, because of the study design limitations, these outcomes should be interpreted with caution. More research, using larger samples and longer follow-up periods, is needed to replicate the findings of this study. Trial Registration: NCT01734421; (Archived by WebCite at

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Creating a Theoretically Grounded Gaming App to Increase Adherence to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis: Lessons From the Development of the Viral Combat Mobile Phone...


    Background: In the United States, young minority men who have sex with men (MSM) are most likely to become infected with HIV. The use of antiretroviral medications to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV infection (pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP) is an efficacious and promising prevention strategy. There have been significant advances regarding PrEP, including the definitive demonstration that PrEP reduces HIV acquisition and the development of clinical prescribing guidelines. Despite these promising events, the practical implementation of PrEP can be challenging. Data show that PrEP’s safety and effectiveness could be greatly compromised by suboptimal adherence to treatment, and there is concern about the potential for an increase in HIV risk behavior among PrEP users. Due to these challenges, the prescribing of PrEP should be accompanied by behavioral interventions to promote adherence. Objective: This study aimed to develop an immersive, action-oriented iPhone gaming intervention to improve motivation for adherence to PrEP. Methods: Game development was guided by social learning theory, taking into consideration the perspectives of young adult MSM who are taking PrEP. A total of 20 young men who have sex with men (YMSM; aged 18-35 years) were recruited from a sexually transmitted infection (STI), HIV testing, and PrEP care clinic in Jackson, Mississippi, between October 2016 and June 2017. They participated in qualitative interviews guided by the information-motivation-behavioral skills (IMB) model of behavior change. The mean age of participants was 26 years, and all the participants identified as male. Acceptability of the game was assessed with the Client Service Questionnaire and session evaluation form. Results: A number of themes emerged that informed game development. YMSM taking PrEP desired informational game content that included new and comprehensive details about the effectiveness of PrEP, details about PrEP as it relates to doctors’ visits, and general information about STIs other than HIV. Motivational themes that emerged were the desire for enhancement of future orientation; reinforcement of positive influences from partners, parents, and friends; collaboration with health care providers; decreasing stigma; and a focus on personal relevance of PrEP-related medical care. Behavioral skills themes centered around self-efficacy and strategies for adherence to PrEP and self-care. Conclusions: We utilized youth feedback, IMB, and agile software development to create a multilevel, immersive, action-oriented iPhone gaming intervention to improve motivation for adherence to PrEP. There is a dearth of gaming interventions for persons on PrEP. This study is a significant step in working toward the development and testing of an iPhone gaming intervention to decrease HIV risk and promote adherence to PrEP for YMSM.

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Serious Games in Surgical Medical Education: A Virtual Emergency Department as a Tool for Teaching Clinical Reasoning to Medical Students


    Background: Serious games enable the simulation of daily working practices and constitute a potential tool for teaching both declarative and procedural knowledge. The availability of educational serious games offering a high-fidelity, three-dimensional environment in combination with profound medical background is limited, and most published studies have assessed student satisfaction rather than learning outcome as a function of game use. Objective: This study aimed to test the effect of a serious game simulating an emergency department (“EMERGE”) on students’ declarative and procedural knowledge, as well as their satisfaction with the serious game. Methods: This nonrandomized trial was performed at the Department of General, Visceral and Cancer Surgery at University Hospital Cologne, Germany. A total of 140 medical students in the clinical part of their training (5th to 12th semester) self-selected to participate in this experimental study. Declarative knowledge (measured with 20 multiple choice questions) and procedural knowledge (measured with written questions derived from an Objective Structured Clinical Examination station) were assessed before and after working with EMERGE. Students’ impression of the effectiveness and applicability of EMERGE were measured on a 6-point Likert scale. Results: A pretest-posttest comparison yielded a significant increase in declarative knowledge. The percentage of correct answers to multiple choice questions increased from before (mean 60.4, SD 16.6) to after (mean 76.0, SD 11.6) playing EMERGE (P<.001). The effect on declarative knowledge was larger in students in lower semesters than in students in higher semesters (P<.001). Additionally, students’ overall impression of EMERGE was positive. Conclusions: Students self-selecting to use a serious game in addition to formal teaching gain declarative and procedural knowledge.

  • Source: Wikicommons; Copyright: Evan-Amos; URL:; License: Public Domain (CC0).

    Active Video Games for Rehabilitation in Respiratory Conditions: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis


    Background: Exercise and physical activity are key components of treatment for chronic respiratory diseases. However, the level of physical activity and adherence to exercise programs are low in people with these diseases. Active video games (AVGs) may provide a more engaging alternative to traditional forms of exercise. Objective: This review examines the effectiveness of game-based interventions on physiological outcome measures, as well as adherence and enjoyment in subjects with chronic respiratory diseases. Methods: A systematic search of the literature was conducted, with full texts and abstracts included where they involved an AVG intervention for participants diagnosed with respiratory conditions. A narrative synthesis of included studies was performed. Additionally, meta-analysis comparing AVGs with traditional exercise was undertaken for 4 outcome measures: mean heart rate (HR) during exercise, peripheral blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) during exercise, dyspnea induced by the exercise, and enjoyment of the exercise. Results: A total of 13 full-text papers corresponding to 12 studies were included in the review. Interventions predominantly used games released for the Nintendo Wii (8 studies) and Microsoft Xbox Kinect (3 studies). There were 5 studies that examined the acute effects of a single session of AVGs and 7 studies that examined the long-term effects after multiple sessions of AVGs. Trials conducted over more than 1 session varied in duration between 3 and 12 weeks. In these, AVG interventions were associated with either similar or slightly greater improvements in outcomes such as exercise capacity when compared with a traditional exercise control, and they also generally demonstrated improvements over baseline or nonintervention comparators. There were a few studies of unsupervised AVG interventions, but the reported adherence was high and maintained throughout the intervention period. Additionally, AVGs were generally reported to be well liked and considered feasible by participants. For outcome measures measured during a single exercise session, there was no significant difference between an AVG and traditional exercise for HR (mean difference 1.44 beats per minute, 95% CI –14.31 to 17.18), SpO2 (mean difference 1.12 percentage points, 95% CI –1.91 to 4.16), and dyspnea (mean difference 0.43 Borg units, 95% CI –0.79 to 1.66), but AVGs were significantly more enjoyable than traditional exercise (Hedges g standardized mean difference 1.36, 95% CI 0.04-2.68). Conclusions: This review provides evidence that AVG interventions, undertaken for several weeks, can provide similar or greater improvements in exercise capacity and other outcomes as traditional exercise. Within a single session of cardiovascular exercise, an AVG can evoke similar physiological responses as traditional exercise modalities but is more enjoyable to subjects with chronic respiratory diseases. However, there is very limited evidence for adherence and effectiveness in long-term unsupervised trials, which should be the focus of future research.

  • Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Effectiveness of a Behavior Change Technique–Based Smartphone Game to Improve Intrinsic Motivation and Physical Activity Adherence in Patients With Type 2...


    Background: Regular physical activity (PA) is an essential component of a successful type 2 diabetes treatment. However, despite the manifest evidence for the numerous health benefits of regular PA, most patients with type 2 diabetes remain inactive, often due to low motivation and lack of PA enjoyment. A recent and promising approach to help overcome these PA barriers and motivate inactive individuals to change their PA behavior is PA-promoting smartphone games. While short-term results of these games are encouraging, the long-term success in effectively changing PA behavior has to date not been confirmed. It is possible that an insufficient incorporation of motivational elements or flaws in gameplay and storyline in these games affect the long-term motivation to play and thereby prevent sustained changes in PA behavior. We aimed to address these design challenges by developing a PA-promoting smartphone game that incorporates established behavior change techniques and specifically targets inactive type 2 diabetes patients. Objective: To investigate if a self-developed, behavior change technique-based smartphone game designed by an interdisciplinary team is able to motivate inactive individuals with type 2 diabetes for regular use and thereby increase their intrinsic PA motivation. Methods: Thirty-six inactive, overweight type 2 diabetes patients (45-70 years of age) were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or the control group (one-time lifestyle counseling). Participants were instructed to play the smartphone game or to implement the recommendations from the lifestyle counseling autonomously during the 24-week intervention period. Intrinsic PA motivation was assessed with an abridged 12-item version of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory (IMI) before and after the intervention. In addition, adherence to the game-proposed PA recommendations during the intervention period was assessed in the intervention group via the phone-recorded game usage data. Results: Intrinsic PA motivation (IMI total score) increased significantly in the intervention group (+6.4 (SD 4.2; P<.001) points) while it decreased by 1.9 (SD 16.5; P=.623) points in the control group. The adjusted difference between both groups was 8.1 (95% CI 0.9, 15.4; P=.029) points. The subscales “interest/enjoyment” (+2.0 (SD 1.9) points, P<.001) and “perceived competence” (+2.4 (SD 2.4) points, P<.001) likewise increased significantly in the intervention group while they did not change significantly in the control group. The usage data revealed that participants in the intervention group used the game for an average of 131.1 (SD 48.7) minutes of in-game walking and for an average of 15.3 (SD 24.6) minutes of strength training per week. We found a significant positive association between total in-game training (min) and change in IMI total score (beta=0.0028; 95% CI 0.0007-0.0049; P=.01). Conclusions: In inactive individuals with type 2 diabetes, a novel smartphone game incorporating established motivational elements and personalized PA recommendations elicits significant increases in intrinsic PA motivation that are accompanied by de-facto improvements in PA adherence over 24 weeks. Trial Registration: NCT02657018;

  • Source: The Authors / Placeit; Copyright: JMIR Publications; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    Young People’s Knowledge of Antibiotics and Vaccinations and Increasing This Knowledge Through Gaming: Mixed-Methods Study Using e-Bug


    Background: e-Bug, led by Public Health England, educates young people about important topics: microbes, infection prevention, and antibiotics. Body Busters and Stop the Spread are 2 new e-Bug educational games. Objective: This study aimed to determine students’ baseline knowledge, views on the games, and knowledge improvement. Methods: Students in 5 UK educational provisions were observed playing 2 e-Bug games. Before and after knowledge and evaluation questionnaires were completed, and student focus groups were conducted. Results: A total of 123 junior and 350 senior students completed the questionnaires. Vaccination baseline knowledge was high. Knowledge increased significantly about antibiotic use, appropriate sneezing behaviors, and vaccinations. In total, 26 student focus groups were conducted. Body Busters was engaging and enjoyable, whereas Stop the Spread was fast-paced and challenging but increased vaccination and health behavior intentions. Conclusions: e-Bug games are an effective learning tool for students to enhance knowledge about microbes, infection prevention, and antibiotics. Game-suggested improvements should help increase enjoyment.

  • Active video gaming on the adapted Wii Fit balance board. Source: The Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Licensed by JMIR.

    Energy Expenditure and Enjoyment During Active Video Gaming Using an Adapted Wii Fit Balance Board in Adults with Physical Disabilities: Observational Study


    Background: Individuals with physical disabilities have fewer opportunities to participate in enjoyable physical activity. One option for increasing physical activity is playing active video games (AVGs); however, many AVGs are inaccessible or offer limited play options. Objective: This study aimed to examine energy expenditure and enjoyment in adults with mobility impairment during AVG play using off-the-shelf (OTS) and adapted versions of the Wii Fit balance board (Nintendo). Methods: During visit 1, participants completed a functional assessment and the familiarization period. During visit 2, metabolic data were collected during a 20-minute baseline and four 10-minute bouts of Wii Fit Plus game play, with two bouts on each of the boards. During the resting period, participants completed the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES). Statistical analyses were computed using SPSS software. Data were analyzed separately for individuals who were able to play while standing on both boards (StdStd); those who could not play while standing on the OTS board, but were able to play while standing on the adapted board (aStd); and those who could only play while sitting on the adapted board (aSit). Results: Data were collected for 58 participants (StdStd, n=17; aStd, n=10; aSit, n=31). The sample included 31 men and 27 women with a mean age of 41.21 (SD 12.70) years. Energy expenditure (metabolic equivalent [MET]) during game play was significantly greater than that during rest for all players. Only 17 participants (StdStd group) were able to play using the OTS board. During game play on the adapted board, the average MET values for the two game sets were 2.261 (SD 0.718) kcal/kg/hour and 2.233 (SD 0.751) kcal/kg/hour for the aSit group, 3.151 (SD 1.034) and 2.990 (SD 1.121) for the aStd group, and 2.732 (SD 0.655) and 2.777 (SD 0.803) for the StdStd group. For game play on the adapted board, self-reported ratings of perceived exertion on a 0-10 scale suggested greater exercise intensity levels, with median scores ranging from moderate (3) to very hard (7). The PACES scores indicated that all players enjoyed using the adapted board, with a median score of 4 on a 5-point scale. Conclusions: The adapted Wii Fit balance board provided an opportunity for individuals with mobility impairments, including wheelchair users, to engage in AVG. All participants were able to utilize the adapted controller and enjoyed the AVG activity. Although the average MET values achieved during AVG represented light-intensity exercise (<3 METs), 16% of sitting participants and 41% of standing participants achieved moderate-intensity exercise (3-6 METs) in at least one of the games. Factors not accounted for, which may have influenced the intensity of exercise, include game selection, limited familiarization period, and discomfort wearing the COSMED portable metabolic system for measurement of oxygen consumption. Accessible AVG controllers offer an innovative approach to overcome various barriers to participation in physical activity. The next steps include assessment of an AVG intervention using an adapted board gaming controller on health and fitness outcomes. Trial Registration: NCT02994199; (Archived by Webcite at

  • A VR platform used for distraction during pedatric IV procedures. Source: Image created by the Authors; Copyright: The Authors; URL:; License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY).

    A Novel Clinician-Orchestrated Virtual Reality Platform for Distraction During Pediatric Intravenous Procedures in Children With Hemophilia: Randomized...


    Background: Needles are frequently required for routine medical procedures. Children with severe hemophilia require intensive intravenous (IV) therapy to treat and prevent life-threatening bleeding and undergo hundreds of IV procedures. Fear of needle-related procedures may lead to avoidance of future health care and poor clinical outcomes. Virtual reality (VR) is a promising distraction technique during procedures, but barriers to commercially available VR platforms for pediatric health care purposes have prevented widespread use. Objective: We hypothesized that we could create a VR platform that would be used for pediatric hemophilia care, allow clinician orchestration, and be safe and feasible to use for distraction during IV procedures performed as part of complex health care. Methods: We created a VR platform comprising wireless, adjustable, disposable headsets and a suite of remotely orchestrated VR games. The platform was customized for a pediatric hemophilia population that required hands-free navigation to allow access to a child’s hands or arms for procedures. A hemophilia nurse observing the procedure performed orchestration. The primary endpoint of the trial was safety. Preliminary feasibility and usability of the platform were assessed in a single-center, randomized clinical trial from June to December 2016. Participants were children with hemophilia aged 6-18 years. After obtaining informed consent, 25 patients were enrolled and randomized. Each subject, 1 caregiver, and 1 hemophilia nurse orchestrator assessed the degree of preprocedural nervousness or anxiety with an anchored, combined modified visual analog (VAS)/FACES scale. Each participant then underwent a timed IV procedure with either VR or standard of care (SOC) distraction. Each rater assessed the distraction methods using the VAS/FACES scale at the completion of the IV procedure, with questions targeting usability, engagement, impact on procedural anxiety, impact on procedural pain, and likability of the distraction technique. Participants, caregivers, and nurses also rated how much they would like to use VR for future procedures. To compare the length of procedure time between the groups, Mann-Whitney test was used. Results: Of the 25 enrolled children, 24 were included in the primary analysis. No safety concerns or VR sickness occurred. The median procedure time was 10 (range 1-31) minutes in the VR group and was comparable to 9 (range 3-20) minutes in the SOC group (P=.76). Patients in both the groups reported a positive influence of distraction on procedural anxiety and pain. Overall, in 80% (34/45) of the VR evaluations, children, caregivers, and nurses reported that they would like to use VR for future procedures. Conclusions: We demonstrated that an orchestrated, VR environment could be developed and safely used during pediatric hemophilia care for distraction during IV interventions. This platform has the potential to improve patient experience during medical procedures. Trial Registration: Clinical NCT03507582; (Archived by WebCite at

  • Rainbow SPARX image. Source: Rainbow SPARX image; Copyright: Auckland Uniservices; URL:; License: Licensed by the authors.

    How LGBT+ Young People Use the Internet in Relation to Their Mental Health and Envisage the Use of e-Therapy: Exploratory Study


    Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) 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 on the Web. Research from New Zealand has demonstrated promising effectiveness and acceptability for an LGBT+ focused, serious game–based, computerized cognitive behavioral therapy program, Rainbow Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts (SPARX). However, there has been limited research conducted in the area of electronic therapy (e-therapy) for LGBT+ people. Objective: This study aimed to explore how and why LGBT+ young people use the internet to support their mental health. This study also sought to explore LGBT+ young people’s and professionals’ views about e-therapies, drawing on the example of Rainbow SPARX. Methods: A total of 3 focus groups and 5 semistructured interviews were conducted with 21 LGBT+ young people (aged 15-22 years) and 6 professionals (4 health and social care practitioners and 2 National Health Service commissioners) in England and Wales. A general inductive approach was used to analyze data. Results: LGBT+ youth participants considered that the use of the internet was ubiquitous, and it was valuable for support and information. However, they also thought that internet use could 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. 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. Professional study participants also emphasized the need to update and refine Rainbow SPARX. Moreover, professionals highlighted some of the issues associated with e-therapies needing to demonstrate effectiveness and challenges associated with health service 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 in a contemporary format, engaging, and adequately acknowledge the experiences of LGBT+ young people.

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  • Studies of computerized cognitive training with healthy older adults from 2016-2018 do not adequately control for placebo effects: a systematic review

    Date Submitted: Mar 15, 2019

    Open Peer Review Period: Mar 18, 2019 - May 13, 2019

    Background: Computerized cognitive training has been proposed as a potential solution to age-related cognitive decline. However, published findings from evaluation studies of cognitive training games,...

    Background: Computerized cognitive training has been proposed as a potential solution to age-related cognitive decline. However, published findings from evaluation studies of cognitive training games, including from meta-studies and systematic reviews, provide evidence both for and against transferability from trained tasks to untrained cognitive ability. There continues to be no consensus on this issue from the scientific community. A number of researchers have proposed that the number of results supporting the efficacy of cognitive training may be inflated due to placebo effects. Boot et al. [1] (2013) suggest that placebo effects need to be better controlled by using an active control and measuring participant expectations for improvement on outcome measures. Objective: This review examines placebo control methodology for recent evaluation studies of computerized cognitive training programs with older adult subjects, specifically looking for use of active control and measurement of expectations. Methods: Data sources: PubMed. Study eligibility criteria: Studies of computerized cognitive training published between 2016 and 2018. Participants and interventions: Evaluation studies of computerized cognitive training with older adult subjects (age 50+). Study appraisal and synthesis methods: Methods sections of studies were searched for (1) control type (active or passive) and sub-type (active: active-ingredient or similar-form; passive: no-contact or passive-task); (2) if expectations were measured: how were they measured, and whether they were used in analysis; (3) whether researchers acknowledged lack of active control and lack of expectation measurement as limitations (where appropriate). Results: Results: 4 of 19 (~21%) of eligible studies measured expectations. 9 of 19 (~47%) included an active control condition, all of which were of the similar-form type. The majority (10 studies, or ~53%) used only a passive control. 9 of these studies found results supporting efficacy of cognitive training, 5 of which were for far transfer effects. Conclusions: Conclusions: 47% of reviewed studies had poor placebo control, yet still published results supporting the effectiveness of cognitive training programs. 5 of these positive results were for far transfer effects, which form the basis for broad claims by cognitive training game makers about the scientific validity of their product. For a minimum level of placebo control, future evaluation studies should use a similar-form active control and administer a questionnaire to participants at the end of the training period about their own perceptions of improvement. Researchers are encouraged to think of more methods for the valid measure of expectations at other time points in the training.

  • Development of a Mobile Game to Influence Behaviour Determinants of HIV Service Uptake Among Key Populations in the Philippines: User-centred Design Process

    Date Submitted: Feb 25, 2019

    Open Peer Review Period: Feb 28, 2019 - Apr 25, 2019

    Background: Opportunities in digital distribution place mobile games as a promising platform in games for health. However, designing a game that can compete in the saturated mobile games market and de...

    Background: Opportunities in digital distribution place mobile games as a promising platform in games for health. However, designing a game that can compete in the saturated mobile games market and deliver persuasive health messages can feel like an insurmountable challenge. While user-centred design is widely advocated in the field; factors, such as; the user’s subject domain expertise, budget constraints and poor data collection methods can restrict the benefits of user involvement. Objective: To develop a playable and acceptable mobile game, targeted at adolescent and young adult key populations in the Philippines. Methods: Focus group discussions (FGDs) with Filipino gamers, most of whom identified as men who have sex with men (MSM), were used to; identify preferred game features, technical requirements and to assess game playability and acceptability. Discussions were transcribed and analysed thematically. Conceptual frameworks in health intervention acceptability and game design guided the interpretation and use of the data. In-game events were captured through the Unity Analytics service (v.2017.1) to monitor uptake and game use, and identify and fix issues impacting game performance, over a 12-month period. Results: Early user involvement revealed a strong desire for online multiplayer gameplay, yet most reported that access to these types of games was restricted due to technical and economic constraints. Role-playing games (RPG) with combat elements was identified as the most appealing gameplay style. Findings guided us to a game that could be played offline, which blended RPG elements; including narrative, character customisation and turn based combat with match-3 puzzles. While the resulting game exceeded expectations and was reported to be playable and acceptable, gameplay was at times perceived as repetitive with limited appeal among certain gamer types. Knowledge transfer was predominantly achieved through interpretation of the game’s narrative, highlighting this as an important design element in the game’s potential influence on behaviour determinants. Uptake of the game was positive; between 01/12/2017 - 01/12/2018, 3,325 unique device installs were reported globally. In-game events provided evidence of game adoption by young adult MSM in the Philippines. Game uptake and use was substantially higher in regions where direct engagement with target users took place and increased after resolution of an access issue on Android devices. Conclusions: The inclusion of informants that possessed relevant subject domain expertise provided design solutions that addressed contextual constraints. Multiple data collection methods, to inform the game design and evaluate acceptability, enabled us to triangulate findings so as to mediate the inherent biases of the different techniques. While success on the app stores is not an exact science, factors such as user-involvement, playability and the marketing strategy play an important role. Facilitating meaningful interactions between health professionals, the entertainment games industry and end users will support the games for health industry as it matures.