Health Games Research: Advancing effectiveness of interactive games for health

"Games are where people live," says Health Games Research national program director, Debra Lieberman. "They can engage people in powerful ways and can motivate and support behavior change, especially when they are designed on the basis of well-researched strategies."

Health Games Research, a national program of RWJF, is leading a diverse set of 21 studies that explore the tremendous potential of digital interactive games as tools to help people live healthier lives.

From games that spur positive behavior change, like a mobile phone game for kids that rewards good health habits and food choices, to games that help patients and caregivers manage chronic disease, pain and other health challenges, such as a video game using breath biofeedback to improve self-administration of inhaled medicine for cystic fibrosis, these studies will provide the sound scientific evidence necessary to further effective innovation in health game development and use.

As part of its Pioneer grant, Health Games Research has developed the most comprehensive database of health games and related publications, resources, conferences, and organizations.

Program/Initiative

University of California, Santa Barbara

552 University Road
Santa Barbara, CA, 93106-0002

805-893-7787
Website

Debra A. Lieberman
Program Director

805-893-7571
Email

Erica Biely
Deputy Director

805-893-7787
Email

Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini, senior program officer

Next Generation of Health Games

The notion that games can be used in health and health care is no longer novel, but accepted. Over the past 6 years, RWJF partnered with Health Games Research, Games for Health and others to build a body of evidence about whether games worked to improve health and, if so, what made them work. We’ve used this information at RWJF for games to improve healthcare quality and address childhood obesity. We hope these efforts will continue to guide the next generation of health games," says Paul Tarini, senior program officer for the Pioneer Portfolio.

Learn more about

Games for Health
Games for Health

58

Number of publications listed in the @gamesresearch database focused on obesity

117

Number of games about fitness in the @gamesresearch database

“Games are interactive...I’d argue they’re the most interactive media that we have" - @DebLieberman

Health Games Research Database

As part of its Pioneer grant, Health Games Research has developed the most comprehensive database of health games and related publications, resources, conferences, and organizations in the nation. Updated in 2012, the database now has advanced search features to enhance the user experience and make the database more accessible to new audiences.

Search the Health Games Research Database.

Series//Power of Games

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  1. Video Games Aid Aging Brains

    • How did the NeuroRacer game help 60- to 85-year-olds? After 12 hours of play, study participants had better working memory, more sustained attention and improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.

    Can Playing Digital Games Improve our Health?

    • Debra Lieberman Discusses Health Games Research at TEDxAmericanRiviera and stresses the importance of health games in today’s lifestyle.
    1
  2. 2

Video Games Aid Aging Brains

  • How did the NeuroRacer game help 60- to 85-year-olds? After 12 hours of play, study participants had better working memory, more sustained attention and improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.

Can Playing Digital Games Improve our Health?

  • Debra Lieberman Discusses Health Games Research at TEDxAmericanRiviera and stresses the importance of health games in today’s lifestyle.

Video Games Aid Aging Brains

  • How did the NeuroRacer game help 60- to 85-year-olds? After 12 hours of play, study participants had better working memory, more sustained attention and improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.

Can Playing Digital Games Improve our Health?

  • Debra Lieberman Discusses Health Games Research at TEDxAmericanRiviera and stresses the importance of health games in today’s lifestyle.

Video Games Aid Aging Brains

  • How did the NeuroRacer game help 60- to 85-year-olds? After 12 hours of play, study participants had better working memory, more sustained attention and improved their performance until it surpassed that of 20-somethings who played the game for the first time.

Can Playing Digital Games Improve our Health?

  • Debra Lieberman Discusses Health Games Research at TEDxAmericanRiviera and stresses the importance of health games in today’s lifestyle.

Research Documents

Serious Games for Diabetes, Seriously...

“Serious Games for Diabetes, Obesity, and Healthy Lifestyle,” a special symposium in the July 2012 issue of the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, features five research articles from grantees of RWJF's national program, Health Games Research. The issue is guest co-edited by Health Games Research National Program Director Debra Lieberman of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

The articles investigate game design strategies and their effects on health behavior change for games aimed at motivating and supporting players’ physical activity. The research spans a range of subjects and ages, from adolescence through old age, and from alternate reality games to exergames to cybercycling, and adds to the growing literature in the field of health games.

See articles in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

Read Debra Lieberman's Pioneering Ideas blog post.

Research

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Strengthening Older Brains

Multitasking has become ubiquitous in today’s society. Yet, previous research demonstrates that both multitasking and cognitive control abilities decline in adults as they age. This study, published in the journal Nature, examined the degree to which playing an adaptive version of a custom-designed three-dimensional video game called NeuroRacer, could improve older adults ability to multitask.

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2008-05_Tully_RWJF_GFH-245

Using Active Video Games for Physical Activity Promotion

This study, published in Health Education and Behavior by one of two Health Games Research grantees at Michigan State University, examines the body of knowledge about the role of active video games in daily physical activity.

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2008-05_Tully_RWJF_GFH-274

Adolescent Exergame Play for Weight Loss and Psychosocial Improvement

This study, published in Obesity by the Health Games Research grantee at Georgetown University examined the use of exergames (video games that require gross motor skills), to combat growing adolescent obesity rates. It is the first study to demonstrate weight loss from exergame play.

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RWJF_100307_02313_RET

Need Satisfaction Supportive Game Features as Motivational Determinants

This study, published in Media Psychology by one of the two Health Games Research grantees at Michigan State University, explores how health video games can be designed to satisfy the player’s need for autonomy and enhance the player's enjoyment, motivation for future play, game recommendation, and game rating.

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2008-05_Tully_RWJF_GFH-167

Exergaming and Older Adult Cognition

A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by the Health Games Research grantee at Union College investigates the benefits of cybercycling for older adults. The study found that cybercyclers who biked two to three times a week for three months through virtual landscapes and participated in virtual races that appeared on a video screen attached to each bike demonstrated better executive functioning than those who used a traditional stationary bike with no video screen.

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REad what People are saying about health Games Research...

...In The New York Times: "A Multitasking Video Game Makes Old Brains Act Younger"

...Debra Lieberman in The Wall Street Journal: “Games can motivate people to exercise if they use the right game mechanics”

...On NBC News: “Young patients fight cancer, one video game at a time”

...In USA Today: "Beyond exergames: New games for health go mobile and social"

...In The Wall Street Journal: "Pitting Employees Against Each Other … for Health"

...In CNN's The Chart Blog: "Study: 'Exergames' Boost Brain Function Among Seniors"

...In The Atlantic: "Study of the Day: Computer-Aided Exercise Is Better for Seniors"

...In MedPage Today: "Cybercycling Gives Seniors a Brain Boost"

 

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