Video Games for Diabetes Self-Management

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Successful management of diabetes requires complex daily tasks and decisions. This article examines the promise of video games to help individuals improve diabetes self-management.

The article describes 14 video games, built on a variety of platforms, that aim to improve diabetes self-management. It also presents research findings on the games when available. Some games incorporate the player’s glucose readings into the plot, some test player knowledge about diabetes management, and one is a social game designed to bring people together to support diabetes care.

Key Findings:

  • The 14 games used a wide range of genres and techniques to improve diabetes-related knowledge, skills, motivation, and self-management behaviors. Most required problem-solving and decision-making skills for victory.
  • A randomized controlled trial of the Super Nintendo game Packy & Marlon, released in 1994, found that children and adolescents with Type 1 diabetes who had the game at home for six months improved their self-management behaviors and reduced their diabetes-related urgent care and emergency visits by 77 percent.

This article, written with support from the Health Games Research national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, provides examples and evidence showing that behavior change video games for diabetes self-management have the potential to help individuals successfully manage this complex chronic condition.