Pokemon Go-inspired game aims to encourage healthy lifestyle in teenagers

19 June 2017

 Pokemon Go-inspired game aims to encourage healthy lifestyle in teenagers

Image courtesy of the University of Southampton.

Gaming and health don’t usually go hand-in-hand, but that’s all set to change thanks to researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), who are developing a digital game which encourages teenagers to eat smart and get active. 

The University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment, in collaboration with the University of Southampton, is working on the game as part of a five-year programme which has received £2.2 million funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The game will take inspiration from social media such as Snapchat, fitness apps and successful real-world games such as Pokémon Go. It will support University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Southampton to work with teenagers, parents and schools, to help adolescents become fitter and eat better.

David Farrell, lecturer in games design at GCU, said: “Game designers harness the power to have gamers undertake all kinds of weird and wonderful activities. We are going to tap into this process to find ways to help people really enjoy themselves as they try to live healthier lives.

“There hasn’t been a more successful health game than Pokémon Go and, of course, it succeeded because players were entranced by the experience the game offered.  With this project, we are hoping to design an experience for teenagers that feels authentically playful and fun, while still managing to support the self-directed goals of improving their health.

“It’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside our colleagues at Southampton University who are experts in behaviour change.  We think that by bringing together their deep understanding of psychology with our best practice in player-centred game design, we could create something special in the world of health gaming.”

The new game will be developed and tested with teenagers attending LifeLab. Part of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, it is a unique teaching laboratory at University Hospital Southampton, dedicated to improving adolescent health by giving school students opportunities to learn first-hand the science behind health messages.

As part of this research programme, whole classes of teenagers who have been through LifeLab will be offered support back in school from specially trained teachers and will be encouraged to use the new game to help them change their eating habits and be more active. The researchers will assess how successful this is in improving teenagers’ lifestyles. If the game is successful, a UK-wide roll will be considered.

David said: “The game will be informed by theories of behaviour change and motivation, such as self-determination theory. It's going to use team competition and epic quest structures to guide player activity. It will include photo tools for tracking meals.

“Process wise, we are going to spend the next year or so prototyping and getting feedback before committing to a final design.”

Dr Mary Barker, associate professor of psychology at the University of Southampton, said: “Gaming is one of the UK’s largest new industries and I am particularly excited about the prospect of working to improve teenagers’ health with colleagues from Glasgow Caledonian University who are experts in this creative new area of science.”  

Share/Save/Bookmark

Latest from Twitter