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Gamification for Health Behaviour Change


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Gamification in health behaviour change produces muddled results. Why? Because game design elements, behaviour change techniques, etc. are too decontextualised and underspecified to guide design implementation. Talk at the CBC 2018 conference "Behaviour Change for Health: Digital & Beyond", February 21, 2018, London.

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Gamification for Health Behaviour Change

  1. 1. gamification for health behaviour change Sebastian Deterding @dingstweets Digital Creativity Labs University of York
  2. 2. a quick distinction serious games full-fledged games communication, training & transfer gamification game design elements intervention, motivating behaviour Deterding et al., 2011
  3. 3. a quick equation game design elements persuasive principlesbehaviour change techniques ≈ ≈ “an active component of an intervention designed to change behaviour ... the smallest component compatible with retaining the postulated active ingredients” (Michie & Johnson, 2013, p. 182) Fogg, 2003; Deterding et al., 2011; Michie et al., 2013
  4. 4. Lister, West, Cannon et al., 2014 a deluge in tracking & self-management
  5. 5. the 7 promises of gamification for health behaviour change 1. intrinsic motivation: Better adoption, retention, long-term behaviour change 2. direct wellbeing support: Positive experiences directly contribute to psychosocial wellbeing 3. broad access: Gamification uses mobile phones & ubicomp 4. broad appeal: Games are enjoyed by young & old, men & women 5. broad applicability: Gamification is used for all major chronic health risks 6. cost-benefit efficiency: Gamification is less costly than games 7. everyday life fit: Gamification directly reorganises activity rather than demanding extra learning task & hoping for transfer of learning Johnson, Deterding, Kuhn et al., 2016
  6. 6. putting promises to the test: a systematic review Johnson, Deterding, Kuhn et al., 2016
  7. 7. results: a muddle Johnson, Deterding, Kuhn et al., 2016 59% positive, 41% mixed/null, 10% negative ux effects
  8. 8. Why?
  9. 9. specific understandings and uses differ – and matter codecademy van Roy, Deterding & Zaman, 2018, under review; Antin & Churchill, 2011 khan academy
  10. 10. specific contexts differ – and matter 5% 500 steps 8th day without cycling – you really should step it up! What about a 5 minute ride today? C’mon, your friends in California did it! Frank & Engelke, 2001
  11. 11. specific designs differ – and matter Goveia, Pereira, Karapanos et al., 2016
  12. 12. positive-negative dynamics of gamification + performance feedback goal-setting social comparison competenceautonomy - + - highlighting success, superior ability highlighting failure, inferior ability perceived self-determined goal pursuit perceived outer pressure, social comparison specific subject, context, design relations work in progress
  13. 13. Motivation and behaviour emerge from specific subject-environment relations. hypothesis 1 Lewin, 1936; Gibson, 1977; Warren, 1984; Deterding, 2011
  14. 14. “Game design elements”* are therefore too underspecified as a construct to reliably predict effects. hypothesis 2 * I withhold judgment on behaviour change techniques and persuasive principles.
  15. 15. We currently rely on designers to translate our underspecified, general, analytic constructs into local syntheses of specific designs fitting specific contexts and users – giving them insufficient reliable guidance. hypothesis 3
  16. 16. a practical gap between psychology and design “Instantiating theory is a difficult task as theoretical constructs lack specificity for concrete design situations.” (Hekler, Klasna, Froehlich et al, 2013, p. 3310) “less than half of the HCI eco-feedback papers referenced behavioral psychology literature and 58% referenced environmental psychology literature. Even more dramatically, no study in environmental psychology referred back to HCI.” (Froehlich, Linklater & Findlay, 2010, pp. 2003-2004)
  17. 17. Lomas, 2015 we need a dialogue between research and design Application Data
  18. 18. @dingstweets thank you.
  19. 19. digital creativity labs • Impact-driven research on games and interactive media merging data, AI, and experience design • 30+ researchers, 100+ industry partners across York, Goldsmiths, Falmouth • sebastian deterding • Designer/researcher working on motivational design, applied gaming for human flourishing • Co-editor, The Gameful World (MIT Press, 2015), founder of Gamification Research Network, 30+ industry projects •