A candidate from Georgia Tech College of Computing has shown that playing health-related video games on a mobile device can help adults learn to live more healthfully by making smart diet choices.
OrderUP! Includes "exergames," in which players get a genuine workout while playing. It educates players about how to make healthy eating choices in situations nearly everyone encounters regularly in their lives.
By casting players as virtual restaurant servers, Order UP! forces players to make healthy-and fast-menu decisions for a group of demanding, impatient customers.
"The most important finding from the OrderUP! project was how the game was integrated into conversations players had with other players and non-players about things that they had learned, particularly things that confronted their assumptions about healthy choices," said Beki Grinter, the project's principal investigator and associate professor in Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing.
How the game works: virtual 'customers' are offered three possible food choices like a fried chicken thigh, a jerk chicken breast or gumbo. They're then asked to make the healthiest choice, with only a few moments to pick before the customer gets impatient and leaves.
Players start with 1,000 health points, and as they make unhealthy choices for their customers (or as the customers get tired of waiting and leave) their health points drop. The object of the game is to continue serving food as long as possible.
"All health games, or any kind of 'serious' game with a purpose beyond entertainment, always have the challenge of making the game fun versus getting across the information you want to get across," said the game's creator, Andrea Grimes Parker, a student in Human-Centered Computing in Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing.
"In particular, we found that people learned how to make healthier choices when eating out, reassessed the healthiness of their current eating habits, began having productive conversations about healthy eating with people in their social network and, finally, actually started introducing healthier foods into their diet," said the game's creator, Andrea Grimes Parker, a student in Human-Centered Computing in Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing.
"One finding that was a bit surprising was just how much people translated what they saw in the game to their own lives. Another surprise was that players wanted more detailed information about nutrition values," Parker said.
Future development of OrderUP! will include a longer study to measure player behaviour change over an extended period of time, as well as an expanded game with more levels, more food choices and more nutritional information available to the player.
The finding is published in the paper, "Let's Play! Mobile Health Games for Adults," recently presented at Ubicomp 2010 in Copenhagen, Denmark. (ANI)