Encouraging healthy behavior in adolescents with a mobile health game.
Mindless Eating Challenge is a mobile phone-based health game based on Dr. Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating Challenge. In the game, players are tasked with caring for a virtual pet or plant, similar to the popular Tamgotchi. Pet care requires the user to follow a variety of health and eating recommendations and verify their actions with photos taken with their phone’s camera. For example, the recommendation “Eat a hot breakfast” would require the player to submit a photo of him/ herself eating a bowl of oatmeal. Photos and compliance are then judged either by judges or peers. Based on compliance to these recommendations, the pet or plant changes its appearance and gains features or accessories–a tree might grow taller or grow more leaves or fruit in response. Alternatively, leaves might fall off if the players performance is poor. A social portion of the game allows the user to see various depictions of their performance in comparison to the performance of others in their group, as well as of their group in comparison to other groups. The game is designed so that various features can be easily enabled and disabled so it can be used as a platform from which to conduct research into the mechanisms of mobile persuasion in the context of improving health and well-being.
Read an interview with JP on healthGAMERS. Here is the original press release on NPR.
Sahara Byrne, Geri Gay, JP Pollak, Daniella Retelny
This project is in collaboration with the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Byrne, S., Gay, G., Pollak, J.P., Retelny, D., Gonzales, A.L., Lee, T. and Wansink, B. (2012). Caring for mobile phone based avatars can influence youth eating behaviors. Journal of Children and Media. 6(1), 83-89. [ Taylor & Francis ]