BACKGROUND: Fitness video games are popular, but little is known about their content. Because many contain interactive tools that mimic behavioral strategies from weight loss intervention programs, it is possible that differences in content could affect player physical activity and/or weight outcomes. There is a need for a better understanding of what behavioral strategies are currently available in fitness games and how they are implemented.<br /><br />OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to investigate the prevalence of evidence-based behavioral strategies across fitness video games available for home use. Games available for consoles that used camera-based controllers were also contrasted with games available for a console that used handheld motion controllers.<br /><br />METHODS: Fitness games (N=18) available for three home consoles were systematically identified and play-tested by 2 trained coders for at least 3 hours each. In cases of multiple games from one series, only the most recently released game was included. The Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox360 were the two camera-based consoles, and the Nintendo Wii was the handheld motion controller console. A coding list based on a taxonomy of behavioral strategies was used to begin coding. Codes were refined in an iterative process based on data found during play-testing.<br /><br />RESULTS: The most prevalent behavioral strategies were modeling (17/18), specific performance feedback (17/18), reinforcement (16/18), caloric expenditure feedback (15/18), and guided practice (15/18). All games included some kind of feedback on performance accuracy, exercise frequency, and/or fitness progress. Action planning (scheduling future workouts) was the least prevalent of the included strategies (4/18). Twelve games included some kind of social integration, with nine of them providing options for real-time multiplayer sessions. Only two games did not feature any kind of reward. Games for the camera-based consoles (mean 12.89, SD 2.71) included a greater number of strategies than those for the handheld motion controller console (mean 10.00, SD 2.74, P=.04).<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Behavioral strategies for increasing self-efficacy and self-regulation are common in home console fitness video games. Social support and reinforcement occurred in approximately half of the studied games. Strategy prevalence varies by console type, partially due to greater feedback afforded by camera-based controllers. Experimental studies are required to test the effects of these strategies when delivered as interactive tools, as this medium may represent an innovative platform for disseminating evidence-based behavioral weight loss intervention components.
Lyons, E. J., & Hatkevich, C. (2013). Prevalence of behavior changing strategies in fitness video games: Theory-based content analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(5). https://doi.org/10.2196/jmir.2403