A Video Game Promoting Cancer Risk Perception and Information Seeking Behavior Among Young-Adult College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Khalil G
  • Beale I
  • Chen M
  • et al.
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Abstract

BACKGROUND Risky behaviors tend to increase drastically during the transition into young adulthood. This increase may ultimately facilitate the initiation of carcinogenic processes at a young age, highlighting a serious public health problem. By promoting information seeking behavior (ISB), young adults may become aware of cancer risks and potentially take preventive measures. OBJECTIVE Based on the protection motivation theory, the current study seeks to evaluate the impact of challenge in a fully automated video game called Re-Mission on young adult college students' tendency to perceive the severity of cancer, feel susceptible to cancer, and engage in ISB. METHODS A total of 216 young adults were recruited from a university campus, consented, screened, and randomized in a single-blinded format to 1 of 3 conditions: an intervention group playing Re-Mission at high challenge (HC; n=85), an intervention group playing Re-Mission at low challenge (LC; n=81), and a control group with no challenge (NC; presented with illustrated pictures of Re-Mission; n=50). Measurement was conducted at baseline, immediate posttest, 10-day follow-up, and 20-day follow-up. Repeated-measures mixed-effect models were conducted for data analysis of the main outcomes. RESULTS A total of 101 young adults continued until 20-day follow-up. Mixed-effect models showed that participants in the HC and LC groups were more likely to increase in perceived susceptibility to cancer (P=.03), perceived severity of cancer (P=.02), and ISB (P=.01) than participants in the NC group. The LC group took until 10-day follow-up to show increase in perceived susceptibility (B=0.47, standard error (SE) 0.16, P=.005). The HC group showed an immediate increase in perceived susceptibility at posttest (B=0.43, SE 0.14, P=.002). The LC group exhibited no changes in perceived severity (B=0.40, SE 0.33, P=.24). On the other hand, the HC group showed a significant increase from baseline to posttest (B=0.39, SE 0.14, P=.005), maintaining this increase until 20-day follow-up (B=-0.007, SE 0.26, P=.98). Further analyses indicated that perceived threat from virtual cancer cells in the game is related to the increase in perceived severity (B=0.1, SE 0.03, P=.001), and perceived susceptibility is related to changes in ISB at 10-day follow-up (B=0.21, SE 0.08, P=.008). CONCLUSIONS The feature of challenge with cancer cells in a virtual environment has the potential to increase cancer risk perception and ISB. The results are promising considering that the Re-Mission intervention was neither designed for cancer risk communication, nor applied among healthy individuals. Further research is needed to understand the theoretical framework underlying the effects of Re-Mission on ISB. The findings call for the development of a Web-based, game-based intervention for cancer risk communication and information seeking among young adults. CLINICALTRIAL International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 15789289; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN15789289 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6jGYZC3lZ).

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Khalil, G. E., Beale, I. L., Chen, M., & Prokhorov, A. V. (2016). A Video Game Promoting Cancer Risk Perception and Information Seeking Behavior Among Young-Adult College Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Serious Games, 4(2), e13. https://doi.org/10.2196/games.5793

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