PIs: Cynthia Ching, J. Bruce German
University of California-Davis
This team is creating a new kind of video-game, one that incorporates the changing characteristics of the person playing the game into the game play itself. This provides game players (learners) with an alternate perspective on their own capabilities and the effects and impacts of their choices and behaviors. In this case, the game is aimed at children learning about health and nutrition, and learners (adolescents and pre-adolescents) wear a wrist band that captures personal-health data (e.g., heart rate, breathing) and incorporates that data into the capabilities of the game player within the game. Game design and game play are based on literatures on game design (especially for promoting learning), embodied cognition, identity development, and effecting behavior change. Research focuses on how learning, identity, and changes in real-life behavior unfold over time and what it is about the game that is influencing or driving those changes.
The U.S. experiences one of the highest rates of chronic disease in the world, and health during childhood is a critical predictor of disease onset in later adulthood. Technological innovations that can help children understand the effects of their nutrition and behavior choices on health and that provide information at times when children are interested in seeking that information have potential to play a role in promoting good habits. This project is aiming to create a video game that will be engaging enough to stimulate curiosity and understanding of personal health status and of the effects of personal choices on personal health. Ultimately, the goal is to learn more about how to instill healthy habits early in life. While this project is aimed at promoting habits that will lead to good health, what is learned from the investigation will have potential to affect not only public health but also more basic understanding of how habits develop, how to promote habit development, and how to design engaging video games as vehicles for promoting the kind of learning that results in behavior change.