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Savouring our mistakes: Learning from the FitQuest project

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-67
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Child-Computer Interaction
Volume16
Early online date16 Jan 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

Abstract

Although serious games for children can potentially have important social, educational and health benefits, the research process from initial game design to a robust evaluation is lengthy and complex. This paper describes the design and evaluation process of an exergame for children. It reports on the inconclusive results of a cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) conducted among children aged 10-11 years attending 10 state-funded primary schools in Scotland. One class in each school was randomly allocated to intervention (n=5, 111 children) or control (n=5, 104 children). Intervention schools were given FitQuest, a smartphone game for the Android platform, and were requested to play the game during at least one hour of mandated Physical Education (PE) lessons per week for 5 weeks. Participants in the control arm took part in standard mandated PE lessons. Primary outcome measures were step count, minutes spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and exercise self-efficacy. None of the children spent the recommended time per week playing FitQuest. There were no significant differences in step count, MVPA or self-efficacy by intervention group.

The paper reflects on possible flaws during the design and evaluation process which could have led to the disappointing results, and presents some proposals for improving the research process for developing serious games for children. These include: deepening the ways in which we interact with domain expert colleagues, developing a shared understanding of the expectations for different phases of evaluation, closing the gap between game design knowledge and domain theories, raising the standards of evidence for design guidelines, encouraging synthesis across studies by evaluating mid-range theories rather than individual games, and developing guidelines for monitoring intervention fidelity in this domain.

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