Case Study: Escape from Diab
Image Credits: escapefromdiab.com
Escape from Diab is a game that is meant to be an educational tool that teaches players how to make healthy eating choices to promote healthy behavior change. The game’s protagonist helps his friends combat the unhealthy environment where they live, which includes unlimited junk food and a mandated sedentary lifestyle. The hero uses his life experiences to help his friends make healthy decisions and overcome a dystopian world that keeps its citizens under social control by limiting their access to healthy food and an active lifestyle.
The format is targeted towards children and is meant to engage the players in a manner that holds their attention and also asks them to directly participate in the story. Players interact with characters in a manner that affects the characters within the story. It allows the players to experience cause and effect relationships between healthy diet and exercise habits and health problems.
Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Effectiveness of the Games
In a clinical trial that aimed at reviewing the effects of Escape from Diab and Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space, the researchers found that two months after playing the games the players had increased their daily fruit and vegetable consumption by 0.67 servings (Baranowski et al., 2011).
The participants in the trial were incentivized to participate by financial compensation and the activity was monitored through email access based on the players activity. The participants were between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. Both games used in the trial were designed as “epic video game adventures,” and incorporated numerous behavior change procedures throughout the game environment. The attempt was to substantially motivate players to improve diet behaviors. The results fell short of the original goal, and clearly showed room for improvement. The researchers noted, “serious video games hold promise, but their effectiveness and mechanisms of change among youth need to be investigated more thoroughly” (Baranowski et al., 2011).
While Escape from Diab had a fairly high production value, when compared to popular action adventure games it was not as aesthetically impressive. This could be attributed to the size of the production company, and appears to be an obstacle for educational games. Frequent gamers will likely notice this difference, and will identify it as an educational game trying to pass as an adventure game. While the messaging and story line were impressive, I think this was an obstacle that was too large to overcome.
Also, what is interesting in this trial was the way in which players participated in the study. The children selected to participate fell within the 50th and 95th percentile for body mass index. The lack of buy-in from participants may have been one reason that they results were so low. The kids who were participating were essentially enrolled by their parents who heard advertisements on a radio station that reached the target demographic.
The target audience in this case was the parents of children, and the children did not participate in the game out of their own desire to make better health decisions. The study was also meant to target a lower socio-economic demographic that included various ethnicities of participants, but the participants in the study were restricted to English speaking only. The requirements of participants in this regards raises a number of questions in regards to accessibility and efficacy among a wider demographic. It would take further development of this study to be more inclusive of a mixed participant pool for a better understanding of possible applications and their effectiveness.
Baranowski, T., Baranowski, J., Thompson, D., Buday, R., Jago, R., Juliano Griffith, M., Watson, K. B. (2011). Video Game Play, Child Diet, and Physical Activity Behavior Change: A Randomized Clinical Trial. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 40(1), 33-38. Retrieved January 24, 2016.