Using an alternate realist game to increase physical activity and decrease obesity risk of college students
2012, Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology
J. Johnston, Anne P. Massey, R. Marker-Hoffman
This quasi-experimental study investigated a game intervention—specifically, an alternate reality game (ARG)—
as a means to influence college students’ physical activity (PA). An ARG is an interactive narrative that takes
place in the real world and uses multiple media to reveal a story.
Three sections of a college health course (n = 115 freshman students) were assigned either to a game group that
played the ARG or to a comparison group that learned how to use exercise equipment in weekly laboratory
sessions. Pre- and post-intervention measures included weight, waist circumference, body mass index (BMI),
percentage body fat (PBF), and self-reported moderate physical activity (MPA) and vigorous physical activity
(VPA), and PA (steps/week).
A significant group x time interaction (p = .001) was detected for PA, with a significant increase in PA for the
game (p < .001) versus a significant decrease (p = .001) for the comparison group. Significant within-group
increases for weight (p = .001), BMI (p = .001), and PBF (p = .001) were detected. A significant group x time
interaction (p = .001) was detected when analyzing self-reported VPA, with both groups reporting decreases
in VPA over time; however, the decrease was only significant for the comparison group (p < .001). No significant
group differences were found for MPA.
It is important that any intervention meet the needs and interests of its target population. Here, the ARG was
designed in light of the learning preferences of today’s college students—collaborative and social, experiential
and media-rich. Our results provide preliminary evidence that a game intervention can positively influence PA
within the college student population.
Johnston, J., A.P. Massey, and R. Marker-Hoffman (2012), "Using an alternate realist game to increase physical activity and decrease obesity risk of college students," Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 6 (4), 828-838. (Study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).