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Simul Gaming. 2016 Aug;47(4):490-516. Epub 2016 Feb 17.

An educational video game for nutrition of young people: Theory and design.

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University of Houston, TX, USA.
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, USA.
Archimage, Inc., Houston, TX, USA.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Playing Escape from DIAB (DIAB) and Nanoswarm (NANO), epic video game adventures, increased fruit and vegetable consumption among a multi-ethnic sample of 10-12 year old children during pilot testing. Key elements of both games were educational mini-games embedded in the overall game that promoted knowledge acquisition regarding diet, physical activity and energy balance. 95-100% of participants demonstrated mastery of these mini-games suggesting knowledge acquisition.


This article describes the process of designing and developing the educational mini-games. A secondary purpose was to explore the experience of children while playing the games.


The educational games were based on Social Cognitive and Mastery Learning Theories. A multidisciplinary team of behavioral nutrition, PA, and video game experts designed, developed, and tested the mini-games.


Alpha testing revealed children generally liked the mini-games and found them to be reasonably challenging. Process evaluation data from pilot testing revealed almost all participants completed nearly all educational mini-games in a reasonable amount of time suggesting feasibility of this approach.


Future research should continue to explore the use of video games in educating children to achieve healthy behavior changes.


Type II Diabetes; behavioral nutrition; challenge; debriefing; design; diet; energy balance; experience; game design; health; healthy behavior; intervention design; knowledge; mastery learning; mini-game; obesity; physical activity; social cognitive theory; video game

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