Utilizing a modular approach to gamification to improve nutrition and fitness in children

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Obesity is a worldwide epidemic that affects adults and children, impacts over 30% of the population in several states of the U.S., damages national economies, and is a factor in four out of the six of the leading causes of death, including diabetes and heart disease. Obesity is preventable: solution approaches include better education, more exercise, better nutrition, and changing eating habits. Still, it is difficult for many people to remain interested enough to educate themselves and to learn new behaviors to change their eating and exercise habits.

Gamification is a relatively new research area that involves using video game mechanisms to make applications such as work, education, and behavior change seem less like a job and more like entertainment.

The objective of this thesis is to develop a system for gamifying the process of education and behavior change aimed at reducing obesity in children. The approach involved identifying requirements, developing a methodology, implementing a suite of games, developing a common application program interface and integration framework so that metrics from the games could
form a user progress model that is securely sharable with parents, educators, and health professionals. The idea is that as users get better at playing the game, they will get healthier. We specified the following requirements for the framework and suite of games: large domain coverage in the areas of nutrition and fitness; extensibility and scalability; user diversity; measurability and metrics; and security and privacy. A working prototype at http://www.edufitment.com demonstrates the framework and the games developed so far. Future
work will involve refining the game content coverage with the help of domain experts, adding more games, and deploying and testing the framework on the Internet.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2013
PublisherUniversity of Arkansas
Number of pages108
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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