Game playbooks: tools to guide multidisciplinary teams in developing videogame-based behavior change interventions


Creating effective Games for Health involves the partnership of researchers and game developers. Researchers have expertise in applying theories and past research findings to create interventions that can change health behaviors. Researchers, however, may not be in tune with what makes videogames challenging and fun for players. Game developers have expertise in the creation a fun and engaging player experience but may not know very much about how they can translate that experience into real life behavior change. Creating a game that is both effective for achieving health behavior goals and engaging for players involves weaving the behavior change elements into the fun elements of gameplay. This can be difficult to do because researchers and game developers traditionally have different cultures, terminologies, and standards of evidence. Through the development of PlayForward: Elm City Stories, we developed a process that helps researchers and game developers work effectively together by creating what we have termed “Game Playbooks”. Game Playbooks are guidebooks that outline all of the components of the videogame intervention including the theory-based components that will contribute to health behavior change and the gameplay components that will make it challenging and fun to play. Game Playbooks are created by, understood by, and acceptable to all members of the multidisciplinary game-development team. The purpose of this paper is to describe the importance and content of a Game Playbook so that other collaborative teams can use it to help them make their own effective games for health.

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