Background: Video games provide extensive player involvement for large numbers of children and adults, and thereby provide a channel for delivering health behavior change experiences and messages in an engaging and entertaining format.
Method: Twenty-seven articles were identified on 25 video games that promoted health-related behavior change through December 2006.
Results: Most of the articles demonstrated positive health-related changes from playing the video games. Variability in what was reported about the games and measures employed precluded systematically relating characteristics of the games to outcomes. Many of these games merged the immersive, attention-maintaining properties of stories and fantasy, the engaging properties of interactivity, and behavior-change technology (e.g., tailored messages, goal setting). Stories in video games allow for modeling, vicarious identifying experiences, and learning a story's "moral," among other change possibilities.
Conclusions: Research is needed on the optimal use of game-based stories, fantasy, interactivity, and behavior change technology in promoting health-related behavior change.