Context: Video games represent a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. Although video gaming has been associated with many negative health consequences, it also may be useful for therapeutic purposes. The goal of this study was to determine whether video games may be useful in improving health outcomes.
Evidence acquisition: Literature searches were performed in February 2010 in six databases: the Center on Media and Child Health Database of Research, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. Reference lists were hand-searched to identify additional studies. Only RCTs that tested the effect of video games on a positive, clinically relevant health consequence were included. Study selection criteria were strictly defined and applied by two researchers working independently. Study background information (e.g., location, funding source); sample data (e.g., number of study participants, demographics); intervention and control details; outcomes data; and quality measures were abstracted independently by two researchers.
Evidence synthesis: Of 1452 articles retrieved using the current search strategy, 38 met all criteria for inclusion. Eligible studies used video games to provide physical therapy, psychological therapy, improved disease self-management, health education, distraction from discomfort, increased physical activity, and skills training for clinicians. Among the 38 studies, a total of 195 health outcomes were examined. Video games improved 69% of psychological therapy outcomes, 59% of physical therapy outcomes, 50% of physical activity outcomes, 46% of clinician skills outcomes, 42% of health education outcomes, 42% of pain distraction outcomes, and 37% of disease self-management outcomes. Study quality was generally poor; for example, two thirds (66%) of studies had follow-up periods of <12 weeks, and only 11% of studies blinded researchers.
Conclusions: There is potential promise for video games to improve health outcomes, particularly in the areas of psychological therapy and physical therapy. RCTs with appropriate rigor will help build evidence in this emerging area.
Copyright © 2012 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.