Games and Diabetes: A Review Investigating Theoretical Frameworks, Evaluation Methodologies, and Opportunities for Design Grounded in Learning Theories

J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2015 Sep 2;10(2):447-52. doi: 10.1177/1932296815604634.


Here we review 18 articles that describe the design and evaluation of 1 or more games for diabetes from technical, methodological, and theoretical perspectives. We undertook searches covering the period 2010 to May 2015 in the ACM, IEEE, Journal of Medical Internet Research, Studies in Health Technology and Informatics, and Google Scholar online databases using the keywords "children," "computer games," "diabetes," "games," "type 1," and "type 2" in various Boolean combinations. The review sets out to establish, for future research, an understanding of the current landscape of digital games designed for children with diabetes. We briefly explored the use and impact of well-established learning theories in such games. The most frequently mentioned theoretical frameworks were social cognitive theory and social constructivism. Due to the limitations of the reported evaluation methodologies, little evidence was found to support the strong promise of games for diabetes. Furthermore, we could not establish a relation between design features and the game outcomes. We argue that an in-depth discussion about the extent to which learning theories could and should be manifested in the design decisions is required.

Keywords: diabetes; game design; health games; learning theories; self-management; type 1 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Video Games*