A State-of-the-Art Systematic Content Analysis of Games for Health

Games Health J. 2018 Feb;7(1):1-15. doi: 10.1089/g4h.2017.0095. Epub 2018 Jan 2.


As the field of games for health continues to gain momentum, it is crucial to document the field's scale of growth, identify design patterns, and to address potential design issues for future health game development. Few studies have explored the attributes and usability features of games for health as a whole over time. We offer the first comprehensive systematic content analysis of digital games for health by examining 1743 health games released between 1983 and 2016 in 23 countries extracted from nine international English health game databases and directories. The majority of these games were developed in the United States (67.18%) and France (18.59%). The most popular platforms included web browsers (72.38%) and Windows (14.41%). Approximately four out of five (79.12%) of the games were available at no cost. We coded 1553 accessible games for an in-depth analysis and further assessed 1303 for usability. Popular health topics represented included: cognitive training (37.41%), indirect health education (13.33%), and medical care provision (9.98%). Most games (75.66%) could be completed within 60 minutes. The main game usability problems identified included a lack of customization, nonskippable contents, and a lack of feedback and instruction to the players. While most of the usability problems have improved as did the software and hardware technology, the players' ability to skip nonplayable contents has become slightly more restricted overtime. Comparison with game efficacy publications suggested that a further understanding of the scope for games for health is needed on a global level.

Keywords: Content analysis; Game usability; Games for health; Games for healthcare.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Games, Recreational*
  • Health Education / methods
  • Health Education / trends*
  • Humans
  • Review Literature as Topic