Preliminary investigation of a videogame prototype for cigarette and marijuana prevention in adolescents

Subst Abus. 2018;39(3):275-279. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2018.1437862. Epub 2018 Mar 13.


Background: Videogames are becoming increasingly popular to deliver health interventions; however, their role in the primary prevention of cigarette and marijuana use has not yet been evaluated. The purpose of this study was to conduct a preliminary test of the efficacy of a role-playing videogame prototype, smokeSCREEN, aimed at developing knowledge and behavioral skills associated with primary prevention of cigarette and marijuana use. The authors also explored participants' gameplay experience.

Methods: This study employed a 1-group pretest-posttest design with 25 adolescent boys and girls aged 11 to 14 years (Mage = 11.56, SD = 0.77) who had never tried cigarettes or marijuana. Participants played four 1-hour gameplay sessions over a 2-week period. Assessments of knowledge, self-efficacy, attitudes, perceived norms, and intentions related to cigarette and marijuana prevention were collected at baseline and 2-week and 12-week follow-ups. Ratings of gameplay experience were collected after the 2 weeks of gameplay. One-way repeated-measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were conducted.

Results: Findings are (1) improvements in knowledge for both cigarette (Wilks' λ = 0.62, F(2, 23) = 7.21, P = .004) and marijuana (Wilks' λ = 0.67, F(2, 23) = 5.75, P = .009) use from pre- to post-gameplay that were characterized by large effects; and (2) nonsignificant trends in the expected direction emerged for changes in self-efficacy and perceived norms related to both cigarettes and marijuana that were characterized by medium-large effects. Overall, the players provided positive reports of their experience with the smokeSCREEN videogame prototype.

Conclusions: These findings provide preliminary evidence that a videogame has the potential to influence key cognitive and motivational variables and can be an engaging means to deliver a cigarette and marijuana prevention intervention.

Keywords: Adolescents; cigarettes; marijuana; prevention; videogame.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child
  • Cigarette Smoking / prevention & control*
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Marijuana Smoking / prevention & control*
  • Proof of Concept Study
  • Self Efficacy
  • Video Games / psychology*