Gamification for Family Engagement in Lifestyle Interventions: A Systematic Review

Prev Sci. 2021 Oct;22(7):831-844. doi: 10.1007/s11121-021-01214-x. Epub 2021 Mar 30.


The majority of chronic conditions that plague the USA are modifiable by lifestyle change. Lifestyle interventions that incorporate family members for social support and that use game design elements to engage family members have the potential to improve upon traditional interventions, which have largely been unsustainable. Determining the populations where family member support in a lifestyle intervention are present and the extent of gamification of lifestyle intervention components that engage these family members is an important and underexplored area of work. A systematic review of lifestyle interventions involving family members were reviewed for game design elements using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) framework. Game design elements related to engaged learning and motivational affordances from previous literature were included. Sixty-one studies met inclusion criteria. These studies reported on 50 independent interventions that were reviewed. Thirty-one of these interventions addressed lifestyle in those with a chronic condition, and 19 addressed lifestyle in those at high risk for chronic conditions. The majority of the lifestyle interventions included at least one game design element, yet overall there were limited elements utilized together. Compared with successful gamified programs that have greatly impacted a population's health behaviors, there were relatively a limited number of elements reported, particularly those that support social relatedness, such as meaningful storylines. Meaningfulness of the game design elements chosen and their arrangement was not apparent. Technology was under-utilized as a potential modality for intervention component delivery. Developing products to train researchers to properly apply game design elements to intervention components, as well as test their effectiveness, are areas for future research.

Keywords: Chronic conditions; Family member; Game design; Gamification; Lifestyle intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Life Style*
  • Motivation*