Digital Gamification Tools to Enhance Vaccine Uptake: Scoping Review

JMIR Serious Games. 2024 Feb 29:12:e47257. doi: 10.2196/47257.


Background: Gamification has been used successfully to promote various desired health behaviors. Previous studies have used gamification to achieve desired health behaviors or facilitate their learning about health.

Objective: In this scoping review, we aimed to describe digital gamified tools that have been implemented or evaluated across various populations to encourage vaccination, as well as any reported effects of identified tools.

Methods: We searched Medline, Embase, CINAHL, the Web of Science Core Collection, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Academic Search Premier, PsycInfo, Global Health, and ERIC for peer-reviewed papers describing digital gamified tools with or without evaluations. We also conducted web searches with Google to identify digital gamified tools lacking associated publications. We consulted 12 experts in the field of gamification and health behavior to identify any papers or tools we might have missed. We extracted data about the target population of the tools, the interventions themselves (eg, type of digital gamified tool platform, type of disease/vaccine, type and design of study), and any effects of evaluated tools, and we synthesized data narratively.

Results: Of 1402 records, we included 28 (2%) peer-reviewed papers and 10 digital gamified tools lacking associated publications. The experts added 1 digital gamified tool that met the inclusion criteria. Our final data set therefore included 28 peer-reviewed papers and 11 digital gamified tools. Of the 28 peer-reviewed papers, 7 (25%) explained the development of the tool, 16 (57%) described evaluation, and 2 (7%) reported both development and evaluation of the tool. The 28 peer-reviewed papers reported on 25 different tools. Of these 25 digital gamified tools, 11 (44%) were web-based tools, 8 (32%) mobile (native mobile or mobile-enabled web) apps, and 6 (24%) virtual reality tools. Overall, tools that were evaluated showed increases in knowledge and intentions to receive vaccines, mixed effects on attitudes, and positive effects on beliefs. We did not observe discernible advantages of one type of digital gamified tool (web based, mobile, virtual reality) over the others. However, a few studies were randomized controlled trials, and publication bias may have led to such positive effects having a higher likelihood of appearing in the peer-reviewed literature.

Conclusions: Digital gamified tools appear to have potential for improving vaccine uptake by fostering positive beliefs and increasing vaccine-related knowledge and intentions. Encouraging comparative studies of different features or different types of digital gamified tools could advance the field by identifying features or types of tools that yield more positive effects across populations and contexts. Further work in this area should seek to inform the implementation of gamification for vaccine acceptance and promote effective health communication, thus yielding meaningful health and social impacts.

Keywords: COVID; COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; behavior change; behaviour change; digital game; digital gamified tools; gamification; gamified; health behavior; health behaviour; health promotion; review method; scoping review; vaccination; vaccine; vaccine uptake.

Publication types

  • Review