Toward game-based digital mental health interventions: player habits and preferences

Regan Lee Mandryk, Max Valentin Birk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
209 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Background: Designers of digital interventions for mental health often leverage interactions from games because the intrinsic motivation that results from game-based interventions may increase participation and translate into improved treatment efficacy. However, there are outstanding questions about the suitability (eg, are desktop or mobile interventions more appropriate?) and intervention potential (eg, do people with depression activate enough to play?) of games for mental health. Objective: In this paper, we aimed to describe the presently unknown relationship between gaming activity and indicators of well-being so that designers make informed choices when designing game-based interventions for mental health. Methods: We gathered validated scales of well-being (Beck's Depression Inventory [BDI-II], Patient Health Questionnaire [PHQ-9], trait anxiety [TA], and basic psychological needs satisfaction [BPNS]), play importance (control over game behavior: control; gamer identity: identity), and play behavior (play frequency, platform preferences, and genre preferences) in a Web-based survey (N=491). Results: The majority of our participants played games a few times a week (45.3%, 222/490) or daily (34.3%, 168/490). In terms of depression, play frequency was associated with PHQ-9 (P=.003); PHQ-9 scores were higher for those who played daily than for those who played a few times a week or less. Similarly, for BDI-II (P=.01), scores were higher for those who played daily than for those who played once a week or less. Genre preferences were not associated with PHQ-9 (P=.32) or BDI-II (P=.68); however, platform preference (ie, mobile, desktop, or console) was associated with PHQ-9 (P=.04); desktop-only players had higher PHQ-9 scores than those who used all platforms. Platform preference was not associated with BDI-II (P=.18). In terms of anxiety, TA was not associated with frequency (P=.23), platform preference (P=.07), or genre preference (P=.99). In terms of needs satisfaction, BPNS was not associated with frequency (P=.25) or genre preference (P=.53), but it was associated with platform preference (P=.01); desktop-only players had lower needs satisfaction than those who used all platforms. As expected, play frequency was associated with identity (P<.001) and control (P<.001); those who played more had identified more as a gamer and had less control over their gameplay. Genre preference was associated with identity (P<.001) and control (P<.001); those who played most common genres had higher control over their play and identified most as gamers. Platform preference was not associated with control (P=.80), but was with identity (P=.001); those who played on all devices identified more as a gamer than those who played on mobiles or consoles only. Conclusions: Our results suggest that games are a suitable approach for mental health interventions as they are played broadly by people across a range of indicators of mental health. We further unpack the platform preferences and genre preferences of players with varying levels of well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere128
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Volume19
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

©Regan Lee Mandryk, Max Valentin Birk. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 20.04.2017.

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Computer games
  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • Humans
  • Depression/therapy
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Video Games/psychology
  • Anxiety/therapy
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Toward game-based digital mental health interventions: player habits and preferences'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this