The Development of Game-Based Digital Mental Health Interventions: Bridging the Paradigms of Health Care and Entertainment

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Abstract

Game elements are increasingly used to improve user engagement in digital mental health interventions, and specific game mechanics may yield therapeutic effects per se and thereby contribute to digital mental health intervention efficacy. However, only a few commercial game–based interventions are available. We suggest that the key challenge in their development reflects the tension between the 2 underlying paradigms, health care and entertainment, which have disparate goals and processes in digital development. We describe 3 approaches currently used to negotiate the 2 paradigms: the gamification of health care software, designing serious games, and purpose shifting existing entertainment games. We advanced an integrative framework to focus attention on 4 key themes in intervention development: target audience, engagement, mechanisms of action, and health-related effectiveness. On each theme, we show how the 2 paradigms contrast and can complement each other. Finally, we consider the 4 interdependent themes through the new product development phases from concept to production. Our viewpoint provides an integrative synthesis that facilitates the research, design, and development of game-based digital mental health interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere42173
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJMIR serious games
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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