Gamification to Motivate the Unmotivated Smoker: The "Take a Break" Digital Health Intervention
Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences
Behavioral Medicine | Health Psychology | Preventive Medicine | Psychiatry and Psychology | Substance Abuse and Addiction | Telemedicine | Translational Medical Research
Objective: Digital health technologies most often reach only those more motivated to engage, particularly when preventive health is targeted. To test whether gamification could be used to engage low-motivation smokers, we conceptualized "Take a Break"-a 3-week technology-assisted challenge for smokers to compete in setting and achieving brief abstinence goals.
Materials and Methods: In the feasibility study of the multi-technology Take a Break challenge, low-motivation smokers were given (1) daily motivational messages, (2) brief "challenge quizzes" related to smoking behaviors, (3) a telehealth call to personalize their abstinence goal for the challenge, (4) "coping minigames" to help manage cravings while attempting to achieve their brief abstinence goals, and (5) a leaderboard "webApp," providing comparative feedback on smokers' participation, and allowing for competition. Heterogeneity of engagement was tracked.
Results: All 41 smokers initially reported that they were not actively quitting. Over half were employed less than full time (51%), completed less than a 4-year college education (76%), and experienced financial stress (54%). No smokers opted out of the motivational messages, and mean proportion of response to the challenge quizzes was 0.88 (SD = 0.19). Half of the smokers reported using the "coping minigames." Almost all set abstinence goals (78%), with over half lasting 1-2 days (51%); median = 1 day (IQR 1-7). Leaderboard points ranged widely.
Conclusions: Rates of smoking in the developed world have declined, and those who remain smokers are complex and have lower motivation to quit. Using a game-inspired challenge, we achieved high levels of engagement from low-motivation smokers.
UMCCTS funding, Digital technology, Game design theory, Motivational intervention, Tobacco cessation, Usability and feasibility testing, eHealth
DOI of Published Version
Games Health J. 2019 Aug;8(4):275-284. doi: 10.1089/g4h.2018.0076. Epub 2019 Jun 20. Link to article on publisher's site
Games for health journal
Blok AC, Sadasivam RS, Amante DJ, Kamberi A, Flahive J, Morley J, Conigliaro J, Houston TK. (2019). Gamification to Motivate the Unmotivated Smoker: The "Take a Break" Digital Health Intervention. UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science Supported Publications. https://doi.org/10.1089/g4h.2018.0076. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/umccts_pubs/205