OBJECTIVE: This article describes the design rationale behind a serious self-regulation game intervention. The aim of the game is to promote healthy dietary intake and physical activity among secondary vocational educational students in The Netherlands (approximately 16-20 years of age).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The game "Balance It" was developed according to an intervention mapping (IM) protocol. Following IM, we specified health promotion and usability objectives and linked these objectives to selected behavior change and persuasive methods. Accordingly, these methods were translated into a coherent intervention program.
RESULTS: The health behavior change objectives were derived from the determinants of the behavior and from Self-Regulation Theory (e.g., students are asked to set goals, monitor and evaluate their behavior, and create coping plans). Usability objectives were derived from the RE-AIM model (i.e., Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance). Next, behavior change and persuasive techniques were selected (e.g., goal setting and prompting, respectively) that did fit with the targeted change objectives and were translated in the design of a (mobile) serious self-regulation game intervention. Subsequently, three concept and usability tests were performed to improve intervention usability, and an evaluation plan was developed.
CONCLUSIONS: The aim of this study was to provide a design rationale for game interventions targeting health-related behaviors. We developed a coherent program design in which both health behavior change and usability factors are addressed. The IM protocol can serve as a useful guide for decision making in program development and evaluation.