Being a game hobbyist myself, I have gone through the immersive satisfaction and dismay, the excitement and frustration, as well as the benefits and consequences of spending (I would say) “moderately excessive” time playing digital games. Depending on whom you ask between a gamer and a non-gamer or a child and a parent, the excessive extent of someone’s length of gameplay is totally subjective. For me, an hour of playing console every night is a bit too short. As implied from the beginning, I do like games. And who doesn’t really? At some point in time when we got our little fingers on Atari, Nintendo Family Computer, Game Boy, Xbox, PlayStation, and when mobile games came into being (depending on what generation you belong to), we got hooked one way or another. At least for me, playing digital games is my entertainment, my stress reliever, and a way to reboot my thought process so I can work on the next not-so-easy-to-do task I have on my plate. Anyhow, let’s take a peek at what evidence says about the most popular digital game platform of our time – mobile games.
Mobile games rose to prominence in the late 1990s when Nokia released SNAKE in their earlier mobile phone models such as the 61101. I remember then how much I played this mobile game while idling or hoping to get back into focus on whatever I was doing at work (way before I worked in the healthcare field), in the taxi, at home, and even before bedtime (or at least when I feel like sleeping but my brain was like sprinting on a treadmill of thoughts). It was popular, fun, and addictive. At present times, mobile game addiction has been a hot topic among the younger population 2-5 and adults 6-8 alike. Considering the more sophisticated, hi-tech, and aesthetically mesmerizing mobile games we have nowadays, mobile game addiction is a phenomenon people from health, behavioural, and computer sciences have all the reasons to probe into and ask – “How can we turn around the health risks associated with the excessive immersion of mobile games into opportunities?”
Surely most of us have heard of the cliché “If you can’t beat them, join them!” So, what’s keeping us from taking advantage of the engaging mechanisms behind these addictive digital games and rather turning them into something that is beneficial? These immersive little techs possess the potential to become viable solutions to effectively instill knowledge and awareness, as well as improve behaviours toward a healthier lifestyle. Fortunately, the recognition of these opportunities brought about a relatively new field in research on what we call “gamification.” Briefly, it is defined as using various game mechanics transcending their mere entertainment purposes for something that is beneficial to acquiring knowledge, skills, and eventually targeted behavior9, 10. Evidence suggests that when digital games like mobile games were developed for the purpose of delivering evidence-based health interventions, they showcase significant effects to their target users.10-11 Surely, sloppy gamified interventions are out there. Instead of bringing positive results, they just turn out to be ineffective creating biased perspectives toward the benefits gamification can offer. Therefore, it is imperative for researchers and game designers to rigorously consider suitable theoretical and methodological frameworks for the targeted outcomes, as it is equally important to involve those to whom we were catering for. It is crucial to build on this awareness not only for the makers but for those who will play these games, and possibly anyone who might put their little fingers on it for that matter.
It takes time and tremendous effort to turn unhealthy habits into healthy behaviour. Gamification, when done right, can offer us strategic opportunities by immersing people to achieve rewarding outcomes in the long run.
University of Turku
The author is currently in a salaried doctoral researcher position at the Department of Nursing Science of the University of Turku. His research interest focuses on using digital tools and strategies for fostering health literacy and health promotion. For his Ph.D. dissertation, he is developing an interactive gamified intervention for promoting the psychosocial well-being of pre-adolescent children.
- More, James (January 20, 2009). “History of Nokia part 2: Snake | Nokia Conversations – The official Nokia Blog”. Conversations.nokia.com. https://web.archive.org/web/20110723064106/http://conversations.nokia.com/2009/01/20/history-of-nokia-part-2-snake/
- Emiroğlu İlvan, T., & Ceylan, R. (2023). Predicting preschool children’s digital play addiction tendency during Covid-19 pandemic: Regarding the mother-child relationship, and child- and family-related factors. Education and information technologies, 1–30. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-023-11802-9
- Chatterjee, S., Chaudhuri, R., & Vrontis, D. (2022). Examining the antecedents and consequences of addiction to mobile games: an empirical study. Information Systems and e-Business Management. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10257-022-00614-y
- Turner, J. J., Jiang, N., Kaur, M., Adnan, M. M. B. M., & Goh, S. K. (2022). An Antecedent Study of Mobile Social Game Addiction vs. Virtual Goods Purchase: A Gen Y Gamer’s Perspective. International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction, 18(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.4018/IJTHI.2022010105
- Wang, J.-L., Sheng, J.-R., & Wang, H.-Z. (2019). The Association Between Mobile Game Addiction and Depression, Social Anxiety, and Loneliness. Frontiers in Public Health, 7, 247–247. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00247
- Hu, H., Zhang, G., Yang, X., Zhang, H., Lei, L., & Wang, P. (2022). Online Gaming Addiction and Depressive Symptoms Among Game Players of the Glory of the King in China: The Mediating Role of Affect Balance and the Moderating Role of Flow Experience. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 20(5), 3191–3204. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-021-00573-4
- T’ng, S. T., Ho, K. H., & Pau, K. (2022). Need Frustration, Gaming Motives, and Internet Gaming Disorder in Mobile Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) Games: Through the Lens of Self-Determination Theory. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-022-00825-x
- Kanat, S. (2019). The Relationship between Digital Game Addiction, Communication Skills and Loneliness Perception Levels of University Students. International Education Studies, 12(11), 80–. https://doi.org/10.5539/ies.v12n11p80
- Deterding, Sebastian & Dixon, Dan & Khaled, Rilla & Nacke, Lennart. (2011). From Game Design Elements to Gamefulness: Defining Gamification. Proceedings of the 15th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments, MindTrek 2011. 11. 9-15. 10.1145/2181037.2181040.
- Kubota, K., Säteri, E., N. Joelsson, T., Mäkilä, T., Salanterä, S., & Pakarinen, A. (2022). Pilot Study and Gamification Analysis of a Theory-based Exergame. International Journal of Serious Games, 9(3), 63–79. https://doi.org/10.17083/ijsg.v9i3.506
- C. Y. Chow, R. R. Riantiningtyas, M. B. Kanstrup, M. Papavasileiou, G. D. Liem, and A. Olsen. (2020). “Can games change children’s eating behaviour? A review of gamification and serious games,” Food Qual. Prefer., vol. 80, no. 103823, p. 103823. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2019.103823