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Scientific Exploration Into Pokémon GO©: A Detailed Examination of Family Experiences and Motivations for Use

Monday, 30 October 2017

Lisa K. Militello, PhD, MPH
College of Nursing, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA
Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN
College of Nursing, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

Background: Although not promoted as a “health” app, Pokémon GO has sparked several conversations and hypotheses regarding the potential for Pokémon GO and similar augmented reality games to synergize healthy lifestyle behavior change efforts. However, little is known about the mechanisms that drive augmented reality uptake, motivation for use, and user experience. This information is critically important to move forward evidence based practice and behavior change strategies supplemented by mHealth tools in child and family populations.

Therefore, the purpose of this study, Pokémon GO: Family Edition, is to explore the augmented reality game from a family (adult-child) user experience as it relates to healthy lifestyle behaviors. Specifically, this project aims:

1. To obtain descriptive data regarding uptake, utility, and engagement from families with children/teens who have played Pokemon GO.

2. To gain insight regarding Identity-Based Motivation and Theory of Goal Systems as plausible dynamic theoretical explanations of family game play and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Methods: a cross sectional study design will be utilized. Pokémon GO: Family Edition will consist of the completion of a survey by an adult whose life has been impacted by a child/teen who has played Pokémon GO. With additional parental consent and child/teen assent, a semi-structured interview will occur with the child/teen who plays(ed) Pokémon GO.

Data is being collected from descriptive surveys. Data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics.

Results: Qualitative data will be aggregated and reported based on thematic saturation. Additional reporting will follow CHERRIES checklist for Internet e-surveys.

Discussion: Data driven science remains critical to guide behavior change efforts, noting that behavior change is dynamic and ever evolving. Change may occur differently for individuals (doing something for oneself) versus doing something as part of a family unit (as a child or parent). Behavior change strategies supplemented with mHealth tools must be theoretically robust, time varying, and interactive. Lastly, drawing from the field of human computer interaction, the design of mHealth tools is critical to the user-experience and subsequent success/failure of behavior change interventions supported with mHealth.

Implications for Future Research: Behavior change strategies supported by mHealth should be designed and explicated for scientific merit prior to clinical uptake.