"alien Health Game": An Embodied Exergame to Instruct in Nutrition and MyPlate

Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg, Eric B. Hekler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Objective: A feasibility study was run on an immersive, embodied exergame ("Alien Health Game") designed to teach 4th-12th-grade students about nutrition and several U.S. Department of Agriculture MyPlate guidelines. This study assessed acceptability and limited efficacy. Students learned about the amount of nutrients and optimizers in common food items and practiced making rapid food choices while engaging in short cardiovascular activities. Subjects and Methods: Nineteen 4th graders played a "mixed reality" game that included both digital components (projected graphics on the floor) and tangible, physical components (hand-held motion-tracking wands). Players made food choices and experienced immediate feedback on how each item affected the Alien avatar's alertness/health state. One member of the playing dyad had to run short distances to make the game work. The final level included a digital projection of the MyPlate icon, and each food item filled the appropriate quadrant dynamically. Results: All students remained engaged with the game after approximately 1 hour of play. Significant learning gains were seen on a pretest and posttest that assessed nutrition knowledge (paired t18=4.13, P<0.001). In addition, significant learning gains were also seen in knowledge regarding MyPlate (paired t18=3.29, P<0.004). Conclusions: Results suggest preliminary feasibility via demonstrated acceptability and improved within-group content knowledge. Future research should explore improved measures of knowledge gains, alternative mechanisms for supporting the game mechanics to increase the scalability of the system (i.e., via Kinect® [Microsoft®, Redmond, WA] sensors), and the formal evaluation of the system via a randomized controlled trial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-361
Number of pages8
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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