The Effect of Expectations on Experiences and Engagement with an Applied Game for Mental Health

Aniek Wols*, Tom Hollenstein, Anna Lichtwarck-Aschoff, Isabela Granic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Applied games are considered a promising approach to deliver mental health interventions. Nonspecific factors such as expectations and motivation may be crucial to optimize effectiveness yet have not been examined so far. The current study examined the effect of expectations for improvement on (1) experienced fun and positive affect, and (2) in-game play behaviors while playing MindLight, an applied game shown to reduce anxiety. The secondary aim was to examine the moderating role of symptom severity and motivation to change.

Materials and Methods: Fifty-seven participants (47 females; 17-21 years old) preselected on anxiety symptoms viewed a trailer in which MindLight was promoted as either a mental health or an entertainment game. These trailers were used to induce different expectations in participants. Participants subsequently played the game for 60 minutes. Before playing, participants filled out questionnaires about their general anxiety symptoms, motivation to change, state anxiety, affect, and arousal. While playing, in-game behaviors and galvanic skin response (GSR) were recorded continuously. After playing, state anxiety, affect, and arousal were measured again as well as experienced fun.

Results: Participants in both trailer conditions showed increases in state anxiety, arousal, and GSR. Expectations did not influence experienced fun and positive affect, nor in-game behaviors. In addition, no moderation effects of motivation to change and symptom severity were found.

Conclusion: Experiences and engagement with MindLight were not influenced by expectations, motivation to change, and symptom severity. For future research, it is recommended to examine individual differences in these effects, and long-term and more distal outcomes and processes.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalGames for Health Journal
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3-May-2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Applied games
  • Nonspecific factors
  • Anxiety
  • Expectations
  • Motivation
  • COGNITIVE-BEHAVIORAL THERAPY
  • VIDEO GAME
  • COMMON FACTORS
  • PATIENT EXPECTATIONS
  • PLACEBO-RESPONSE
  • ANXIETY
  • PSYCHOTHERAPY
  • EXPECTANCY
  • DEPRESSION
  • DISORDERS

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