Background: User involvement is widely accepted as key for designing effective applied games for health. This especially holds true for children and young people as target audiences, whose abilities, needs, and preferences can diverge substantially from those of adult designers and players. Nevertheless, there is little shared knowledge about how concretely children and young people have been involved in the design of applied games, let alone consensus guidance on how to do so effectively.
Objective: The aim of this scoping review was to describe which user involvement methods have been used in the design of applied games with children and young people, how these methods were implemented, and in what roles children and young people were involved as well as what factors affected their involvement.
Methods: We conducted a systematic literature search and selection across the ACM Digital Library, IEEE Xplore, Scopus, and Web of Science databases using State of the Art through Systematic Review software for screening, selection, and data extraction. We then conducted a qualitative content analysis on the extracted data using NVivo.
Results: We retrieved 1085 records, of which 47 (4.33%) met the eligibility criteria. The chief involvement methods were participatory design (20/47, 43%) and co-design (16/47, 37%), spanning a wide range of 45 concrete activities with paper prototyping, group discussions, and playtesting being the most frequent. In only half of the studies (24/47, 51%), children and young people participated as true design partners. Our qualitative content analysis suggested 5 factors that affect their successful involvement: comprehension, cohesion, confidence, accessibility, and time constraints.
Conclusions: Co-design, participatory design, and similar high-level labels that are currently used in the field gloss over very uneven degrees of participation in design and a wide variety of implementations that greatly affect actual user involvement. This field would benefit from more careful consideration and documentation of the reason of user involvement. Future research should explore concrete activities and configurations that can address the common challenges of involving children and young people, such as comprehension, cohesion, confidence, and accessibility.
(©Michael John Saiger, Sebastian Deterding, Lina Gega. Originally published in JMIR Serious Games (https://games.jmir.org), 16.03.2023.)