Does Dynamic Tailoring of a Narrative-Driven Exergame Result in Higher User Engagement Among Adolescents? Results from A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

Schwarz, A.F.; Cardon, G.H.; Chastin, Sebastien F.M.; Stragier, Jeroen; Marez, Lieven De; DeSmet, Ann


Physical activity interventions for youth are direly needed given low adherence to physical activity guidelines, but many interventions suffer from low user engagement. Exergames that require bodily movement while played may provide an engaging form of physical activity intervention but are not perceived as engaging to all. This study aimed to evaluate whether dynamic tailoring in a narrative-driven mobile exergame for adolescents played in leisure settings, can create higher user engagement compared to a non-tailored exergame. A cluster-randomized controlled trial assessed differences in user engagement between a dynamically tailored (based on an accelerometer sensor integrated in a T-shirt) and non-tailored condition. In total, 94 participants (M age = 14.61 ± 1.93; 35% female) participated and were assigned to one of the two conditions. User engagement was measured via a survey and game metric data. User engagement was low in both conditions. Narrative sensation was higher in the dynamically tailored condition, but the non-tailored condition showed longer play-time. User suggestions to create a more appealing game included simple and more colorful graphics, avoiding technical problems, more variety and shorter missions and multiplayer options. Less cumbersome or more attractive sensing options than the smart T-shirt may offer a more engaging solution, to be tested in future research.