Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care


Computer says No: Harnessing the gaming community to promote health messages for cancer prevention

This CRUK-funded project aimed to develop an in-depth understanding of gamers’ and game developers’ perspectives on promoting positive change in the nutrition behaviours of online gamers. We conducted a narrative review that identified a need for policy and interventions to attempt to redress the effects of video game use and also the food advertisements within the gaming community.  This review also highlighted that more could be done to explore opportunities within existing online communities and virtual worlds and utilising known influencers and methods of advertising to this group. Secondary analysis of existing data from the Millenium Cohort study identified that early video game use appears to be associated with a higher BMI in later adolescence. This association was partially mediated by the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and the regularity of children’s bedtimes. We conducted a netnography of the Minecraft community forums and observed that food, nutrition and cancer are all mentioned by the Minecraft community but in a very game-specific way. We also ran a survey and found that nutrition knowledge was low among gamers and awareness of dietary risk factors for cancer was particularly low for the role of low fruit and vegetable intake. Finally, we ran a co-creation workshop which highlighted that 1) gamers are dedicated to the game, during game play, the game becomes the priority 2) Convenience and price are significant in gamers’ food choices 3) There seems to be a separation in behaviour between gaming and normal life, 4) Short term benefits, related to in-game performance and enjoyment are most talked about, but there are concealed needs that should be addressed as well 5) Although the love of gaming unites them, not all gamers are alike, 6) Authentic and trusted messengers have a significant role in reaching and influencing gamers. A range of channels was identified by gamers as ways to reach them and ideas for future interventions were generated.