Most adult smokers initiate tobacco use before age 18, with considerable increases in initiation and the highest
rates of use observed between the ages of 18 and 29. Although conventional cigarette use is declining
somewhat, use of e-cigarettes that can promote future nicotine addiction is on the rise, particularly for youth.
These statistics speak to the need to identify new methods of delivering messages designed to reduce both
cigarette and e-cigarette (e-cig) use to younger Americans (i.e., adolescents and young adults). One promising
approach involves delivery of graphic health warnings that communicate the risks associated with these
products. The proposed research explores delivery of graphic health warnings from within virtual gaming
environments. Previous research indicates that videogames can be used effectively to deliver smoking-
prevention messages, but past efforts have focused on videogames designed around health-education themes
(what are called “serious” games). With surveys indicating that 97% of adolescents and 80% of young adults
play videogames for entertainment, use of entertainment videogames as a tool for delivering graphic warnings
has tremendous potential to influence youth cigarette and e-cig rates. However, before such an approach can
be pursued, researchers need to better understand health communication dynamics in computer-mediated,
virtual gaming worlds. The current project addresses this need and tests the viability of The Virtual
Transportation Model of Health Communication. This model posits that, as gamers become psychologically
immersed (or “transported”) into virtual reality, their tendency to resist persuasive messages they encounter in
these worlds is disrupted. The model further posits that such disruption will typically be strongest among
individuals who are most likely to resist or reject “real-world” interventions. Support for predictions comes from
pilot research conducted by our research team. In this research, graphic health warnings against alcohol-
impaired driving and cigarette smoking were embedded in background scenes of entertaining, interactive 3D
virtual gaming worlds. Such messages were shown to reduce willingness to engage in these behaviors in the
future, particularly among higher-risk individuals who reported feeling psychologically “transported” during
game play. The proposed research will build on this work by testing the viability of videogame-based
interventions. In Phase 1 (Years 1 & 2) we will refine two existing videogames and develop two new ones while
simultaneously empirically evaluating the best methods of delivering in-game health communications and the
mechanisms by which transportation heightens in-game influence. In Phase 2 (Years 3 & 4), we will conduct
randomized field trials of game-based interventions with two groups, a probability sample of adolescents (13 –
18) and an at-risk sample of young adults (18 – 24). In Phase 3 (Year 5) we will aggregate data across studies
to create helath campaign recommendations and to launch an interactive gaming server that will permit broad
distribution of empirically validated games, for use by independent health communication researchers.
If you are accessing this page during weekend or evening hours, the database may currently be offline for maintenance and should operational within a few hours. Otherwise, we have been notified of this error and will be addressing it immediately.
Please contact us
if this error persists.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
- The DCCPS Team.