If your children think peas and carrots are yucky, videogames could help them change their minds.
A study performed at the Baylor College of Medicine and published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine took a new look at the positive effects videogames can have on kids. It’s no secret that many children have a strong aversion to eating certain fruits and vegetables, a diet requirement so they can grow up to become astronauts and lawyers, but the study showed that playing vegetable-friendly videogames may help to reduce this fruit-and-vegetableism.
Kids, because they’re kids, often won’t eat a carrot because of its mental image. Fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods aren’t always left by the wayside because they don’t taste good, but because they have a stigma of being bland and boring. The study had 133 kids from 10-12, all in the upper weight range for their age, play games such as Nanoswarm and Escape From Diab that are specifically designed to put healthy eating and exercise in a positive light.
For example, Escape From Diab is an adventure game about a world where junk food is given away for free by the tyrannical King Eaties, but fruits and vegetables, what in-game characters call the “good stuff,” you have to pay for. Both games basically have a bunch of cool kids talking about how they want to eat healthy foods and exercise, with mini-games tied into somewhat exciting stories that show the players which foods and activities are good for them, and which are bad.
On average, the study found that kids will eat 2/3 more of a fruit/vegetable serving per day after playing these games. Baylor College’s Dr. Tom Baranowski says: “We believe that video games are among the most promising approaches to promoting behavior change in children. We’re at the early stages of knowing how best to use video games to promote behavior change and more research is necessary to figure out how to better use the video games in this context.”
Unfortunately, these games were also designed to promote water consumption and exercise, two activities the kids did not improve in. I don’t have a PhD in Psychology, but this is probably because there are so many drinks that taste better than water, and exercising can be a pain in the ass. Meanwhile, fruits and vegetables really do taste good if you give them a try. The next step is to create videogames that show kids they’ll have to do many things they don’t want to in their lives to be healthy and successful.