Seung-A Jin

Committee:
Margaret McLaughlin, Chair
Kwan Min Lee, Albert Rizzo

ABSTRACT
Effects of a Computer Game Designed for Stress Management Education

Drawing upon the Entertainment-Education paradigm, the current study aims to develop an entertaining tool for educating young people about managing mental health, focusing on the subject of stress management. The current study will focus on stress management strategies for the general population of young people.

My goal in this study is to understand how people evaluate an educational computer game designed to help them manage their health. An educational third-person perspective role-playing computer game targeting college students was designed and developed by the researcher.

The underlying themes of the current work are the effects of an educational computer game on people’s (1) self-efficacy improvement; (2) knowledge acquisition, and; (3) evaluation of virtual agents in virtual environments, at the psychological/micro level.

The interactive feedback system of the game includes the following features: choice boxes from which a player makes a selection with respect to health behaviors, a virtual agent’s verbal comments in a textual modality; a health information box, which pops up in response to players’ decision making, and a performance scoring system. The primary goal of the game design is to build an entertaining and educational environment whereby people can learn how to manage stress well. The main foci are on the effects of virtual agents on game players’ decision making, self-efficacy improvement, and knowledge acquisition.

The results of paired samples t-tests showed that playing an educational computer game resulted in improvement of health management self-efficacy and stress management self-efficacy as well as knowledge acquisition. In addition to the educational effects of playing a computer game, the effects of a virtual agent on educational value of health information in the game were examined. The results of one way ANOVA showed that 1) participants who played a computer game with a virtual agent reported a higher level of intention to buy the game than participants who played a game without a virtual agent, and; 2) participants who played an educational computer game in which the virtual agent was a doctor perceived health information conveyed in the more educational than participants in the control condition without a virtual agent.