The Role of Transfer in Designing Games and Simulations for Health: Systematic Review

Kuipers, D. A., Terlouw, G., Wartena, B. O., van 't Veer, J. T. B., Prins, J. T. & Pierie, J. P. E. N., 24-Nov-2017, In : Jmir serious games. 5, 4, 9 p., 23.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Background: The usefulness and importance of serious games and simulations in learning and behavior change for health and health-related issues are widely recognized. Studies have addressed games and simulations as interventions, mostly in comparison with their analog counterparts. Numerous complex design choices have to be made with serious games and simulations for health, including choices that directly contribute to the effects of the intervention. One of these decisions is the way an intervention is expected to lead to desirable transfer effects. Most designs adopt a first-class transfer rationale, whereas the second class of transfer types seems a rarity in serious games and simulations for health.

Objective: This study sought to review the literature specifically on the second class of transfer types in the design of serious games and simulations. Focusing on game-like interventions for health and health care, this study aimed to (1) determine whether the second class of transfer is recognized as a road for transfer in game-like interventions, (2) review the application of the second class of transfer type in designing game-like interventions, and (3) assess studies that include second-class transfer types reporting transfer outcomes.

Methods: A total of 6 Web-based databases were systematically searched by titles, abstracts, and keywords using the search strategy (video games OR game OR games OR gaming OR computer simulation*) AND (software design OR design) AND (fidelity OR fidelities OR transfer* OR behaviour OR behavior). The databases searched were identified as relevant to health, education, and social science.

Results: A total of 15 relevant studies were included, covering a range of game-like interventions, all more or less mentioning design parameters aimed at transfer. We found 9 studies where first-class transfer was part of the design of the intervention. In total, 8 studies dealt with transfer concepts and fidelity types in game-like intervention design in general; 3 studies dealt with the concept of second-class transfer types and reported effects, and 2 of those recognized transfer as a design parameter.

Conclusions: In studies on game-like interventions for health and health care, transfer is regarded as a desirable effect but not as a basic principle for design. None of the studies determined the second class of transfer or instances thereof, although in 3 cases a nonliteral transfer type was present. We also found that studies on game-like interventions for health do not elucidate design choices made and rarely provide design principles for future work. Games and simulations for health abundantly build upon the principles of first-class transfer, but the adoption of second-class transfer types proves scarce. It is likely to be worthwhile to explore the possibilities of second-class transfer types, as they may considerably influence educational objectives in terms of future serious game design for health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23
Number of pages9
JournalJmir serious games
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 24-Nov-2017


  • transfer, computer simulation, video games, serious games, games for health, fidelity, abstract learning, immersion, metaphor, VIDEO GAME, FIDELITY, SKILLS, FRAMEWORK, OUTCOMES

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