Electronic Games for Facilitating Social Interaction Between Parents With Cancer and Their Children During Hospitalization: Interdisciplinary Game Development

Karin Piil, Helle Holm Gyldenvang, Jeppe Kilberg Møller, Tine Kjoelsen, Jesper Juul, Helle Pappot


BACKGROUND: Most cancer treatments today take place in outpatient clinics; however, it might be necessary for some patients to be admitted to hospital departments due to severe side effects or complications. In such situations, support from family and social relations can be crucial for the patients' emotional well-being. Many young adolescents and children whose parents have cancer describe how they are not seen, heard, or listened to as the worried relatives they are. Within the intensive care unit, it has been recommended that early supportive interventions are tailored to include children of the intensive care patient; a similar approach might be relevant in the oncological setting. To our knowledge, no studies have explored how to involve young relatives who are visiting their parent at an oncological department. Recently, a framework for developing theory-driven, evidence-based serious games for health has been suggested. Such a process would include stakeholders from various disciplines, who only work toward one specific solution. However, it is possible that bringing together different disciplines, such as design, art, and health care, would allow a broader perspective, resulting in improved solutions.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to develop tools to enhance the social interaction between a parent with cancer and their child when the child visits the parent in the hospital.

METHODS: In total, 4 groups of design students within the Visual Design program were tasked with developing games addressing the objective of strengthening relations in situ during treatment. To support their work, the applied methods included professional lectures, user studies, and visual communication (phase I); interviews with the relevant clinicians at the hospital (phase II), co-creative workshops with feedback (phase III), and evaluation sessions with selected populations (phase IV). The activities in the 4 phases were predefined. This modified user design had the child (aged 4-18 years) of a parent with cancer as its primary user.

RESULTS: Overall, 4 different games were designed based on the same information. All games had the ability to make adults with cancer and their children interact on a common electronic platform with a joint goal. However, the interaction, theme, and graphical expression differed between the games, suggesting that this is a wide and fertile field to explore.

CONCLUSIONS: Playing a game can be an efficient way to create social interaction between a parent with cancer and a child or an adolescent, potentially improving the difficult social and psychological relations between them. The study showed that the development of serious games can be highly dependent on the designers involved and the processes used. This must be considered when a hospital aims to develop multiple games for different purposes.

TidsskriftJMIR serious games
Udgave nummer1
Sider (fra-til)e16029
StatusUdgivet - 21 jan. 2021


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