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MyCity: Glasgow – how can a mobile app based game increase physical activity in the context of a mass spectator sporting event?

Gray, Cindy and Higgs, Matthew and Ramsay, Andrew and Lennon, Marilyn (2016) MyCity: Glasgow – how can a mobile app based game increase physical activity in the context of a mass spectator sporting event? In: 2nd Behaviour Change Conference, 2016-02-24 - 2016-02-25.

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Abstract

Background: There are many mobile applications being developed to promote healthy lifestyles. Some use gamification as well as psychological behaviour change techniques (BCTs) to increase engagement and potential impact on health behaviours. Despite growing research in this area, there is little evidence of game-based apps being rigorously evaluated ‘in the wild’ to explore the mechanisms through which they can achieve widespread user-engagement and health behaviour change. MyCity: Glasgow is a mobile app-based game that aims to use BCTs (self-monitoring of physical activity with daily goal setting and feedback), gamification principles (self-expression, achievement (e.g., quizzes), status and competition) and GPS-based features (e.g., challenge trails to encourage users to physically visit locations around Glasgow) to increase physical activity (PA) and engagement with Glasgow during the period of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Aim: To use an 'in the wild' evaluation to explore the potential and mechanisms of action of a mobile app-based game to increase users' PA and engagement with their local area. Methods: MyCity: Glasgow was released on Google Play and Apple App Stores in early summer 2014, and real-time usage data logged for 3 months. A mixed-methods approach used quantitative android phone-logged data, an online user experience survey (N=56) and qualitative user interviews (n=11) to investigate uptake, use of behaviour change and gamification features, and impact on physical activity. Results: The app was downloaded 1096 times (android N=673; iOS N=423). Most users were aged 12-25 years (43.1%) or 26-40 years (32.6%), with uptake declining with age; over half (51.5%) described themselves as physically inactive at baseline. Almost a quarter (24.3%) of daily activity goals were achieved; 3,907 quiz questions were attempted, over 72% of which were answered correctly. Survey respondents and interview participants endorsed the self-monitoring and daily activity goal features "… it encouraged me to go a walk at lunchtime at work and I was intrigued to find out how many points I had. It was good to meet my daily target." Engagement with GPS-based features was low: only 11 people attempted at least one MyCity: Glasgow challenge trail. Conclusions: MyCity: Glasgow demonstrates the potential of using real-time ‘in the wild’ data logging and qualitative interviews to understand the mechanisms of engagement and action of mobile game-based apps to promote healthier lifestyles.