Modeling the efficacy of persuasive strategies for different gamer types in serious games for health


Persuasive games for health are designed to alter human behavior or attitude using various Persuasive Technology (PT) strategies. Recent years have witnessed an increasing number of such games, which treat players as a monolithic group by adopting a one-size-fits-all design approach. Studies of gameplay motivation have shown that this is a bad approach because a motivational approach that works for one individual may actually demotivate behavior in others. In an attempt to resolve this weakness, we conducted a large-scale study on 1,108 gamers to examine the persuasiveness of ten PT strategies that are commonly employed in persuasive game design, and the receptiveness of seven gamer personalities (gamer types identified by BrianHex) to the ten PT strategies. We developed models showing the receptiveness of the gamer types to the PT strategies and created persuasive profiles, which are lists of strategies that can be employed to motivate behavior for each gamer type. We then explored the differences between the models and, based on the results, proposed two approaches for data-driven persuasive game design. The first is the one-size-fits-all approach that will motivate a majority of gamers, while not demotivating any player. The second is the personalized approach that will best persuade a particular type of gamer. We also compiled a list of the best and the worst strategies for each gamer type. Finally, to bridge the gap between game design and PT researchers, we map common game mechanics to the persuasive system design strategies.

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  1. 1.

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The first author of this paper is being sponsored by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Vanier Graduate Scholarship.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rita Orji.




Storyboard Illustrating Comparison Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Competition Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Cooperation Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Customization Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Personalization Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Praise Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Reward Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Self-monitoring Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Simulation Strategy


Storyboard Illustrating Suggestion Strategy

Each storyboard was followed by two comprehension questions (1) and (2) and questions for accessing perceived persuasiveness of the strategies (3):

  1. 1.

    In your own words, please describe what is happening in this storyboard ...

  2. 2.

    What strategy does this storyboard represent?—Participants were required to choose one out of the ten strategies.

    1. a.

      CUSTOMIZATION—(An application that allows user to customize its content (e.g., the appearance of avatar) to his/her choice).

    2. b.

      SIMULATION—(An application that provides the means for a user to observe immediate and projected outcome of his/her behavior).

    3. c.

      SELF-MONITORING and FEEDBACK—(An application that allows user to track his/her own performance or status. It provides information on both past and current performance).

    4. d.

      PRAISE—(An application that applauds its users for performing target behaviors via words, images, symbols, or sounds as a way of giving positive feedback to the user).

    5. e.

      SUGGESTION—(An application that recommends certain behaviors (for achieving a favorable/desired outcome) to its use).

    6. f.

      REWARD—An application that offers virtual rewards to users in order to give credit for performing the target behavior.

    7. g.

      COMPETITION—(An application that provides means for users to compete with others. It awards points (as virtual reward) to winner).

    8. h.

      COMPARISON—(An application that provides means for a users to view and compare his/her performance with the performance of other user(s)).

    9. i.

      COOPERATION—(An application that provides users opportunity to cooperate (work together) to achieve shared objectives. Users are rewarded if they achieve their collective goals).

    10. j.

      PERSONALIZATION—(An application that offers personalized content and services to its users. Recommendations are based on users’ personal characteristics).

  3. 3.

    Scales for accessing perceived persuasiveness of the strategies. Imagine that you are using the system presented in storyboard above to track your daily eating, on a scale of 1 to 7 (1-Strongly disagree and 7-Strongly agree), to what extend do you agree with the following statements:

    1. a.

      The system would influence me.

    2. b.

      The system would be convincing.

    3. c.

      The system would be personally relevant for me.

    4. d.

      The system would make me reconsider my eating habits.

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Orji, R., Vassileva, J. & Mandryk, R.L. Modeling the efficacy of persuasive strategies for different gamer types in serious games for health. User Model User-Adap Inter 24, 453–498 (2014).

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  • Tailored persuasion
  • Persuasive technology
  • Persuasive game
  • Gamer types
  • Persuasive strategies
  • Health
  • Player typology
  • Serious games
  • Personalized persuasion
  • Healthy eating
  • BrainHex