As college students leave their parents and arrive on campus, they are armed with books and twelve years of education preparing them to do well in the classroom. Yet, what knowledge or tools are provided to help them navigate campus life and make decisions that affect their current or future health?

The 18 million college students in the U.S. face real and growing health threats. Traditional problems such as binge drinking, poor diet, and intense academic stress are rapidly being compounded by an increasing prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, risky sexual behavior, and mental health disorders. Yet reaching college students with positive health messages—at an age where peer pressure, feelings of invincibility, and the desire to explore and test boundaries are pulling them in other directions—is a tough challenge.

The mPower! Serious Health Games™ platform provides a fun and effective tool to improve health knowledge and promote positive behavioral change among college students. Using an authentic virtual university campus, realistic scenarios, humorous dialog, and characters reminiscent of the guy or girl down the hall, we engage the players in relevant health issues set in familiar contexts. Through experiential learning, we help students develop more than just knowledge and skills. We help them create new intentions for positive behavior change, and strengthen their health self-efficacy to bolster their confidence in implementing those intentions.

mPower!™ also teaches students about self-management resources, like personal health records and tracking tools to monitor activities of daily living such as exercise, diet, and alcohol consumption. mPower!™ connects students with real-life resources on campus, such as where to go for counseling, preventive health care, or fitness opportunities. Future iterations of mPower!™ will use location-based gaming to further encourage actual—and not just intended—health behavior change. Stop at the gym, get game points. Earn game points and redeem them for a yoga mat. The boundaries between the virtual world and the real world begin to merge….

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