The Making and Evaluation of Digital Games Used for the Assessment of Attention: A Systematic Review (Preprint)

Katelyn Wiley, Raquel Robinson, Regan L. Mandryk
2020 JMIR Serious Games  
Serious games are now widely used in many contexts, including psychological research and clinical use. One area of growing interest is that of cognitive assessment, which seeks to measure different cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and perception. Measuring these functions at both the population and individual levels can inform research and indicate health issues. Attention is an important function to assess, as an accurate measure of attention can help diagnose many common
more » ... s, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dementia. However, using games to assess attention poses unique problems, as games inherently manipulate attention through elements such as sound effects, graphics, and rewards, and research on adding game elements to assessments (ie, gamification) has shown mixed results. The process for developing cognitive tasks is robust, with high psychometric standards that must be met before these tasks are used for assessment. Although games offer more diverse approaches for assessment, there is no standard for how they should be developed or evaluated. To better understand the field and provide guidance to interdisciplinary researchers, we aim to answer the question: How are digital games used for the cognitive assessment of attention made and measured? We searched several databases for papers that described a digital game used to assess attention that could be deployed remotely without specialized hardware. We used Rayyan, a systematic review software, to screen the records before conducting a systematic review. The initial database search returned 49,365 papers. Our screening process resulted in a total of 74 papers that used a digital game to measure cognitive functions related to attention. Across the studies in our review, we found three approaches to making assessment games: gamifying cognitive tasks, creating custom games based on theories of cognition, and exploring potential assessment properties of commercial games. With regard to measuring the assessment properties of these games (eg, how accurately they assess attention), we found three approaches: comparison to a traditional cognitive task, comparison to a clinical diagnosis, and comparison to knowledge of cognition; however, most studies in our review did not evaluate the game's properties (eg, if participants enjoyed the game). Our review provides an overview of how games used for the assessment of attention are developed and evaluated. We further identified three barriers to advancing the field: reliance on assumptions, lack of evaluation, and lack of integration and standardization. We then recommend the best practices to address these barriers. Our review can act as a resource to help guide the field toward more standardized approaches and rigorous evaluation required for the widespread adoption of assessment games.
doi:10.2196/26449 pmid:34383674 pmcid:PMC8386381 fatcat:pdr7tmd2i5bbfd2wpilgrdxeha