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DOI: 10.2196/48401


BACKGROUND: Positive self-esteem predicts happiness and well-being and serves as a protective factor for favorable mental health. Scholarly gaming within the school setting may serve as a channel to deliver a mental health curriculum designed to improve self-esteem.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to evaluate the impact of a scholarly gaming curriculum with and without an embedded preventive mental health curriculum, Mental Health Moments (MHM), on adolescents' self-esteem.

METHODS: The scholarly gaming curriculum and MHM were developed by 3 educators and a school-based health intervention expert. The scholarly gaming curriculum aligned with academic guidelines from the International Society for Technology Education, teaching technology-based career skills and video game business development. The curriculum consisted of 40 lessons, delivered over 14 weeks for a minimum of 120 minutes per week. A total of 83 schools with previous gaming engagement were invited to participate and 34 agreed. Schools were allocated to +MHM or -MHM arms through a matched pairs experimental design. The -MHM group received the scholarly gaming curriculum alone, whereas the +MHM group received the scholarly gaming curriculum plus MHM embedded into 27 lessons. MHM integrated concepts from the PERMA framework in positive psychology as well as the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) standards in education, which emphasize self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Participants in the study were students at schools offering scholarly gaming curricula and were enrolled at recruitment sites. Participants completed a baseline and postintervention survey quantifying self-esteem with the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (score range 0-30). A scoreanalysis.

RESULTS: Of the 471 participants included in the analysis, 235 received the -MHM intervention, and 236 received the +MHM intervention. Around 74.9% (n=353) of participants were in high school, and most (n=429, 91.1%) reported this was their first year participating in scholarly gaming. Most participants were male (n=387, 82.2%). Only 58% (n=273) reported their race as White. The average self-esteem score at baseline was 17.9 (SD 5.1). Low self-esteem was reported in 22.1% (n=104) of participants. About 57.7% (n=60) of participants with low self-esteem at baseline rated themselves within the average level of self-esteem post intervention. When looking at the two groups, self-esteem scores improved by 8.3% among the +MHM group compared to no change among the -MHM group (P=.002). Subgroup analyses revealed that improvements in self-esteem attributed to the +MHM intervention differed by race, gender, and sexual orientation.

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents enrolled in a scholarly gaming curriculum with +MHM had improved self-esteem, shifting some participants from abnormally low self-esteem scores into normal ranges. Adolescent advocates, including health care providers, need to be aware of nontraditional educational instruction to improve students' well-being.

Journal Title

JMIR Serious Games



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adolescent; adolescents; gaming; mental health; scholastic gaming; school; school mental health; self-esteem; serious game; serious games; student; students; youth


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