Playing games containing food makes kids eat more candy
Frans Folkvord, a behavioral scientist working at Radboud University, is about to receive his PhD for showing that children who play games that contain food are a lot more likely to eat candy afterwards. It’s news that’s set to worry parents and upset marketeers who probably discovered this a long time ago and have been milking it ever since.The problem with advertising in games is how easily an advert can be hidden within, or actually be the game (advergame). There’s also no real limits as to how long an advertisement can be viewed. On TV, the adverts are shown regularly, but for set intervals, where as a game can be played continuously, and there can be several of them from a specific brand.When it comes to children, that forms a problem. They love playing games and according to Folkvord’s research involving 1,000 kids, find it very difficult to recognize when a game is an advertisement (only 6% did). When that game contains food rather than a toy, he found that children are 55% more likely to consume candy offered to them afterwards. It doesn’t matter what food appears in the game, candy is more readily accepted and on average 72 more calories are consumed within 5 minutes of finishing playing. That’s roughly 16 M&Ms.Of course, that additional consumption depends on the availability of candy to the child once they finish playing. The main concern here is that these games make children want to eat, and they like to eat junk if they have access to it. Combine that with a lack of rules/guidance about advertising in these freely available games, and Folkvord believes something needs to change:“Children play a game, get hungry and reach for treats. As the cycle continues, children fail to learn healthy eating behavior. The results of my study indicate that these advertisements have an even heavier influence on children who are already overweight.”Folkvord’s next step is a collaboration with the University of Barcelona and the creation of recommendations that will be presented to the European Union. In the end, it could mean new rules governing what advergames aimed at children can contain, at least within Europe.So, Activision probably bought King so they can sneak their way into the actual candy business.