Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Videogames are an extremely popular pastime, in particular amongst young people. Research has suggested that passive activities such as watching television and computer gaming increase the risk of excess weight gain and obesity. However, computer games are very variable, and not all involve passive participation. For example, many computer games involve exposure to violent images during simulated violent encounters. Such games involve the participant responding at high speed to simulated experiences which, in real life, would be highly stressful. In real life, stress generates many metabolic effects, including those associated with cardiovascular risk. Chronic exposure to stress, for example in the work place, has been associated with central obesity (excessive fat around the stomach). It is unknown whether simulations of violence in computer games generate the same kinds of stress response. The aim of the study is to understand if playing computer games has different effects from watching television, and if playing violent computer games generates different effects to playing non-violent games.
Who can participate?
Our study is open to healthy young men aged between 18 and 30 years.
What does the study involve?
The study involves a single visit to UCL Institute of Child Health, London. Participants will be randomly allocated to one of three activities: (a) watching television, (b) playing a non-violent computer game, or (c) playing a computer game involving high levels of simulated violence. Measurements of weight, height, heart rate, blood pressure and a saliva sample will be taken.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
All participants will learn their current weight, height and BMI, and they will also be given their blood pressure results. There are no known risks to participants.
Where is the study run from?
UCL Institute of Child Health in the Childhood Nutrition Research Centre (UK)
When is the study starting and how long is expected to be run for?
January 2010 to April 2011
Who is funding the study?
The Childhood Nutrition Research Centre at UCL Institute of Child Health
Who is the main contact?
Prof. Jonathan Wells
Metabolic response to playing video games: a randomised trial
Indices of metabolism and cardiovascular risk differ between those watching television, those playing a sport computer game, and those playing a violent video game.
University College London (UCL) Graduate School Ethics Committee, 19/05/2009, ref: 0326/004
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised controlled trial
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use the contact details below to request a patient information sheet
Cardiovascular disease and obesity
Randomisation to one of three groups:
1. Watching television
2. Playing sports video games
3. Violent video games
The study involved a single 1-hour measurement session for each participant, when they were requested to participate in their randomly-specified activity (watching television, playing a sports computer game, or playing a violent video game). The study was completed at the end of this session and no further follow up was conducted.
Primary outcome measure
Secondary outcome measures
1. Anthropometry (weight, height)
2. Saliva samples for assessment of salivary cortisol
3. Visual-scale ratings of appetite
4. Heart rate
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
1. Healthy young men
2. Aged 18-30 years
Target number of participants
Three groups of young men (16 per group) - 48
Total final enrolment
Participant exclusion criteria
2. Body mass index (BMI) <18 or >25 kg/m2
3. Weight-unstable (i.e. a change of more than 3kg in the previous 3 months)
4. Diabetic or hypertensive individuals
5. Those with chronic or acute medical conditions or medications that might affect the primary outcomes of the study
6. Those with psychiatric disorders
7. Consuming less than 21 units of alcohol per week
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
University College London
University College London Institute of Child Health - Childhood Nutrition Research Centre (UK)
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
Not provided at time of registration
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Not provided at time of registration
Basic results (scientific)
2013 results in https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24084510 (added 30/01/2020)