The use of game-like elements is become increasingly popular in the context of fitness and health apps. While such “gamified” apps hold great potential in motivating people to improve their health, they also come with a “darker side”. Recent work suggests that these gamified health apps raise a number of ethical challenges that, if left unaddressed, are not only morally problematic but also have adverse effects on user health and engagement with the apps. However, studies highlighting the ethical challenges of gamification have also met with criticism, indicating that they fall short of providing guidance to practitioners. In avoiding this mistake, this paper seeks to advance the goal of facilitating a practice-relevant guide for designers of gamified health apps to address ethical issues raised by use of such apps. More specifically, the paper seeks to achieve two major aims: (a) to propose a revised practice-relevant theoretical framework that outlines the responsibilities of the designers of gamified health apps, and (b) to provide a landscape of the various ethical issues related to gamified health apps based on a systematic literature review of the empirical literature investigating adverse effects of such apps.
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