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A Multidisciplinary Initiative of Intervening Mobile Addiction via Family-focused and Gamification-enhanced Design



The research attempts to examine the multidisciplinary approach about incorporating interactive prototype and gamification with tangible experience (design discipline) and family functioning (social sciences discipline) to address the emerging global societal issue - mobile addiction in Hong Kong and overseas (Shek and Yu, 2016; Beranuy, Oberst, Carbonell and Chamarro, 2009) which causes negative impact to a family relationship (Takao, Takahashi & Kitamura, 2009; as cited in Chóliz, 2012) during 2016-2018.
The project also demonstrates a cross-disciplinary platform whereby innovative methods are explored for the advancement of social work’s practice. The team members include Dr. Kenny Chow (Interaction Design Lab), Mr. Benny Leong and Dr. Brian Lee (Design Led) (Asian Lifestyle Design Lab) from School of Design, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and Dr. Elda Chan (mental health and addiction counsellor of Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment (ICAPT) of Tung Wah Group Of Hospitals) who provides ‘family-based’ counselling service. The proposed family-focused intervention system (an interactive lamp with wireless mobile charging platform, a series of game design, game log, self-guided probe, home visit and interviews) is based on family functioning (Dai and Wang, 2015; Epstein, Bishop and Levin, 1978; Shek, 2002; Smilkstein, 1984) and gamification theory (Deterding et al., 2011; Caillois, 2001) to enhance intimate parent-adolescent interactivity and mitigate adolescents’ excessive mobile use through specifically designed tangible games (activated by charging /put down the mobile).
The result was presented at two conferences (one with best presentation award), in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, and exhibited at three local and international design exhibitions. The system received one product design award and one social service innovation award. The project team received additional funding (around HK$800,000) to further extend the study in which ninety families will be invited to further test the modified prototype during the end of 2018 to end of 2020.




Mobile phone overuse, Research through design, Family functioning, gamification enhanced intervention, Parents and adolescent relationship.

Project Introduction & Process

Can collective play enhance the cohesiveness of parent and adolescent relationships associated with excessive mobile phone use?


Based on the family functioning and gamification theory, this project is the first of its kind in Hong Kong that design academia collaborates with addiction counselling professions in exploring a family-focused intervention strategy (alternative practice to one of the current clinical practices) to verify the assumption that collective play activities can impact positively on parent and adolescent relationships, in return enhancing the psychosocial role of the family in mitigating the likelihood of addiction development of adolescents. With data collected and evaluated with various families, initial results apparently assured the benefits of this gamification enhanced intervention in a family context.

A play-platform (also an interactive lamp) is designed to enhance parent-adolescent interactivity at home. We identified positive benefits that physical collective-play not only stimulated emotional connectivity between parents and adolescents but also encouraged them to relive joyful memories of family activities before the mobile overuse problem had arisen. The first phase of the project was commenced in Feb 2016 and the second phase will end in 2019.

The prototype

The play-platform contains four major parts:

(i) the ‘table’, which assembled mainly by ‘ready-made’ components, such as a mobiles charger, a wooden framework, a plastic casing from IKEA, and a vibration activated timer;

(ii) the ‘lamp’, which integrates a bulb, LED display, motion sensor and Bluetooth module into a 3D printed housing to provide random game play instruction;

(iii) the game-card book where six stacks of competitive games (for physical-competence and intellectual challenges) are kept to be randomly suggested; and lastly

(iv) the gaming-record book and the lamp’s operation manual. 

The operation

Family members are encouraged to rest their phones on the play-platform for charging.  The lamp will be awoken by the first mobile to land on its charger. When all members’ phones are placed on the charger, the lamp brightened further, showing a smiling expression, and invited the family to play. When a hand waved over the lamp’s sensor, the lamp will suggest games randomly via its LED display.  Players can then open the gamebook and draw a card randomly from within the stack suggested by the lamp. Various competitive games with specific time constraints are available.


  1. LEONG Benny, LEE Brian, CHOW Kenny. (2018). Collective Play Versus Excessive Use: an Insight into Family-Focused Design Intervention for Mobile Phone Overuse. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 1-16. (DOI:

  2. LEONG Benny, LEE Brian, CHOW Kenny. (2017). A Multidisciplinary Initiative of Intervening Mobile Addiction via Family-focused and Gamification-enhanced Design, Asia - Design Engineering Workshop (A-DEWS), Seoul National University, Dec 11-12, 2017 (best presentation award)

  3. CHOW Kenny, LEONG Benny, LEE Brian. (2017). Designing intervention with technology for healthy mobile use - Personal and home approach. The First Asia Pacific Conference of Addiction Professionals (APCAP), HK, May 18-19, 2017



Lamb lamp is Bronze Design Award winner in 2017 - 2018 Lighting Products and Lighting Projects Design Award Category.




Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment (ICAPT), which was funded by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and launched in October 2012, aims to provide professional treatment services for multiple expressions of addictions and comorbid mental health disorders to the general public. To optimize the treatment outcomes, ICAPT has recruited a multi-disciplinary team consisting of psychiatrists, social workers, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatric nurse in order to provide a one-stop comprehensive assessment and treatment program including hotline counseling, individual and family counseling, health assessment and psychological and psychiatric assessment and treatment.

Team Members

Creative Director: Benny Leong

Design Director: Brian Lee

Interaction Design Consultant: Kenny Chow

ICAPT Counsellor: Elda Chan

Product Designer: Ada Chan

Engineer: John Mak

Production Consultant: Industrial Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University​

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