Sunday, May 19
Exergaming is by definition "exercise". Combining an exercise component with a video game component. Is it a crazy question to ask if it improves health? Maybe so, and that's not just a difficult question to ask of exergaming, as "health benefits" include complex sets of interactions and variables. In fact it's a crazy question to ask, like "does eating cheerios make your smarter".
Stepping aside from the technology for one moment, consider swimming as a mechanism for improving public health. Swimming is certainly great exercise, working all muscle groups, great cardio and very social too. On the face of it swimming is all set up to improve health. in practice, however, it does not for the majority of the public. Research has shown calorie intake after a session of swimming far outweighs the calories burnt during the session. People get the munchies after a swim.
Equally there's theories, with some solid research backing, that show in the normal course of events introducing a dedicated session of exercise elicits a reduction in pre-existing physical activity. Essentially some unexplained factor compensates for a bout of activity to maintain the bodies average energy expenditure.
Can a study in laboratory conditions "prove" health benefits for any exercise, let alone exergaming? No. What can be proved, to a degree, is energy expenditure levels and activity intensity. Whilst bigger numbers here would seem what we want to see, they only tell part of the story. The new study recommends using active videogaming ('exergaming') to improve children's health, it cannot be definitive.
Not all exergames are equal and not all people enjoy the same games, which is the reason why you may have seen research studies published claiming the opposite findings. We can't prove health benefits, but we can derive the factors that would make exercise sustainable and practical. For most people's money, the subject of the latest study; Kinect, doesn't make the grade in practicality or sustainability.
At Games for Health we all tried out Kinect table tennis. We had the advantage of a huge open area and didn't have to put the coffee table on eBay to make room to play but still the control recognition was so poor it was almost laughable and the game so unplayable it drove us crazy.
There's a reason video games are so popular, because they are not square pegs in round holes. There's a game to suit everyone and to tap into that sustainability is really the only way to get to health benefits. This approach is exactly what makes Gamercize the only true exergame system that's tailored to everyone's needs!
Tuesday, March 19
Active Video Gaming uses in Physical EducationI've just spotted a new comment on a Gamercize YouTube video that opens a critisim of exergaming that a lot of active games struggle to answer - where's the education component? The overriding answer to this question is there is none, as the game is just a tool for the PE teacher to use. However - some games give the teacher more to work with.
Here's the video that was commented on:
The comment says "I like the overall idea and objective of this, but how are kids working on fundamental movement skills and such. Sure this is getting heart rates up, but not actually teaching them any skills or ways to stay active throughout their lives."
Yes, Gamercize does raise HR to moderate to vigorous levels, so that's a tick in the box for physical activity, but what of the skill component? True, Gamercize is not teaching kids how to catch, but we're looking at more advanced kids - the ones that are engaged by video games.
Gamercize in this implementation is being used to teach
- Sport strategy - seeing the big picture of team interaction and how tactics can be employed
- Team play - co-operation and communication between teams of 2 to achieve a sports objective
- Physiology - which muscles are working and how energy is being created for them
I'm not a PE teacher, so that is just first impression view and I'm sure those more experience in PE will be able to find different modes of implementation that lever the power of engagement into video games to reach lesson objectives!
As for the second part of the question above, kids are like wind-up toys - just give them the opportunity to get moving and give them a start and they'll keep on moving :)
Friday, February 8
Thursday, December 20
I had written this a little while ago, but the sentiment is still valid and at this time of goodwill, sharing, friendship and helping others, I thought it was particularly relevant to post.
Unusually for an article about exergaming we are starting outdoors. At 3,500 feet to be precise. Like many of us I am comfortable with flying as a means of transport. I also enjoy flying as a pastime having earned my wings some years back qualifying to pilot light aircraft. At few thousand feet in this Cessna, I am neither comfortable nor enjoying the flight. I feel cold, I feel apprehensive, I feel unsure, I feel not in control. The once familiar rolling green countryside passing below no longer looks picturesque, it looks menacing and alien. With a cacophony of noise and blast of cold air, the side of the Cessna opens up, and I find myself at the open door, gripping the aircraft for fear of falling out. Over the noise of the engine and the roar of the slipstream I hear myself questioning how I got in this situation, how this looks like a really long way down, how I wished I was not here, uncertain of what will happen, what could happen, what to do. Then I jumped.
The members of The Exergame Network successfully raised $350 for me to take on this challenge of a solo skydive to raise money for much needed exergame research. The Exergame Network (TEN) is a non-profit, unaffiliated and unbiased group of individuals with a common goal, to advocate the appropriate use of exergaming to improve health and fitness. The group started from an expansion in interest of the genre of exergaming and a need to continue the debates between that of the annual Games for Health conferences in Boston. TEN created resources, such as the TEN wiki, and used collaboration tools such as Skype and Google Docs to advance understanding and structure thinking around exergaming.
The work of TEN led to identification that exergaming in practice was progressing far faster than research could keep up. Members of the network identified what these gaps are, from creating and analysing an evidence base of published studies on it’s wiki. We then established what progressive research questions could be asked in order to get “what we can prove” in line with “what we know”. Closing this gap is a priority for the advocacy of TEN.
In order for TEN to close this gap we are pulling together resources from its members to arrive at a package of awards that can be granted to aid the inception and completion of the missing studies. My skydive was just a part of this package, raising money that will be used for buy out from class or research assistant’s time. With a strong contingent of established researchers, academic and clinicians the awards package also includes free consultancy time to aid newcomers. This experience in exergaming provides a big advantage in the methodology and study design.
There is also a wealth of exergaming manufacturers, distributors and implementers within the TEN network that alongside pledges of free consultancy for the award package are able to donate or loan exergaming equipment to facilitate studies. We even have members who are pledging facilities, and in some instances with populations already pre-engaged in exergaming.
Completing the awards package we have pledges of dissemination opportunities that include a pre-agreed poster session and a journal publication (subject to editorial controls). When this package of awards is finalised in the new year a panel from TEN will be inviting submissions for study proposals which will answer our research questions and fill the gap between theory and practice. Successful applications will receive the awards that aid the complete process from design to publication.
Completing this project has significant outcomes. For the people “at the coal face”, supporting, promoting and implementing exergaming the publication of studies that confirm what we are telling people about exergaming will be the evidence basis to help progress the genre. For the academic community the seeding of studies in exergaming will enable more progressive research to be carried out, and give a foundation for researchers beyond simple energy expenditure studies.
Where does that leave me? Like the state of exergaming research today, I am hanging in limbo, under a parachute canopy. I soon realise there is a problem. My canopy lines are twisted and the parachute is not controllable. From the instruction of the course I know what I need to do to resolve the problem and I follow the advice to separate the risers and kick out of the twists. Under full control I can clearly see the direction I need to take and maneuver for the landing pattern. Having the advantage of experience from my fixed wing qualifications it is easy for me to fly the pattern and bring the canopy onto final approach. As I come in to landing I have a talk-down via radio to ensure my pre-landing checks are correct. Resisting the natural temptation to slow the canopy I approach on “full drive”, flaring at the right time and right height to make a successful landing.
As I walk alone back to the manifest area I realise that the success of the jump was down to having the right information to start with, the application of experience to a new environment and the continual support and guidance throughout the final landing phase. This is comparable to the experience TEN will be providing for researchers and students willing to take a leap of faith into the genre of exergaming research.
Wednesday, November 28
It should come as no shock that there is an obesity crisis. We hear it in the news every now and again, but what's the problem. A few more fat people? It's actually quite a serious issue.
For an individual take a look at this graphic
For the population that's not overweight of obese (congratulations!) there is still a serious issue
What this means is fit or fat, you're affected by obesity, either in your health or your wealth.
This is an outcry I hear you say. I'd agree. There is no mistake that I have cited UK and USA sources above, obesity is a global epidemic - a pandemic. So what are our individual countries doing to fix this for us?
The the UK we have the Change4Life campaign. Eat less, move more! Great. In the USA we have Healthy People and latterly supplemented with Let's Move! In Canada there's of course Active Healthy Kids Canada. Everything's ok now we have these great quasi-government organisations fighting for our health?
Not quite. All of these organisations have a common flaw. They do not adapt, they do not learn, they do not get disbanded if they are ineffective.
First on the block for the chop is Healthy Active Kids Canada.
"Since the formation of the Active Healthy Kids Canada in 1994, according to "Obesity in Canada - Snapshot" published by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the levels of obesity have grown from just over 20% to nearly 25%."Next up Healthy People 2010
"Since the inception of Healthy People 2010 in 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the states in America that have an obesity prevalence of 30% grew from zero states in 2000 to 12 states in 2010".What about Change4Life?
"Since the creation of the Change4Life campaign in 2009, according to the National Health Service commissioned statistics via ONS, the percentage of overweight or obese children had grown from 17% reported in 2009 to 30%"
Why if the obesity problem is recognized and agencies have been set up to combat the problem is it still getting worse? Costing us our health and our wealth? The answer is a lack of knowledge about the population they are trying to help. Technology is becoming increasingly more important in work and leisure for the modern western individual and these agencies are still touting the "go play outside" message for increasing physical activity. All of them have dismissed exergaming as part of the solution.
Exergaming is dismissed because a few studies in Nintendo Wii have failed to produce the illusive 60 minutes of MVPA (Moderate to Vigourous Physical Activity, basically, being out of puff) that most governments recommend. Equally, most people get bored of Wii Sports and go play Mario Kart instead. The lack in understanding of exergaming, and the natural aversion to technology, causes the obesity agencies to make a fatal (that'l be fatal you you, not them) mistake and provide incorrect guidance. So what if exergaming ticked the boxes for sustainability, for MVPA?
Contrary to stereotypical or ignorant belief, exergames can. At least, Gamercize can. If you only ever read one piece of research this decade, make it this one. Exergaming MVPA, sustainability and of course comparison against the dreaded Wii.
So what causes obesity? Ignorance. Or to be blunt - the ignorance of the agencies set up to combat the situation. We know exergaming works, see above, but the agencies deny this. I would rather suggest honest stupidity over a desire to worsen the crisis in order to justify the expansion the respective agencies budgets. Well, maybe I might just hint at that.
Saturday, November 24
Tuesday, November 20
Once again, just for fun, but with a serious note on sustainability. It's a key concept for Gamercize and an all to often seen flaw for exergaming, so do take a listen. If the player isn't visible below - watch on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHhLrEC5J2E
Monday, November 5
Enjoy two industry leaders from opposite sides of the planet. Many thanks to CEO of Exergaming Australia, Brett W M Young, for the collaboration!
If there is no embedded play below; Listen on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu4dV8dA-O8
Friday, August 17
The release of Sega's official video game with both Microsoft Kinect and PlayStation Move compatibility may conjure images of swan diving off the back of the sofa or hurdling over the cat in the living room. However, the exergaming aspect of the game out of the box is limited and non-existent for PC players.
There are nearly 50 events in Sega's offering for the official video game of the London Games, but only a handful of these can be played as exergames with Move and Kinect. The game is available on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 and far from being a sporting legacy from the games is basically one of those exergames we'd rather not talk about.
Why is there so little exergaming in this most obvious of titles? The reason is the motion sensor technology of the consoles is at odds with game play. The puppeteering control required to make the game playable is simply not possible using the confines of a living room. The vast majority of events use tried and tested game pad controller input, even to the point a game pad is preferred over a PC's keyboard and mouse.
The lasting legacy of the games, however, is not lost for those wishing to be active whilst re-living, or improving, their countries gold medal count. Gamercize is compatible with every event! The advantages of using Gamercize with London 2012 are the space needed is no more than sitting or standing and the control of the game is not degraded. Exercise to play is all we ask!
Gamercize has a number of options for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with our range of mini and full sized exercise machines. Check out http://www.gamercize.net to find out more. Gamercize helps Olympic exergamers to Reach the Next Level!
Wednesday, August 8
Reaching the "Hard to Reach" through Social Media
|Photo by ExergameLab http://exergamelab.org|
Exergaming is an innovative bridge from video gaming to health, that has been demonstrated in almost every country, but exergaming is not intrinsically a social media buzz-category. Why is that? It could be the approach exergaming stories should be shared needs to be different to take into account the relative infancy of the proven exergaming concept.Over recent months I have seen the success and acceptance of exergaming in social media though what was once called "cross-posting".
Cross-posting is a term that was used in bulletin boards and news groups of the old Web 1.0 and involves repeating information in different areas. Given the amount of social media available to be consumed via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources, this practice is useful today in order to reach the intended audience. In fact I intend to "cross-post" this blog post! When a story is posted there is the opportunity for readers to interact for example by "liking" or "retweeting" - a comparative measure for cross posts..
Judging the reaction by the number of "likes and comments" on exergaming cross-posts this year it is apparent that only "preaching to the converted" is working! There are very few reactions to exergaming stories in PE and physical activity forums, but plenty in exergaming circles. The most effective social circle for reaching audience is clearly The Exergame Network. The only other notable forum for exergaming is Games for Health. Both The Exergame Network (TEN) and the Games for Health organization, with its US and European factions and related Games for Health Journal, are global organizations.
There are two conclusions that can be drawn from my recent observations. Firstly, there are simply not enough knowledgeable or passionate individuals in the field of exergaming (at the moment) to sustain a buzz in anything less than a global forum. National and regional scope simply does not reach the tipping point to build momentum. I have seen individuals go it alone, and the only outcome being they fall out of the flock of exergamers!
Lastly I am concluding that approaching exergaming like it has the social kudos of gaming or fitness is the wrong approach. For exergaming "Preaching to the Converted" is all that really works. How should the approach change then? Increase those that are converted! Invite PE and physical activity advocates into The Exergame Network and Games for Health spaces, so they can consume exergaming stories, ask questions and make suggestions is a positive collaboration instead of a skeptical minority.