Sunday, February 10

What is Exergaming?

Ask Your Kids What an Exergame is!

The misuse of the term exergaming is not surprising as there is no formal definition in any recognised dictionary. The joining of the words exercise and game could define football, tennis or any sport as an exergame - but the term is being used to group together new and exciting fitness technology.

Some commercial organizations have spotted this market, and misuse the term aggressively to gain credibility and revenue. This is not good practice, but the lack of definition has left the door wide open. Exergaming is a good thing, but it's meaning goes deeper than the joining of two words.

In the last two or three years the realisation that 21st century lifestyles are taking a toll on our health has come into the media spotlight. The traditional pastimes for enjoyment have been replaced by labor saving devices providing huge diversity of entertainment for it's target audience. These labor saving devices, designed to make entertainment convenient and effortless, are video game consoles.

If there is going to be a definition of exergaming then it should reflect the environment that has driven the term to be in common use. Exergames have been born from the use of video games so therefore are themselves video games, but with added exercise.

So is the Nintendo Wii and exegame? Absolutely. Is Sony's Eyetoy an exergame? Most probably. Are Konami's dance mats exergames? The original. Is Gamercize an exergame? Without doubt.

So what is masquerading as an exergame that is not? Flashing lights you hit in sequence. No video game there. Game bikes with hardware graphics from the 70's? Not a chance. I have even seen one company use the term "interactive video game" for a product that does not even have a video screen! These pretenders could be good exercise and they can provide a reasonable amount of fun, but they are not exergames.

Exergames address the social need, they need to be as fun and engaging as a games console but also give physical exercise in a sustainable and safe manner. In my experience the best judge of what makes a true exergame are children. They know when activities are fun and enjoyable. They know what will keep them active and having fun - video games with exercise.

The term exergame is being used by some as an advertising gimmick. Without a video games console and a number of games that can be used - there is no exergame. Do not be fooled.


Exergaming Evangelist said...

I'm not sure who wrote this post, but I have to disagree on this post's definition of "exergame". Exergames are not exclusive to having a video screen. In all my years in this infant and exploding field, I have never seen anyone limit the definition of exergames to just those with a video screen.

If you break the word down, exergame = exercise and games, it's not "exervidgame". In my definition, bouldering and climbing a rock wall (or a treadwall) fits the exergame definition because it's exercise and can be a game. Same with playing paintball--it's exercise and a game.

That includes some of the biggest supporters of the exergaming world: Sportwall, Makoto, and 3Kick.

I may not be the first one to start the exergaming (or exertainment movement) movement, but I would dare say that we have...and are...paying our dues in this field, so I feel that I provide some credibility to what I'm saying here.

Please do not limit the growth of this fledgling field by limiting exergames to only those activities with a videoscreen. It's much more than that!

Anonymous said...

As the President and Founder of Bulldog Interactive Fitness ( first interactive fitness facility designed for youth, I must agree with Ernie - the Exergaming Evangelist. We currently have 10 gyms acros Canada and now are moving into Florida and Korea - we have a first hand knowledge of what Exergaming is. Exergaming is a term to describe what we do at our gym: we combine EXERcise with GAMES, thus Exergames are used throughout all of our clubs. Sportwall, Makoto and the DDR, rowing using games -- even playing Dogdgeball in the dark with glow lighting -- these are all forms of exercise and games. We absolutely use video games in some of our equipment, but it's more than that. The Exergaming Evangelist is correct, in my opinion, we don't have to hook everything up to a traditional video screen to call it Exergaming. It is SO much more than that!! Holly Bond, Founder, Bulldog Interactive Fitness for Youth

gamercize @ said...

Ernie + Holly

Thank you for your comments, I highly respect both of your opinions.

I have personally played SportWall and found it great fun; but taking nothing away from the value of this equipment in getting youngsters active, I would still class this is exertainment rather than exergame though.

Consider basketball - its a game with exercise - but is it an exergame? No, it's a sport.

The word exergame has been thrown about and I believe there should be a formal definition - not only to reflect the environment that has driven the term to be in common use, but also to protect the public from mis-use.

Dr A Thin, after his study was referenced has started a set of principles here. I think it would be very useful if we continue the debate out of which a definition should be achievable?

Richard Coshott - Founder and Director of Gamercize.

Penda, The Virtual One said...

Let's make it even more interesting and add the term "Virtual Fitness" into the mix. Perhaps this term could be used to describe the meeting of virtual reality technology with fitness formats and techniques, excluding the "game" altogether. As the self-appointed Goddess of Virtual Fitness, Virtual Penda, I've wii-searched and developed programing that combines the Wii with my background as an Aerobic Group Fitness Professional Instructor and Tai Chi practitioner producing some pretty fun and physically challenging group fitness classes. Try our DDR classes feat. Hottest Party and you can experience what I'm talking bout.

So exergamers and exertainers, continue developing your fields and I will continue to develop the newest trend in the fitness industry, the field of Virtual Fitness.

To learn more tune into my show on

Virtual Fitness Wii FAB (For Absolute Beginners) where fun and fitness meet!

Tuesdays and Thursdays
7:30 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. EST



Floyd said...


If I can throw in my opinion on the definition of Exergames, from a researcher perspective in human-computer interaction (I am actually writing a paper on exertion over computer networks, which I can post once finished):

exergames for me consist of the following components:

- exertion (note the distinction to exercising): the activity is centered on making you physically exhausted and can lead to muscle fatigue. Mostly it is gross motor skill focused.

- the activity is computer augmented which allows for interactivity. The engagement is faciliated by computer gaming, so a better term would be exergaming, not exergame.
The computer is aware of the exertion, and reacts to it. I.e. a simple sensor is not enough, nor is a gaming aspect that is not centered on the exertion.

What does that mean:
Wii: yes
sportwall: yes
paintball: no
World of warcraft: no
Rock-climbing: no
basketball: no

Why? people have been playing games for thousand of years, most of them are actually physical games (and were not much different to bouldering, paint ball etc.)
Only recent advances in computing technology allow for new experiences, because they allow for interactivity that can provide novel feedback or feedback that was previously hard to obtain in a direct and convenient manner.

Hope that helps,

gamercize @ said...

Penda + Floyd

You're more than welcome to throw opinions into the mix!

I agree exergaming is an easier to understand term than exergame, as gaming has been in common use to mean "video game playing" for some time now.

However, gaming has also been used to describe the act of gambling! Does the mere fact exergame cannot stand on it's own weaken the term? I'm not so sure.

Your point about exertion instead of exercise may actually exclude the Wii (see most recent post)!!

I think any interaction is an interaction, regardless of degree, and a simple interaction is actually better than full exercise control - as it enables everyone of all abilities to join in equally, and turns exercise into incidental exercise, which is less noticeable for the effort expended and (from my experience) more sustainable.

I think everyone who has commented pretty much agrees the encompassing term "exertainment" is the fairest description of the whole technology reaction to the growing inactivity crisis. I would think "Virtual Fitness" fits into that category too?

I have still to be convinced that exergaming(!) is not the combination of video games and exercise.

By the way, I played a golf game in the UK using real clubs, a huge screen and detectors - your kit by any chance? It was pretty good fun. Perhaps Ernie and Holly could make use of them?!