Thursday, May 29

Active Gaming in Top UK Gym

Gamercize at Chamberlayne Open Day!

Active gaming was highlighted during the holiday weekend with the Gamercize Gym Pod being available for the public to use.

The gaming is provided by an Xbox 360 Elite running a multitude of games, such as soccer, skateboarding, racing and adventure games. These games are top sellers in the charts, FIFA '08 being the most popular, so have no problem getting the youngsters involved.

The exercise is supplied by mini steppers and cycles, in this case one GZ Power Stepper and one GZ Endurance Cycle. Their variable resistance gives everyone an opportunity to exercise at a rate comfortable to them, no matter what their age.

The GZ Pro-Sport, at the heart of the gym pod, makes sure the player keeps exercising while gaming. It keeps controllers connected while working out, and pauses the game if the player slacks off. This feature is an important factor in getting video games into a gym, and the players don't mind the effort because their mind is in the game and not on the exercise effort.

The open day was held by Chamberlayne Leisure Centre, one of two gyms in Southampton with Gamercize equipment. Their sister gym, St Mary's Sports Centre, has a Gamercize Gym Pod that is equipped with a PlayStation 3 for providing the entertainment. The open day was a celebration of the service and excellence of Chamberlayne, recently awarded 3rd best leisure centre out of all the UK and Ireland with the highest status of excellence. The Quest Award is highly prized by the staff and rewards a lot of hard work.

Back on the Gamercize Gym Pod, Luke (15) and Josh (13) are working hard too, playing video games and getting exercise. Luke normally prefers shoot'em'up games like Halo 3 but battles to a draw in FIFA '08 with sports fan Josh. A sudden death penalty shootout is needed to decide the winner! To the dismay of Josh, he misses the spot kick and gifts the win to Luke who is delighted to win this time!

Friday, May 23

Making Exergaming Sustainable for All

Fitness Gaming Shelved as Gimmicks Lose Their Appeal!

I have talked about exergaming accessibility, and showed how Gamercize does not alienate users based on physical ability where effort based exergames can. I also touched very briefly in that post on another ingredient of the magic formula for exergaming - sustainability.

It is hard for some people to understand Gamercize sometimes – “Where’s the game that comes with it?” they say. “We don’t have a game; if we did it would lose appeal over time while the latest hot release takes over.” I say. The blank look tells me this person clearly doesn’t understand how people are engaged by video games.

If they cannot grasp the fundamentals of video gaming, how can they make good choices, especially if they are the person responsible for delivering sustainable fitness and value? Well, initially they can’t make a good choice and prefer gimmicks with single dimension games. These pieces of equipment are hopeless as a capital investment in their own right and likely to lose appeal and become unused. I have seen it happen with non-Gamercize equipment.

It takes a while to find a parallel they can understand before they realise that not having a game for Gamercize is actually far better than it being a one trick pony. Examples of latest is greatest in technological terms are easy to find, but sometimes the best way of explaining the Gamercize concept is how children play with toys.

Have you ever noticed how kids always play with the new toys they have, and don’t play with last years toys? Sure there may be an old favourite toy, but the new stuff gets the majority of the attention. After all, if one set of toys was enough then birthday presents would never be given! If you want sustainable exergaming it must change to remain interesting.

If exercise is based on a single dimension game, then the only way to maintain interest would be to buy more equipment based on a different type of single dimension game. This will be a very expensive form of sustainability. “Would it actually be far cheaper to just change the game and not the entire machine” people argue? Yep, that’s Gamercize I say, and slowly they understand!

Wednesday, May 21

Does Technology Promote Fitness or Fatness

Revealing Online Polls!

Last week I spotted a poll asking if you can get fit playing video games, as part of PALGNs fitness week. Although the guys down under assured me all video games formed the basis of the question it became evident that it was really just looking at interactive Yoga and Pilates. Sadly, nothing reviewed in that week was a real video game.

In their forum discussing the poll it also became apparent that pollsters where just thinking about Wii Fit. A bit of a missed opportunity I feel, and is reflected the results of the poll's results that showed a pretty even split. Personally I would have voted for the TV show "Aerobics Oz Style" as the best motivator for fitness in this non-video game arena, but that wasn't an opinion on the list. If you have ever watched the show - it makes you want to get into better shape, fast!

A more promising poll can be found on Gizmodo, from Sean Fallon who is a personal trainer as well as a self confessed gadget fan. The poll asks if gadgets are to blame for getting fat, or can be used for getting fit. Wii Fit and the PC version of Gamercize are mentioned as examples. Personally Sean didn't like the Gamercize PC-Sport he reviewed, but gave an informative and fair review none the less. Maybe the review would be different if Sean were just starting out with getting fit (or perhaps if he had a better desk!)?

Also mentioned in the poll is Wii Fit, the name that's opening the eyes of the world to exergaming. The Gizmodo review is probably the best review on the web. Brian Lam has done a very good review without false hope or being unrealistic. From Brian's introduction he is the right sort of person to review such a device.

Instead of claiming you never have to go to the gym or watch what you eat ever again, he puts the device in perspective - "Wii Fit builds fitness consciousness, reminding us of our body's state of being, chiding us for bad habits while encouraging the good." I think that's sound advice.

Sunday, May 18

Making Exergaming Accessible to All

Games and Exercise for Everyone!

Although I was unable to attend the Games for Health conference I followed the proceedings with great interest. The focus of GFH had previously been the medical applications of games, but exergaming stole the show this year.

One element that had proved quite tricky, well almost impossible to answer, was how to make exergaming accessible? The context of this is not putting a Wii on every street corner, that's not what it means. The context is how can everyone be involved with exergaming?

Gamercize to the rescue. Our ethos is providing the most accessible exergaming imaginable, and it is this concept our patent is based on. How do we manage it? Easy. Firstly there is no penalty for physical ability. I have heard so many times, "Wouldn't it be great if the faster you stepped/pedalled the faster your character moves on screen?". My answer is "No, that's actually the worst way!"

Breaking the link between physical ability and gameplay adds a vital ingredient - anyone can win. You just need to exercise within your ability to join in. This is important because an exergame should never tell you how much exercise to do. It is simply wires and computer code and has no formal qualifications or any ability to judge each person individually.

This has been graphically demonstrated to me on so many occasions. The most recent being a try out for 130 school children. A few of the children had mental or physical disabilities which would have precluded them from an effort based exergame - or at the very least made them dread the idea of having a go. I am happy to say that every single child was able to play and enjoy Gamercize at the same time as exercising. Every child was able to participate, everyone did and all but one enjoyed it tremendously.

That last pupil gave me concern. Why did one child not like Gamercize? A colleague of mine asked the little girl why she didn't like it and she said "I don't like that game, I want to play Pokemon"! This brings me to what I see as the most important part of the accessibility - the ability to exercise and play any game, which gives the result of being able to engage everyone. If we had brought along a Pokemon game - I would have loaded it up and got full marks for Gamercize.

How did Gamercize solve the problem of accessibility with exergames I hear you ask! Not by some clever think tank or far reaching research, but by complete accident. I wanted an exergame that father and son, (namely myself and my sons!) with wildly different physical abilities, could enjoy video games together. I also wanted an exergame that worked with all games, so there was no reason to ditch the exercise for a new game.

I think the best products are those that have been born to solve problems, not those have have manufactured to make money. Gamercize solves a lot of problems, especially the problem of accessibility. The great thing about this accidental accessibility - Everyone competes equally and Everyone is included.

Thursday, May 15

Wii Fit - What are People Doing Wrong?

Nintendo, We Have a Problem!

Today one of my colleagues was in conversation with a national newspaper journalist when the inevitable comparison between Gamercize and Wii Fit came up. This in itself is not surprising, because Gamercize is based on cardiovascular fitness machines, and Wii Fit has "Fit" in the name (and herein lies part of the problem).

Nintendo has been great news for Gamercize. We love you guys! You have raised awareness of the possibility of using video games to keep fit. Without the good intentions of the Wii, I doubt Gamercize would be in so many homes, schools, offices and gyms across the world.

I'm fully aware of the customer comments from Gamercize customers, and I feel pretty good about how we are changing peoples lives for the better. I thought it was worth looking out for Wii Fit success stories, just to boost the exergaming feel good factor!

I searched for blogs that had "Wii Fit" and "Day 1" or "Diary"; when the results came back, I am sorry to say, I was in for a shock and there is a sad story to tell; Wii Fit is not working. People are actually getting worse in fitness terms or gaining weight or seeing their BMI go up, not down. So much for feeling good about exergaming!

A lot of blogs have Day 1, up to Day 4 or so and then a week of no posts before changing the subject and having posts about other things. Only one blog I have read has a success story, but that was only due to the extra exercise being done outdoors and with swimming.

I was in a very good mood, but these stories are thoroughly depressing, so I gave up looking for any more. The ramifications for exergaming of such a high profile failure are very bad. But Wii Fit includes plenty of exercise ideas, so what is the problem or what are people doing wrong?

What my colleague had said in conversation earlier came back to me:

"With Gamercize your mind is 100% in the game, and the exercise is automatic - only becoming noticeable if you stop, which pauses the game. With Wii Fit the game is 100% exercise, it's just not sustainable and its just too easy to get bored or distracted."

That's OK for Gamercize, we know that when the next big title is released, the hours of gameplay go up and the weight comes off. Not so good for Wii Fit though. 100% Exercise as an approach which falls into the same category as the unused exercise bike in the bedroom, the rower in the garage or the weights at the back of the wardrobe.

I think the 100% exercise approach explains the diaries that start off with good intentions, only to be replaced with Mario Kart Wii or any other great game titles. One blogger explained that because Mario Kart was in the Wii when it was turned on there wasn't much point in changing discs!

However, it does not explain the people trying for weeks and getting nowhere with Wii Fit. I think the problem is the hype before release making people believe they can eat what they like, never exercise again (apart from using Wii Fit) and magically they will loose weight and become overnight sports stars.

Don't forget that Nintendo officials and even the game designer say Wii Fit will not get you fit. Wii Fit adverts on TV warn that weight loss is only possible with a calorie controlled diet. Advice from designer Shigeru Miyamoto encourages people to track their health and fitness and use this knowledge for a more healthy and active lifestyle.

I would also add that weighing oneself every day is not a good idea. You should only do this once every two weeks or so as weight varies naturally over this time period. Wii Fit is not a single one step fix, give it time. If you are not motivated then try one of the other exergaming options that actually involves popular video game titles.

I hope that what has been achieved with exergaming so far is not damaged beyond repair with Wii Fit. I do hope Wii Fit is properly understood, used by the people it was intended for and generates the (health) success it deserves. A respected medical expert view echoes this post:

Dr. Goutham Rao, clinical director of the Weight Management and Wellness Center at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, says of Wii Fit
"One of my bigger concerns is that it teaches that physical activity is not a part of your everyday routine," he said. "I can't see children sustaining this for very long. At best it will be a novelty for a few hours or a few days, even."

I would love to hear your stories about your own personal health benefits of Wii Fit. If you have sustained use for four weeks or more and noticed the difference to your life, not just your BMI, then post a comment and help us out here!

Monday, May 12

Get Fit Playing Video Games

Look into the Future of Video Games

Australia is in the future, when you are getting ready to go to sleep, they have already started work the next morning! So it's the prefect place to ask the hottest question in gaming - "Can you get fit playing video games?"

Before you answer that question you need to understand what's being asked - It's not just a question as to if you can get fit with Gamercize; if you couldn't get fit using our tried and tested cardiovascular exercise machines then someones been tinkering with the laws of biology.

The question is about absolutely everything to do with video games and fitness. Bring in Wii, Eyetoy, DDR, even enthusiastically leaping around hitting the chords in Guitar Hero. Most people will be thinking "Wii Fit" when they answer the question, so there maybe a bit of a backlash against software that goes about calling people fat as motivation for them to get fit.

I've cast my vote on Do you actually think it's possible to 'get fit' playing video games?. If you think the outcome is certain, think again - currently the vote is split right down the middle. Get your vote in at - here!

Saturday, May 10

Gamercize is Fit for the World

Gamercize Fitness Instructors bid for Miss England

This was one of the first images of Gamercize to hit the screens of gaming and fitness fans around the world. Before the Wii was on the shelves it was a lone task to inform the world of fitness gaming.

Anastasia's background as a personal trainer made her ideally placed to explain the serious side of Gamercize. No matter if she's talking to peers in the fitness industry or helping kids take their first steps with Gamercize at shows, she keeps a focus on the health benefits.

We did have to help out a bit with the video games, but nothing seemed to be beyond her. Now she's setting her sights higher, for the title of Miss England, from there maybe the world?

If you look at her latest picture on her Miss England event page you'll see she hasn't aged a bit! Now that's a far more credible fitness story than a certain one could mention!

Go ahead, send in a vote for our own Anastasia Harris and help her reach the next level. See the official page here.

Wednesday, May 7

Video Games for Health and Fitness

New Exergaming YouTube Group Launched

Video games and exercise form the hottest, newest and most exciting wave of leisure exercise. Its fun and its good for your health, there is no better excuse to get fit and enjoy it!

Here is the pick of the best YouTube videos, check out the Exergaming Group to see lots of others and add your own. See the films and get motivated to join in at your local hi-tech gym or at home with Gamercize and others.

Friday, May 2

How to Get Facebook at Work

Social Networking Flexes its Muscles

You used to be able to access social networking sites like Facebook from your work PC but now it has been taken away. Why? How can you possibly arrange the weekend without it? How can you check what photos you have been tagged in from last weekend?

Facebook is, according to the web information company
Alexa, the most popular social networking site having overtaken MySpace last month. It also joins the list of sites companies prefer not to have workers using. Reasons for blocking sites vary from the concerns about network traffic, issues around data security down to the slightly more honest “you are here to work not browse”. I know of one company that has even blocked news sites including the BBC.

While I do agree that during working hours the need for access to such sites has very little credibility, there is no compelling reason to block access which also includes lunch hours. After all, your unpaid time at lunch has been compromised by the location of your work. You can’t exercise free choice in what you do, and if you live more than half an hour from home you wouldn’t even be able to check your Facebook page.

Gamercize on Facebook

So how do you get your Facebook access at work? The answer came in a month or so ago with an email to Gamercize customer services, which found its way to my desk. The email was from an employee of a large corporation that had banned Facebook and was located out of town in a remote commercial zone. The disappointed worker had been keeping in touch with friends not by company telephone or company email, but by Facebook. He asked if we could contact his boss with an idea.

That is exactly what I did, putting forward his idea to use a couple of PCs, due for replacement, to be moved into the canteen and put on the internet. The justification for having these machines was given by having them connected with the Gamercize PC-Sport Stepper, helping the company provide exercise in the workplace. The two “Internet CafĂ©” machines, as they have been called, have been in for a week now and proved very popular.

Happy employees get to use the internet in their free time, without losing the opportunity for lunchtime exercise. The corporation is happy that they can provide this service to their employees and can start to address work health targets. Now all that remains if for those employees to fan the
Gamercize Facebook page!