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.

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