Tuesday, July 29

Video Games Literally Saving the Planet

Online Gamercize Tournament Equivalent to planting 140 trees!

As the utility bills come in it is easy to see the cost of energy is rising painfully. Apart from the cash cost of using fuel there is also the environmental costs, most easily measured by carbon calculations.

Most people can have a little leeway in the miles they drive or tweaking the temperature setting by a few degrees, but the most obvious cost and carbon saver is leisure and sporting activity.

I read the Beijing Olympics are going to produce some 1.18 million tonnes of carbon which works out at 225,000 lbs per entrant. That is very nearly a quarter of a million pounds of carbon per participant!

Curiously, I looked into what Gamercize's online exergaming tournament cost in terms of carbon, and what it would have cost had we flown one of the teams to make the event a face-to-face competition.

Taking into account heat, light, transport, electricity for consoles and equipment we used less than 6 lbs of carbon per participant for the tournament; going online with Xbox 360 for the games and Gamercize for the exercise.

Comparing this to the massive spend of the Olymipics is a little unfair, so I ran the numbers again, this time as if we flew one team between California and England. We came out at more than 2,800 lbs of carbon per participant.

Although I am not a great fan of carbon offsetting (i.e. just use less energy to start with!), I checked, and in order to offset a face-to-face tournament against the actual online Gamercize tournament would have required planting 140 trees.

So the next time someone asks you what your are doing playing video games, you can say, quite literally, "I'm saving the planet".

Sunday, July 27

Brain Training by Physical Exercise

Gamercize PC-Sport demonstrated live on BBC TV by health expert.

The question was raised today if employers have a responsibility of their employees health during the workday and this addressed by health expert, Jim McKenna.

What can employers expect by providing exercise at the desk? Increased productivity, less sick days and long term health. That's not a bad deal.

"Our data is quite conclusive... A day when I exercise versus a day when I don't, on average, I'll say that I am 17% more effective in my work." Jim McKenna, Professor of Physical Activity and Health, Leeds Metropolitan University told the BBC presenter of the Sunday Life programme.

He also added that by using exercise at work studies have proved that employees can burn enough energy to lose up to 20kg (44lbs) in weight in one healthy working year!

The Gamercize PC-Sport takes up less space than a desk footrest and was quiet and didn't leave Professor McKenna out of breath while chatting about the wider benefits of physical activity in the workplace.

For the more adventurous there is a treadmill desk, made by another company, that takes up quite a bit of space and costs 20 times the Gamercize option.

The programme will be available to watch on BBC's iPlayer shortly.

Sunday, July 13

Forced Gaming for Health Officials

Gamercize at the Health of the Nation Conference.

Last week we went to the premier government and health association conference, Heath of the Nation '08. The list of attendees was just as impressive as the speakers who included;

Tam Fry (AM Chair) - Honorary Chairman, Child Growth Foundation
Dr David Haslam (PM Chair) - Clinical Director, National Obesity Forum
Sir Liam Donaldson - Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
Dr Will Cavendish - Director of Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health
Dr Susan Jebb - Head of Nutrition and Health Research, Medical Research Council
Sam Mellor - Head of Healthy Schools Programme, Department of Health/Department for Children, Schools & Families

The conference speakers had a great deal of information, but there were a few light hearted moments; The Foresight Policy Systems Roadmap was a laughable schematic trying to assign responsibility in the government's obesity strategy - it was a complete mess of a spider's web that I could have replaced with a single slide - EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE.

The second amusing moment was when one sharp witted delegate pointed out the irony of a health conference sponsored by a chocolate company. Well, these companies have the money and a degree of responsibility. You often see health initiatives sponsored by fast food giants, it's better than no initiative at all.

We were there both as delegates and exhibitors and this is the feedback we got while forcing government health officials onto Gamercize equipment to play Forza 2 or FIFA '08.

1. PCT and PDM representatives and were very pleased that Gamercize does not enforce a specific level of physical activity and that health professionals would have control over the exertion themselves. They also saw Gamercize as the solution for the most sedentary children to socially participate equally with more sporty kids.

2. Local authority school representatives shared a very useful fact with me. Children in some areas, particularly girls, do not engage in organized physical activity because they are not comfortable with the kit they have to wear. They saw Gamercize as a less strict activity for track suits instead of shorts - which has proved excellent in increasing children's engagement levels.

3. NHS, DCMS and NHS representatives all focused on the ability to play any game with Gamercize, not just racing games and not just games designed to be used with exercise. They saw this a protection against Gamercize being a "fad" and appreciated the value of the equipment in this respect.

4. Almost all representatives very much liked the the lower cost PS2 Gamercize, with the attraction of the cheaper games (£5-10) but youth leaders far preferred the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Gamercize because of the extra appeal to adolescents.

5. From the few SSP Competition Managers that attended, we have some more schools signed up for the next international exergaming tournament, to be held in October!!

It was a great event for us, we got to speak to a huge number of people that really can make a difference to the nation's health and the exchange of ideas was incredible. Needless to say, everyone loved the Gamercize concept and it wasn't long before we had the huge crowds I've come to expect when kids and parents discover Gamercize.

Wednesday, July 2

Beijing 2008 Official Olympic Video Game for next Gamercize Tournament?

Following on from the World's First International Online Exergaming Tournament.

It has been an interesting journey of discovery for everyone involved in the first tournament combining both video games and exercise in a single competition. The outcome was Team Gamercize UK won four of the six soccer matches, Team Gamercize USA won one, and the last game was a tie with seconds to spare before the end of the event.

Adding the game points and the exercise points gave the bragging rights to the "World Exergame Champions" title to the UK with 14,981 points against the US total of 6,472. When I have all the pictures and video together I will post a full write up.

Now we don't like to hang about at Gamercize, so we are looking to the next exergame tournament where we can officially put the championship title up for grabs. So far there are six countries interested in fielding a team and we can use what we have learned so far to make the next competition bigger and even better!

There was some concern, on both sides of the Atlantic I must add, to choosing a soccer game as the basis of the USA vs UK event. For the next event we are looking at running with multiple titles over different game genres, or maybe we should use just one title - Beijing 2008, the Official Olympic Video Game.

I like the concept of this game because it allows online play and supports Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. Due to the unique interaction between game and exercise in Gamercize there is no other exergame product that can be used with this game title. The control requires a multitude of inputs on buttons, bumpers, triggers and twin directional sticks, people just don't have enough arms and legs for non-gamepad control!

Come to think of it there is no other exergame product for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC anyway, so this title looks like it's top of the list for now. I tend to let the experts be the experts in my approach, so if the Olymipic committee has already sought agreeable sports for all countries, then why not follow their lead for our own Exergame Olympics!