Monday, June 29

Active Gaming - The Social Phenomenon

Peer fun rules ok!

This is a presentation from the Games for Health Conference 2009 that I was lucky enough to attend. It's about Active Gaming (or exergaming if you prefer) - that is using computer games for exercise.

One criticism of active gaming that I hear sometimes is that there's no social interaction, not like real play or sports. Active gaming is not an replacement or an outsider to those activities, it's actually an integral part of both play and team exercise, and this excellent insight shows the social aspects.

Thursday, June 25

What's wrong with exergaming? Wii Fit, that's what!

Active Gaming Consumers Still Being Mislead.

I have read Canada's Globe and Mail ever since we were awarded the prestigious accolade of "Most Evil Gadget" back in 2007 and I tend to pick up quite a few exergaming stories from them.

The news that a new 5 year study into exergaming is talking place in Calgary is very welcome although, from experience, there needs to be sustainable exergames in the research! Luckily the Positive Gaming iDANCE (although referred to as Dance Dance Revolution in the caption!) is in the mix so there is some chance of a positive outcome, but to make it a certainty would need to include Gamercize instead of Wii Fit.

If only to prove my point there is commentary from Dr Ian Janssen in the article, who has very negative, but very common, experiences with a very narrow selection of exergames, namely Wii Sports and Wii Fit.

“I don't think it's a good idea to be teaching children to be active this way,” said Ian Janssen, an assistant professor in the community health and epidemiology department at Queen's University in Kingston.

The games have no place in schools, he added.

When Dr. Janssen became aware of Wii Fit and a similar game, Wii Sports, he was intrigued – especially when he saw his nephew playing a vigorous game of virtual tennis. But the feeling soon turned to dismay as his nephew quickly adopted shortcuts; a full tennis swing became a flick of the wrist, for example.

Much of Dr. Janssen's work involves helping to determine how much activity children need to stay healthy. Canadian guidelines recommend that children get at least 90 minute a day more than their current level, he says, at an intensity that's moderate or vigorous (moderate activity should cause you to break a sweat within five to 10 minutes.)

He doesn't think time on Wii consoles should count toward any of those recommended 90 minutes. “To me, the Wii Fit still falls in the category of sedentary behaviour.”

Yes, Dr Janssen, you are 100% right, but I do have the following points in defense of the Wii options. Firstly, Wii Sports is fun, and if you take it seriously with the boxing game, it is exercise. Similarly Wii Fit was never intended to meet and MPVA targets, merely make one aware of their health, but the jogging game is good exercise. Both of these said, Wii Sports is weak on exercise and Wii Fit is short on fun.

There are many more exergaming options out there that have both fun and fitness in the right doses for an anti-obesity prescription - Gamercize as my example puts heart rates right up in the MVPA zone and provides the sustainability that's associated with video gaming the world over.

The take-away point for this post is that if you've been disappointed with the top promoted exergames, consider why there is less hard sell on the others. Maybe it's because these products sell themselves with out the hype? My advice for those that have not found the Wii options appropriate is to take a look at what the console is being used for and read the following article.

Friday, June 19

Exergaming Fundamentals

What attributes make effective active games?

You may be surprised to learn that over the last five years gamers have racked up an estimated 1 million years of gameplay on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 worldwide. Combine these two consoles with all the others in circulation and you can get the real scale of the video game industry - a total of over 265 million game titles were purchased last year in the US alone, that’s nearly one for every man, woman and child in the country. 97% of teenagers either own of play videogames, girls almost as much as boys. Video games are fun and here to stay.

Exergaming takes the fitness aspect of exercise and combines it with the fun factor of video games, this is the definition in the basic sense, but there’s a bit more to it for an exergame to be effective. For any form of exercise activity to be effective the user has to be enjoying it - that way they will spend enough time engaged to realise health benefits. Exergames must have sound foundations, here’s the fundamentals and what they mean.

Engagement. In order to provide exercise the activity must be one that people will engage in. To do this the fullest spectrum of gaming genres need to be catered for. 80% of teenagers play 5 or more genres of video game, this means some love racing games, others are far more involved with strategy games, only by making all of these available can exergames engage the largest population.

Accessibility. The exercise element of an exergame should not discourage anyone based on their current physical ability. This is achieved by detaching the physical performance from the video game performance, making the exercise incidental and allowing those with lesser ability to access exergames as a rewarding activity. If an exergame is based on physical ability, rather than physical activity, then the population with the most to gain could easily be discouraged.

Sustainability. Making sure people are engage and can participate with their own ability is a start now, we need to make sure they can sustain their interest. Exergaming is only as good as the video game behind it, and if gamers get bored they will go back to inactive gaming. Being able to change the game used for another game mirrors the behaviour of video gamers, who typically move on to a new game every 2 or 3 months. An exergame has to follow this formula of success that has sustaining inactive gaming for many decades.

Social. Gaming has now grown to the point that the population supports a wide social community. Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles all offer online gaming networks, and exergames need to support these environments, not just technically, but also in terms of cost of purchase and space.

Considering these factors we now have a shortlist of exergames that have the ability to deliver exercise to our target population in a fun and sustainable way, but how can we employ this new technology? Check out the answers in this presentation:

Thursday, June 18

Active Gaming - A Look Into Future Generations

The Logic behind Exergaming

You must take a look at this presentation, it fully explains the thinking behind Gamercize and other active video games, that make fitness fun!

Thanks to Lisa and Mike for putting this together and sharing it with us!

Wednesday, June 17

Exergaming - Making exercise fun, for everyone

Free awareness card packs at Games for Health!

Games for Health in Boston this year was a much larger event that last year, showing the increased need and following not only in games for health, but specifically exergames!

The vast majority of the general public, even a good proportion of the delegates, have very little knowledge of the number of products in this space. For most it's just exergaming is Wii Fit, even poor old Wii Sports has been forgotten now. But there's so much more!

There is problem with this lack of awareness; if you don't like exercises like Wii Fit or if you don't lose weight with Wii Sports then it's a bad assumption to make that exergaming doesn't work. You've just not found the right one for you!

This is why it's important to see the whole selection, and why we pulled together a group of products that can be considered exergaming, 38 products in all, not just Gamercize. As the key message of exergaming is all about fun, we turned this into a card game for delegates to take home and play!

Here's a link to the conference live blog and some instructions on how to play -

The 38 products is the card list we used, so don't forget there's even more exergames out there - take a look at the exergaming wiki at and check that out, see how exergaming can work for you or your school and meet some of the people behind the genre!

Sunday, June 7

What Exergame is Right for You?

Revealing Results from Facebook

There are many confusing options in the world of active gaming, or "exergaming" as it's being referred to. Most people tend to think of Wii Fit, but what if you've already tried this and it's not got you moving and given you no more exercise than reaching for your copy of Mario Kart? There are exergames for everyone, so if you've tried something that's not worked for you or you're looking to use technology for fitness then do not despair and don't make a costly mistake!

Exergaming is so much more than Wii Fit, so if you're not seeing the fitness benefits you were lead to believe then take this test on Facebook - "What exergame is for you?". Answer honestly and you'll find the perfect exergame that will keep you interested in fun exercise that's right for you!
The results from the quiz may surprise you and probably save a lot of hard earned cash in your quest for the perfect beach body this summer! Go to and see what type of active gamer you really are!