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:

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