Back to basics = fitness and fun!
Exergaming, or active gaming, is still a very new concept to mainstream media and within the public knowledge.
When I have spoken to officials and policy makers at last they now have heard of some for of exergaming or another, but sadly, there's many misconceptions.
Misconceptions in exergaming have come from media reports and more worryingly, research. Here's the top misconceptions I hear time and time again.
- Exergaming doesn't count as real exercise. The whole purpose of exergaming is to have an exercise component and there's very little value in exercise as a weight loss tool unless there's a lot of it. That's either high output for medium duration or low output over very long durations. This misconception has come from studies into Wii Sports - which isn't great exercise compared with exergames that utilise genuine fitness machines such as bikes and steppers, that are able to provide moderate to vigorous physical activity.
- Exergaming doesn't look like fun. The reason exergaming works for fitness is that it is fun, the exercise is incidental to activity and the enjoyment and immersion of the games keeps the mind off the exercise. This misconception has come from a wave of fitness themed "exergames" that deliver "celebrity exercise programmes" via a games console with virtual workouts and trainers. The exergames that work with real video games (Gamercize as an obvious example) tap into the principles that has been growing video gaming for the last 20 years by keeping the fun in the activity.
- Exergaming is not as good as real sports. The fundamental problem with this misconception is that exergaming and sports are different things and can't be compared. If everyone was playing sport then there wouldn't be a need for a physical activity that was engaging for all levels of condition, fitness and self-confidence. Yes, real sports are better in many ways to exergaming, but that's not what's required. What is required is something everyone can enjoy in a sustainable way to improve fitness and promote weight loss. The problem here is that researchers have been comparing exergame "sports" with real sports, asking something of exergaming that it's not trying to answer.
- Exergaming is gets boring for the long term. There's no point having an activity to boost fitness and conditioning if the user doesn't stick with it. This is a serious issue with pretty much all exergames I know of, but the ones that can counter this problem are those that are flexible enough to work will all, or even just a selection, of games. Research has show that a "single game" exergame gets boring after a very short number of weeks and statistics from one exergame manufacturer show a total average use time of just 18 hours in one year.
How do we solve these misconceptions and bust these myths? The answer is through diversity of research. There's too much media attention into the same old exergames that don't represent the best of exercise, fun or sustainability. It's up to the research community to research what exergames are out there and consider how they can be studied to provide policy makers with better information.