Wednesday, September 9

How do you rate exergaming?

Active games have a fun element, but that depends on what you call fun.

You may think that all exergames or active games are pretty much the same. You put a disc in your console and off you go, happy, busy, good. Well, it's not quite that simple. There are different types of exergames, and within these types there's quality and disasters.

I like to think this time in exergaming's history has similarities with the great Video Games Crash of the early 80's. I have always approached exergaming from the gaming rather than exercise perspective (which is a minority viewpoint in the fraternity) but time will tell if who has the right end of the stick and who has ... well, the other end.

Back in the 80's the popularity of videogaming went mainstream and floods of really poor quality games that went unsold. The consumers lost confidence and held back on all purchases, bringing the video game industry to it's knees. I don't think exergaming will go through a period as bad as this, but I can foresee similar times ahead.

The most obvious exergaming genre is the fitness "game", the types like Wii Fit, EA SPORTS Active and all the other similar themed titles that replicate exercise via your console. I have my own views from a gamer's perspective that these titles are just too dull to warrant any of my active screen time, but that's the point, some people like them, some don't. Personally I'd take Gamercize and Call of Duty over simulated running round a track any day. However, as fitness themed games go, there's a lot titles in that genre and a lot of variance in quality.

In the fitness game genre, take two examples to prove the point on quality. Both EA SPORTS Active and Jillian Michael's Fitness Ultimatum have somewhere approaching 500 reviews each on, but EA gets well almost 300 five star reviews, while the Ultimatum is given a similar amount of one star reviews. One game will get you fit the other will disappoint and demotivate you. You can see there's two aspects at play here as to if an exergame will work for you:

  • Is it the type of game that you're interested in?
  • Is the actual title a good game of that genre?
Good questions, but as yet no answers, UNTIL you part with your hard earned cash and take a gamble. We live in a different world of collaboration and information these days from the 80's when word of mouth was the communication method that unseated many poor video games. We should be better at avoiding mistakes.

Communication and collaboration for exergaming is working right now, to try and answers the questions of features, attributes and experience that'll make video game exercise work for you. The collaboration comes from a group of industry experts, researchers, supporters, users and observers from a LinkedIn group that closely resembles an anarchic collective.

In this group we're working on a model for an exergaming rating system - you can see what we have so far on the wiki site that's been put up. We've had a go at rating Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Konami's console DDR for now, just to test the rating system. There's a lot of work going on by good people, donating time and effort freely, so I expect this system will not only be pretty good - but also unbiased and consumer focused.

If you think you can help us with this, from a standpoint of professional or wide personal experience, then jump on the LinkedIn group, maybe even one of the skype calls (next on Saturday 12th @ 5PM ET). Let's not make the same mistakes with exergaming that were made with videogames in the 80s. After all, back then it was a but of fun at stake, with exergaming it's the future health of ourselves and our children.

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