Saturday, October 31

UCLA Tech and Aging Conf

10-30-09: Had the privilege of being part of a panel, speaking on exergaming, games for health, and seniors at this conf., held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The theme was "Living Longer and Better Through Technology" so the topic of exergaming fit right in!

Besides presenting, had the chance to network with other folks interested in gerontology and hopefully, will be collaborating with some of these researchers in the near future on exergaming studies in seniors, since there is hardly any research in this area.

Monday, October 26

Wii Fit Plus (is not) Endorsed by NHS Government Health Department

Change4Life Campaign Accepts Nintendo (Gamercize is already in)

To be honest the headline you see here reveals an untruth that is circulating. The UK Department of Health does not endorse Wii Fit Plus, Nintendo or any other singular product or service. How do I know this, because Gamercize is a partner of the Change4Life campaign and the relationship is quite clear. We support Change4Life, not the other way around!

Kids cereal, soft drinks and chocolate producers are also partners with Change4Life - does this mean we should expect headlines like "NHS endorses soda and candy diet"? I think not.

Taking the positive from this marketing ploy (bear in mind Wii fit Plus is available this week in the UK, which is strikingly convenient for the timing of the news stories), there are good points here.

Even before the Change4Life campaign was started I was involved with the Foresight Report, which defined the need and composition for the campaign. The report sought to reduce screen time playing video games, and I campaigned to get the position changed to be reducing sedentary screen time and increasing active screen time.

Since then I have communication and conversations with the Chief Medical Officer, Head of Physical Activity and Minister of State for Public Health and the Change4Life team! I have even participated in the condemnation of the British Heart Foundations Change4Life advert that portrays all video games as "bad for you". This condemnation resulted in the next TV advert being aired showing a dance mat connected to a TV as an active video game!

The best news out of the inaccurate stories is the recognition that active computer games can now count towards the "60 active minutes" of moderate to vigorous physical activity that is a core Change4Life message. Previously the view of our Chief Medical Officer and just recently the Change4Life team was that active video games did not count as enough exercise. Gamercize certainly does, so I'm pleased to see this.

The last piece of good news (I hope it turns out to be anyway) is the UK Nintendo chief using the term "exer-gaming". Now one would hope that this could indicate Nintendo want to join the party for the common good. It has been suggested to me that it could also mean Nintendo are concerned about Natal and PlayStation getting physical and has decided to "own" exergaming for itself. Time will tell. Maybe we'll see Nintendo at Games for Health or joining the Interactive Fitness and Exergame Network?

Thursday, October 15

Video Games Saving the Planet - Blog Action Day

Online Gamercize Tournament Equivalent to planting 140 trees!

Today, October 15, is "Blog Action Day", when we have a unique opportunity to show how our specific areas of expertise relate to the theme of Climate Change.

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, which is the focus of the blogging event. Climate change impact is 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 the voluntary activities of leisure and sport.

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. Next 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. What is more the competitors had a great day as you can see from the TV reports from both sides of the Atlantic in this video below.

So the next time someone asks you what your are doing playing video games, you can say, quite literally, "I'm saving the planet". For other ways to save the planet, check out Blog Action Day at!

Blog Action Day 2009 - Climate Change and Video Games?

Did you ever think video games and climate change could be related? Read on at

Friday, October 9

Tam Fry on Childhood Obesity at the Interactive Fitness and Exergame Seminar

Consequences of Inactive Life for Children

Last month saw the first seminar from the Interactive Fitness and Exergame Network from LinkedIn at LIW. It goes to show that collaboration on the web can lead to real action, and there's more than enough passionate and dedicated professionals in this group to make something happen.

Although the focus of exergaming may be on video games, the real purpose of exergaming is to improve health. Child Growth Foundation and National Obesity Forum chair, Tam Fry, spoke at this seminar to illustrate the problem and the consequences for children.

Mr Fry warned the delegates that the "Childhood population looking at a very unhealthy and uncertain future" and outlined some of the evidence.

"From the University of Newcastle the figures are just 3 in a 100 children are doing the recommended 1 hour of exercise a day. Only 1 in 5 parents know how much exercise children should be taking. After 10 years of messages we have failed to get though to parents in a understandable way exactly what their children should be doing."

The message that activity is being ingored also leads to dire consequences, as Tam exaplained:

"One third of children not doing enough exercise to the level of risking coronary heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes. The only way back for some children is to cut them open at fit a gastric band. This should always be the third option, but is increasingly becoming the second or even the first option."

Mr Fry offered some explaination as to why the population is in such trouble, with two areas for improvement for government policy.

"Over the last 20 years parks have been sold off, allowed to run down or become total no-go areas. From the National Obesity Forum, we have a clear idea that video games which encourage activity are very important and we're fully behind it. But, to have not then opportunity for people to go out and be active is a pity. Children love to play, you should give them the space, if necessary supervise to a degree."

School PE is seen as very important in providing a front line service against childhood obesity, and it was suggested that PE techers should be on the frontline when it comes to monitoring child weight as well as physical education development. That would only be if there still were PE classes and PE teachers.

"25% of children coming into school going into primary school at the aged 4 are overweight or obese. Perhaps the biggest problem is what is not happening. What is not happening in school is that physical activity has been allowed to disappear."

The talk greatly informed the seminar and put into perspective the importance of what the group is doing and what success in the interactive fitness and exergaming sector means, not in monetary terms, but in human terms.

The majority of the presentations from the group that were included in the seminar can be found at the slideshare event

Monday, October 5

How to suck all the fun out of video games

Fitness is not a game people!

Now we're having fun with our consoles by keeping fit... or are we. Let's go running and watch counters on the screen! No, let's not. Ok, let's go biking!! What, in a game where you don't actually travel anywhere - no thanks!

I think there's a place for fitness games, the ones that offer virtual workouts and electronic exercise programs. That place would be on the shelf, next to the exercise DVD, covering up the exercise videos behind. If you are workout motivated then these titles will do a far better job keeping you moving than the aforementioned DVD. You may even call them "fun", but consider this... if everyone enjoyed workouts there wouldn't be an obesity crisis, drop of in school sport or need for massive government health campaigns.

Yes, that's right - most people find workouts really really boring. That's why exergaming is way more than just workout games. Some people have even argued that video games are not an integral part of exergaming!!! (Those people are often recaptured quite quickly, so don't worry too much about them)

Gamercize is exactly what exergaming is all about - fun. Fun from video games. Fitness is there, for sure, but it's not the focus... it's like the exercise involved shopping; It's only when you get home with your bags of goodies after a mammoth day's shop do you notice how much effort you must have spent walking and how tiered you feel.

Exergaming needs to be fun, and needs to be fun for long enough to make a difference to the user's health. You may get a week's use out of a fitness game, but that's nothing compared with the immersion of compelling gameplay you get from the real videogames that Gamercize uses.

Need convincing? Mario Kart Wii has been in the UK charts for 76 weeks - Gamercize compatible and what's more damn good FUN!

Thursday, October 1

Weight Loss for Zombies

There's a lot of good reasons why zombies are a pretty unhealthy bunch, being undead is just one of them. They don't move much, they never run and probably don't even check the labels on food packages.

Traditional weight loss for zombies often involves losing a limb, more often than not through someone not wishing to be bitten who has a weapon of sorts for defense. When it comes to healthy life choices, there's not a lot of scope for a zombie.

You've probably encountered zombies on your xbox 360 or PS3 already, and seen how lethargic they are. You probably also know that the number one zombie survival technique is avoidance. My advice to you is make sure you're as fit and healthy as you can be, in case of an actual zombie attack. Improve your fitness levels now, while you still can - right here.