Saturday, January 16

Exergames are Basketballs

Factors in Exergaming effectiveness

The buzz surrounding exergaming, also known as active gaming, is undeniable this year. There doesn't seem to be a day going by that products make the news and blogs. I've been involved in exergaming since 2004, so I have been fortunate to see the products come in (and most go out) to give me a wide view on the subject.

Most exergames have something in common, they are all basketballs. Here's a picture of the latest and newest exergame to make the the headlines... cool huh?

Ok, so it might not really be an exergame, but it shares a lot of features with the active gaming products.
  • It can be used to improve health and fitness
  • It has the potential for weight management
  • It can be fun and engaging
  • It has potential for competition
  • It could be used socially
  • It can develop physical skills

However, the basketball, and the exergaming product, while having all this potential, actually do none of the above. Look at the picture below. Now this is achieving all of the above. Do you see how small the basketball actually is in the picture? It's the game that's achieving all of the above, not the ball. The same is true for active gaming products.

Sat on it's own the basketball does nothing. Picked up and used in a game it suddenly becomes the enabler for all the fitness, weight loss, competition, social and skill development objectives. Some exergames are better at providing a start down this path than others, but in essence, it's the implementation of how you use an active gaming product that is the key between successes and failures

Most exergames benefit from programming. That is a set of objectives and a plan on how to meet those objectives by using the equipment. It is about setting tasks to achieve goals. PE teachers regularly write lesson plans to reach the objectives of a curriculum. Each lesson takes one or more aspects to develop and work on.

Some exergames take it upon themselves to implement "programming", but this often fails. An exergame needs to be adaptable to start with to be successful. See below as an example of how a rigid exergame can't tick the boxes of one that allows programming and professional instruction.

What have we learned? We have learned that exergame products are tools, and the effectiveness in using them obviously depends on their basic attributes, but more so on the way the exergame is being used.

We have learned that the games and enjoyment are a great route to reach goals, and that planning is an important aspect in this. I think 2010 will be the year people will be the focus in exergaming, the implementers will make the headlines, and the products seen in the supporting role.




2 comments:

Exergamer said...

Great analogy, makes it very clear to understand what exergaming is and what it should achieve, nice work!

david said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.


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