Friday, August 12

Active Gaming for the Girls

London's Girls get Exergaming!

When you think about Active Gaming (AG) you may be thinking about images of Wii Bowling in retirement accommodations, or maybe mom’s keeping up with a Jillian Micheal's fitness regime after the kids have left for school. Another perception you may have comes from the “gaming” aspect of AG, which gives the impression that it’s more of a “boy’s” activity. In my experience with my company Gamercize, I’ve found this is far from the case. Active Gaming is much more than this, and has a much wider appeal, global appeal in fact.

My company, Gamercize, works with many different types of active gaming users, including teachers and schools, and providers products and services to help every person be more active by changing sedentary screen time into active screen time.

One service we provide is a PE Teacher familiarization and training day, to bring PE and technology together, almost like a hands-on “Show and Tell”. These days are a great way to give us a chance to test out the reactions to different types of games, reaching out to new demographics, and acquire useful feedback from students. One event that appeared to offer different challenges was for a girl’s school. We took along a good selection of games, finding the Xbox 360 offered more variety than the PlayStation 3, that has predominately shooting or racing games. The fun part about the equipment we used was any game would work, the active part of the active gaming being to keep stepping to play.

The XBox 360 video game console supports 4 players, although most readily available and popular games available for them support two players per console. There are options for up to 16 players “linked” and countless social interactions available with online play. The cost per station is far more attractive for multiple players per console and the offline play mode makes it much easier for the teacher to be in control of the session without outside influence.

In the UK the adherence for girls in PE is generally lower than for boys, especially at the age range we had at this school, the teens. Some problems have been recognised and addressed, for example not mandating gym skirts and allowing sweat pants or shorts not appropriate for PE wear, but this group remains the most difficult to keep engaged in class. It’s difficult for teachers to keep to curriculum and progress the children if they only sporadically attend class; I was given the job of working out how to engage them more.

The easiest games to engage boys with are sports games, would the same be true for girls? Sports worked well, but it was clear the girls wanted more variety, so to engage the whole class we had to do a lot more. After changing games on the consoles a couple of times we settled into three different genres on all three consoles. Sports was still popular, fantasy racing won out over pure racing simulation and the last genre turned out best; fantasy adventure. This kept the whole class active and happy, and pleasantly surprised as they were expecting traditional gym work for the lesson, not active gaming!

What surprised me was about half the 16 year old’s in class had arrived not intending to take part in the expected gym class, with parental notes and the old “forgotten kit” excuses. I did wonder how many would have skipped PE had they known Gamercize would be there? From the feedback we had, the girls who were not planning to engage in the class appeared more keen on the active gaming class, with many asking if the equipment would be available next week.

One group that knew active gaming was coming to school was the teachers. After running the classes it is normal to use the equipment as an “ice-breaker” with the teachers and to wind down before reflecting on the lessons learned from the day’s classes. It was long past time to pack up and get on the road, but the competitive nature of PE teachers was overriding the message from the school clock. Of course do-overs were the order of the day as we battled it out with Super Monkey Ball Grand Prix.

The only other time you will see engagement over such wide demographics is with traditional sedentary video games. Although technology is not normally associated with the Physical Education department, the active version of video games looks very promising for attendance rates. The teachers certainly saw the appeal, which is always more conducive in a hands-on environment when the reactions of students can be seen first hand and the equipment tried out by all ages.

This post originally appeared on PE Central's Active Gaming blog at -

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