Making Exergaming A Success?
Applications of Gamercize in these studies have varied from desk exercise to school activities and at all times provided the correct level of engagement for the user to achieve beneficial physiological responses.
Gamercize does not fail because of the core principles of making exercise a secondary activity (automatic response) to the on-screen enjoyment, and allowing the user to engage in the electronic content that they prefer.
Best games and realistic exercise; is there any better formula for an exergame design? According to a recent Clinical Brief in the excellent Games for Health Journal, some researchers are well behind in the learning curve towards this understanding.
The brief is referencing a study reported on earlier this year in the journal Pediatrics, with the lead researcher, Tom Baranowski, defending the original study for it's poor reception by the media. Originally, according the NHS in the UK, the summary of the study by Dr Baranowski was “there is no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children”. This was a pretty bold statement to be based on just one study - even despite it's size and cost. It is also a statement that is incorrect with respect to Gamercize active video games.
In defense of the controversy stirred up by the study and it's subsequent media reporting the recent Brief diverges from rational perspective and common sense further, claiming "Children early in the diffusion curve might have used the games more actively" - which translated basically means, had the study been conducted when Wii first came out it would have favorably changed the outcome. The suggestion for rectifying this (of many) faults of the study claims that Kinect for Xbox 360 would have been a resolution.
The most basic and fundamental failure of this research, the attempt to recover via the Brief and of the researcher is that; A CONSOLE IS NOT A GAME! A new game is all that is required to sustain interest. Clearly the more engaging and appropriate for the user the game is in the first place, the longer the period of time before interest wanes.
The game titles used had not been chosen by the participants in the original study and were weak gameplay fitness games (excusing DDR of course!). There is not one person familiar with video games that would have expected the outcome to be anything but a failure as a result.
Gamercize, of course, does not suffer from the weak fitness title sustainability problem (see the list of exergaming studies earlier in this post that references this) as Gamercize uses the game the user wants to play! Would this have been a more considered exergame to put under test? I think so. It is a pity the genre of exergaming took such a high level kick in the teeth by the media reports, slowing our progress towards the very health benefits this study sought to prove.
To summarize, the basic lack of understanding into the interaction between video games and the target population is outstanding. There is no systematic or methodological failure in the study outside of this. The foundation of sheer ignorance of video gaming was not understood by media and hence why the media reporting was so outspoken and prolific.
My conclusion for any researcher looking to expand their portfolio with exergaming studies is (and I would welcome Tom's open reply in comment);
"If you don't understand video games you will never be able to design a successful study using exergaming. Certainly don't undertake any exergaming study until you have taken advice from an expert - any twelve year old will do."