Wednesday, August 8

Exergaming: Preaching to the Converted

Reaching the "Hard to Reach" through Social Media

Photo by ExergameLab
The concepts of obesity, physical activity and health are globally recognized and linked. Ideas and questions are shared within social media without international boundaries and eagerly expanded or answers suggested. Video gaming is also a global concept, with worldwide release dates for premium games and global communities of online players. Stories around these topics tend to cause a social media "buzz".

Exergaming is an innovative bridge from video gaming to health, that has been demonstrated in almost every country, but exergaming is not intrinsically a social media buzz-category. Why is that? It could be the approach exergaming stories should be shared needs to be different to take into account the relative infancy of the proven exergaming concept.Over recent months I have seen the success and acceptance of exergaming in social media though what was once called "cross-posting".

Cross-posting is a term that was used in bulletin boards and news groups of the old Web 1.0 and involves repeating information in different areas. Given the amount of social media available to be consumed via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources, this practice is useful today in order to reach the intended audience. In fact I intend to "cross-post" this blog post! When a story is posted there is the opportunity for readers to interact for example by "liking" or "retweeting" - a comparative measure for cross posts..

Judging the reaction by the number of "likes and comments" on exergaming cross-posts this year it is apparent that only "preaching to the converted" is working! There are very few reactions to exergaming stories in PE and physical activity forums, but plenty in exergaming circles. The most effective social circle for reaching audience is clearly The Exergame Network. The only other notable forum for exergaming is Games for Health. Both The Exergame Network (TEN) and the Games for Health organization, with its US and European factions and related Games for Health Journal, are global organizations.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from my recent observations. Firstly, there are simply not enough knowledgeable or passionate individuals in the field of exergaming (at the moment) to sustain a buzz in anything less than a global forum. National and regional scope simply does not reach the tipping point to build momentum. I have seen individuals go it alone, and the only outcome being they fall out of the flock of exergamers!

Lastly I am concluding that approaching exergaming like it has the social kudos of gaming or fitness is the wrong approach. For exergaming "Preaching to the Converted" is all that really works. How should the approach change then? Increase those that are converted! Invite PE and physical activity advocates into The Exergame Network and Games for Health spaces, so they can consume exergaming stories, ask questions and make suggestions is a positive collaboration instead of a skeptical minority.

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