Exergame Spotlight: Ingress

Years before Pokemon Go brought augmented reality mobile games into intense public focus,  the same developer (Niantic, Inc.) introduced gamers to Ingress,  a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) that mixed science fiction with urban exploring.

In Ingress, the human race reacts to the discovery that the Earth has been seeded with Exotic Matter by a mysterious anomaly or potentially an alien race. Gamers  join one of two factions; the blue Resistance that are fighting for humanity’s freedom, and the green Enlightened that are pushing for the next stage of human evolution. The opposing teams battle it out in the real world by fighting for and controlling large swathes of land. It’s notable that players don’t actually battle each other, but work to take control of portals for their faction.

Portals

The Earth is covered by these portals – most frequently represented in the real world by buildings or landmarks that are of human interest or historic significance – which can be either controlled by one of the two factions or coloured grey if they are neutral/unclaimed. Players must deploy one or more resonators to claim it for their team.

Players gain these resonators by travelling to and “hacking” other portals. When a portal has all eight of its slots filled with resonators from one of the factions, it can link to another fully-occupied portal that is within range. The linkages between a triangle of these portals makes up a control field and its ultimately the authority over these control fields that the factions are fighting for.

Ingress as an Exergame

In much the same way that Pokemon Go succeeds as an exergame, Ingress utilises the immersive potential of mobile-based augmented reality and pairs it with story and community to create an experience that is not only active but is able to market itself as more than just an incentive to exercise. The urban exploration element of Ingress is particularly interesting for those of you that are keen on public art, architecture and culturally significant landmarks. In fact this is probably the only exergame we’ve featured that might just further your knowledge as well as keep you active.

Like Pokemon GoIngress is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and is free-to-play. So if you’re looking for another portable exergame to add to your mix, look no further than Ingress.

-EC

 

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This is our final Exergame Spotlight and the second last day of our campaign. We’d love to hear what you’ve learnt throughout these past seven weeks and if we’ve helped you to jump into the endless possibilities of exergaming. Hit us up using #activategamers

Exergame Spotlight: Zombies, Run!

Earlier in the campaign we took a look Pokemon Goa hugely popular mobile release that could easily be classified as an exergame, despite its original purpose. Today we’re taking a look at a much more conspicuous exergame, Six to Start’s Zombies, Run! – an immersive running application that reveals its story through several running “missions”.

Zombies, Run! is a mobile game available on iOS and Android where the exergamer takes control of “Runner 5” throughout a series of missions. The missions and story unfold when the exergamer runs, listening to story narration in between their own music as they traverse their real-world running path as part of their daily exercise routine. Players collect supplies during their run for the benefit of their digital base camp “Abel Township”, where some of the last survivors hold out against the zombie invasion.

 The game utilises the accelerometer or GPS/Location data of the smartphone to track the exergamer’s distance measurements, and it’s clear from the offset that the game is focused much more on fitness than it is on gameplay. Of course that’s not to say that the story isn’t captivating and an incentive to keep running, however if anything it’s more of an interactive story than a video game.

As we’ve discussed previously in this campaign, the exercise stigma in young gamers can be so encompassing that a game branded as an ‘exercise game’ can be enough to turn the gamer’s away from the application’s active-gaming offerings, and we’re wary of that in the case of Zombies, Run! However the story doesn’t push gamers to keep running if they don’t want to, and the somewhat minigame-esque development of your base camp can be enjoyable, beyond just being the core mechanic of unlocking more missions.

An additional benefit of Zombies, Run! is its accessibility. It’s free-to-play on iOS, Android and Apple Watch, and being a game from 2012, it’s compatible with the vast majority of smart-devices that are in operation right now.

Whilst it may lean more towards interactive storytelling than gaming, we think that Zombies, Run! is a great choice to get you into active-gaming, with a story that keeps you running all day long!

-EC

Have you lost weight playing Zombies, Run! and would like to share your story? Tell us about it using #activategamers for the chance to have it featured on the blog!

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Check out the trailer for Zombies, Run! below:

 

Throwback Thursday – Wii Fit & the Dawn of the Exergame

Back in the day, if you or somebody you knew owned a Nintendo Wii, there’s a good chance you encountered Wii Fit at some stage. Released nearly nine years ago, the game sold over 22 million copies, meaning that 1 in 4 Wii owners have spent time jogging around a virtual park, pretending to ski or tightrope walk on the balance board, and generally avoiding that fateful  weigh-in on one of the first successful examples of an exergame.

Gameplay

Wii Fit definitely had a focus on exercise and information over gameplay. If you were serious about it you could engage in daily measurements and basic simulations that tracked your health improvements over the course of your workout period, with the Balance Board avatar (the updated version of Microsoft office assistant Clippy) giving you chirpy tips on how you can improve. You could even track your exercise completed outside of the game, although at the end of the day you were at the mercy of the virtual scales – and whilst he might not have said it, the balance board knew if you were lying.

The game included nearly 50 activities that made up the meat of the gameplay. Most of
those were simple yoga and strength exercises, but the aerobic minigames were the ones that kept people interested in playing – ranging from hula hoops to skiing, snowboarding and boxing. Clearly Nintendo took some inspiration from their hugely successful Wii Sports. Although whilst it didn’t really offer much in the way of health benefits, many would argue that Wii Sports was more fun and less clinical than Wii Fit.

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A Wii Fit user playing the ‘soccer heading’ activity

The Balance Board

wii_balance_board-rooooo

Arguably the most crucial component of Wii Fit, the balance board accessory accounted for much of the cost of the game and was certainly a step-up from your generic household scales. The board included four pressure sensors that could accurately measure the movement, balance and weight of anybody up to 150 kg – although the board itself was extremely sturdy and could withstand up to 300 kg of force (maybe they learnt a little too much from people throwing their Wiimotes around the room in frustration).

Apart from being used for the daily tests, the balance board was the primary way that you would complete the fitness activities. Given so many people found out how to cheat their way through Wii Sports, Nintendo had to build a more reliable accessory if they wanted the fitness aspect of the game to be credible.

The balance board is a good example of how important peripherals are in exergames, which is an issue as they tend to be the most expensive element of an active gaming set-up. Whilst moving into the future, VR systems will come down in price and they’ll always have more than just one use-case scenario, you can’t have a reliable exergame without a reliable tool for measuring fitness ability. For the time being though, the balance board can now be picked up for much cheaper than when it first launched, lowering the entry barrier to active gaming.

Wii Fit & The Future of exergames

Two years later, Nintendo released Wii Fit Plus which included 20 new activities and additional functionality such as custom fitness regimens. The sequel was hugely successful, selling another 22 million copies with the two games combined boosting exergame revenue exponentially, and most importantly introducing millions of new people around the globe to the concept of active gaming.

However, Nintendo’s third installment in the series Wii Fit U for their Wii U console went in the other direction, only selling a measly 890,000 copies (or 4% of what the original game sold) although this can largely be put down to the commercial failure of the Wii U console.

Wii Fit might not be able to address the exercise stimga concerns that we’ve discussed over the past few weeks, since it’s definitely a minigame-augmented fitness simulator and not the other way around, but it was instrumental in showing people that active gaming could actually work, and if you’re looking for a no-frills exergame that makes you a little less passive, then it still holds up as a good option today.

-EC

Do you remember your first experience with Wii Fit? Tell us about it using #activategamers for a chance to be featured on the blog!

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Check out the original launch trailer for Wii Fit:

Sources:

Vgchartz.com. (2016). Game Database, Best Selling Video Games, Game Sales, Million Sellers, Top Selling – VGChartz. [online] Available at: http://www.vgchartz.com/gamedb/?name=Wii+Fit&publisher=&platform=&genre=&minSales=0&results=200 [Accessed 29 Sep. 2016].

 

Exergame Spotlight: Holopoint (VR)

We keep banging on about how Virtual Reality is going to revolutionise active gaming, but we haven’t actually looked deeper at a VR exergame yet. So today we’re delving arguably one of the most popular VR games out right now – and one that’s constantly being reported as an intense workout – the awesome archery game Holopoint.

Holopoint sees you placed in a Japanese-styled environment very reminiscent of the Kung Fu scene in The Matrix. Over a series of rounds you must use your bow and arrow to hold off streams of various targets, including samurai and ninjas in the higher levels. It gets challenging very quickly and all the ducking,dodging and weaving can wear you out before you get a chance to reach the final rounds.

But can we actually classify it as an exergame? Well nearly every positive review the game has received on steam mentions how much of a workout it is, and that it’s particularly beneficial for cardio training. If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter you may have seen the story we shared about  Tim Donahey and his VR workout routine. Donahey has developed a routine that includes twenty minutes of Holopoint play to build up his lower body (all those squats to dodge incoming arrows add up you know) and has lost nearly 5.5kg in just over a month.

Holopoint is an intense piece of active gaming, and most importantly is engaging and fun enough to keep you playing for as long as your body (or mind) will hold out. Keep an eye out for more exergame spotlights in the coming weeks!

– EC

Have you had an experience with Holopoint or other exergames that you’d like to share? Tell us about it using #activategamers for a chance to be featured on the blog!

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Exergame Spotlight: Dance Games

That awkward family reunion just wouldn’t be complete without your hip uncle getting out his Twister set, or if he’s a little more modern, one of the many dance games that have stormed the console market over the past decade.

Whilst the thought of competing in a game of ‘who can make the weirdest body movement’ with relatives you hardly know might be enough to make you sweat, it turns out that Dance games are one of the key genres in active gaming and can be incredibly effective cardiovascular exercises. Today we take a look at a few different examples.

Dance, Dance Revolution

The popular Japanese game series is arguably the definitive dance game, with the ‘arrow’ floor paddles often what comes to mind when you think of dance games. However it’s less accessible than the others with the vast majority being built specifically for arcade machines (the last non-mobile home release was Dance Dance Revolution II for the Nintendo Wii in 2011) and, well you just don’t see that many video-game arcades around any more.

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Gamers playing Dance Dance Revolution at Comic-Con 2006. Credit: Doug Kline

However the purpose built exergame platform – constantly under development since the first game launched in 1998 – is arguably one of the most effective examples of active gaming, cited in many of the studies that have been done into exergame efficiency over the years.

DanceStar Party/Dance Central

Dancestar Party and Dance Central were the competing dance games for the Playstation and Xbox consoles respectively, although the popularity and yearly-release model of Just Dance seems to have halted their development, with the prior now five years out of date. They might not be up to date, but if you have either of the older consoles and can pick up a marked-down/pre-owned copy, they’re a good way to get into exergaming on the cheap.

Just Dance

Just Dance seems to have become an unstoppable force in the dance game market, with yearly releases/DLC keeping their music albums up to date, and new game modes keeping the content fresh with each consecutive release. It’s also certainly just as effective as an exergame with this source estimating that you can burn as much as 400 calories per hour of gameplay.

But the main reason that Just Dance is our recommended active dance game is that it’s available on basically every platform. For example, the new Just Dance 2017 – which is set to come out in exactly a month –  will be released on Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo Wii U, the as-yet unreleased Nintendo NX, and it also comes with a companion mobile app.  Everybody has a different setup at home and to us, the accessibility of active games is just as important as their effectiveness.

– EC

Check out Dave Callan of Australia’s Good Game discuss Just Dance 2014 in the video below:

Have you had any experience with Dance exergames? Share your story with us using#activategamers for a chance to be featured on the blog.

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Sources:

Peng, W., Lin, J. and Crouse, J. (2011). Is Playing Exergames Really Exercising? A Meta-Analysis of Energy Expenditure in Active Video Games. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(11), pp.681-688.