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.

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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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.

Do Exergames Actually Work?

Something  it may seem that we’ve been avoiding since the start of the campaign is the simple yet all important question, do exegames actually help you lose weight? Today we address the question.

You might not be surprised to hear that there have been several studies that dive into this issue, often with the main determinate factor being if exergames are more effective than regular comparative exercise. But that’s not necessarily what we want to measure.

As discussed in our piece on exercise stigma, the benefit of exergames is more about overcoming a mindset you may have which is preventing you from exercising – be it the privacy of exercising indoors, or the necessity of the gaming experience to keep you engaged in the exercise. If we measure exergames not as an alternative to exercise but as a way to get ourselves active where we otherwise may not be, then any amount of extra physical exertion is better than nothing.

Okay, okay, enough skirting around the question. We found two separate studies that asserted exergames as comparative to a light-to-moderate exercise routine, increasing heart-rate, oxygen consumption and energy expenditure. The main takeaways being that it is indeed possible to lose weight and improve aerobic fitness using exergames, although it’s not recommended to use them as a complete replacement for traditional exercise, due to current inefficiencies. It’s worth noting that a lot of the issues taken up by the studies (which mainly used Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution) could be addressed with the new wave of Virtual Reality exergames that will be available to consumers in coming years.

To decode that a bit, exergames are absolutely effective at getting you up and active – as much so as even moderate exercise – and for those that find it challenging to engage with ‘normal’ exercise they’re certainly a better alternative to no exercise at all. But as with all technologies, it’s difficult for the current generation of exergames to cover all the benefits that you get with a gym subscription.

This just goes to show that replacing a portion of your passive gaming routine with active gaming is a very viable way to fill your quota of required daily physical activity, and can encourage you to start living a much healthier lifestyle – be it indoors or out.

– EC

Have you lost weight or noticed other improvements in your health due to active gaming? Share your story with us using #activategamers for a chance to be featured on the blog.

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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.

Whitehead, A., Johnston, H., Nixon, N. and Welch, J. (2010). Exergame effectiveness. Proceedings of the 5th ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium on Video Games – Sandbox ’10.

How Virtual Reality will Revolutionise Active Gaming

You may not have tried it yet, but you’ve almost certainly heard about the Virtual Reality revolution that’s been storming its way through the technology industry in the past five years. Virtual Reality (or VR) systems such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive use sophisticated Head-mounted displays and tracking systems to immerse the player in a 360-degree interactive environment  which they can discover and engage with in a way that no other technology is capable of doing.

Combined with emerging accessories such as the Virtuix Omni – which aims to solve the problem of running into living room furniture – VR promises to be the most realistic gaming experience available.

Active Gaming and VR go hand-in-hand, with immersion an increasingly important factor in the demands of exergamers. There are certain challenges to overcome, first and foremost to keep players from experiencing dizziness and migraines whilst in-game, but  there are already VR exergames such a VirZOOM and Widerun available to consumers.

But the potential of VR goes beyond explicitly exercise-focused games. Simple ports of modern shooters, adventure games and Triple-A titles to VR transform your favourite games into experiences that often require a significant amount of body movement – effectively become exergames in their own right – and this addresses some of the hurdles that exergames face with exercise stigma, as we discussed previously.

One major problem with VR active gaming at the moment is the cost of the hardware. Whilst it will become more affordable in the future, an Oculus headset will run you over AU $1000 at this time, and that’s not counting the cost of the Gaming PC required to power it.

There is, however a cheaper alternative. If you own a compatible smartphone, you can purchase a Google Cardboard headset for as little as $15. It might not have the same capabilities as its more expensive competitors, but it’s more than capable of providing you with fun new ways to exercise in your living room.

– EC

Have you tried out VR active gaming? Share your experiences with us using #activategamers 

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Shaw, L., W¨unsche, B., Lutteroth, C., Marks, S. and Callies, R. (2016). Challenges in Virtual Reality Exergame Design. 1st ed. [ebook] Sydney: Australian Computer Society, pp.1-8. Available at: http://crpit.com/confpapers/CRPITV162Shaw.pdf [Accessed 19 Sep. 2016].

Addressing the Exercise Stigma

We’ve all made that decision to put off exercise until tomorrow, or maybe even the next day. It doesn’t seem like a massive deal at the time, but when we continually put it off, it can become a huge problem. Our bodies rely on regular activity to maintain muscle and body mass, and can be crucial in staving off disease.

Many of us are living more and more sedentary lives and so the need to offset that with exercise increases. Whatever your views on positive body image, it’s undeniable that exercise is a core element of living a healthy lifestyle.

But why do we put it off? For some it’s the physical effort, or the lack of time, or the lack of motivation. For others, they’re too self-conscious to involve themselves in what many see as a very public activity. In a cruel example of biological irony, studies suggest that the more we encounter negative attitudes towards body issues, or perceive ourselves to be at a non-ideal weight, the less likely we are to exercise.    

So, how can exergames address the stigma? If you’re one of many who don’t want to be in the public eye when exercising – to avoid the perceived body-shaming that is all too-frequently illustrated in the media – then exergames can provide an affordable alternative to bulky indoor gym equipment.

For others, it’s about avoiding the concept of exercising altogether, which many exergames attempt to address by turning exercise routines into fun minigames, or as we’ll discuss later on, using emerging VR technology to get people moving in ‘mainstream’ games that they can port to the platform. It’s never been a more exciting time to embrace your inner introvert and get active!

– EC

Share your experiences with exercise stigma and exergames using #activategamers

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Major, B., Hunger, J., Bunyan, D. and Miller, C. (2014). The ironic effects of weight stigma. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 51, pp.74-80.

Vartanian, L. and Shaprow, J. (2008). Effects of Weight Stigma on Exercise Motivation and Behavior: A Preliminary Investigation among College-aged Females. Journal of Health Psychology, 13(1), pp.131-138.

Exergame Spotlight: Pokémon GO – The Future of Active Gaming?

If any one game has taken the world by storm this year it’s the mobile game Pokémon GO. GO is a free, location-based augmented reality game that encourages players to roam around their local neighbourhoods searching for Pokémon, using the phone’s camera to virtually place the wild Pokémon into the real world. It’s a simple game with basic mechanics but nonetheless is massively popular, with many users sinking hours upon hours into the game and many claiming to have lost weight doing so.

The success of Pokémon GO as an exergame is two-fold. Augmented Reality (AR) is a massive area of development in game-design right now, and GO is arguably the most popular AR game to date. By merging digital realms with the real world, AR games are able to provide the player with a unique experience, transforming your living room into any number of remote locations for you to explore, mazes for you to traverse, ghosts to bust.

But even more crucial than the technology is the fact that Pokémon GO doesn’t brand itself as an exercise game. We all know how challenging it can be to motivate yourself to exercise, and that stigma can follow you into the digital world – if the only incentive in playing the game is exercise then is it any more interesting than just exercising? This is a topic that we’ll be visiting a lot more over the coming weeks, but sufficed to say that the gameplay, mechanics and rewards system of Pokémon GO keeps you from really focusing on just how much walking around you’re actually doing.

If you’re just getting yourself into active gaming, Pokémon GO is a great place to start. It’s free-to-play on Android and iOS (providing you have a compatible device) and is engaging enough to keep you clocking-up the miles for more than just a day. Just keep an eye on where you’re walking!

– EC

Share your experiences with Pokémon GO and other active games using #activategamers

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What is Activate Young Gamers? What is Exergaming?

We all enjoy our down time, and if you’re a millennial or younger, chances are that your leisure period includes video games. In Australia, people aged 5-25 spend an average of 80-100 minutes a day gaming (on top of their other screen-based activities) yet we spend even less time engaging in physical activity.

Exergaming is a trend in the video game industry that has been emerging over the past two decades, which aims to get people up and moving whilst playing video games. The additional time spent ‘active gaming’ helps increase your daily physical activity numbers and as with any exercise, can help alleviate health problems. Arguably the most famous examples of exergames are those from the Nintendo Wii platform, in particular Wii Fit. These games don’t just get your cardio/muscle-building hours up, they also provide gamers with information about their body and their routines.  Yes, that is nearly a decade year old game now, but as the technology improves, so do the exergames.

Over the coming weeks, Activate Young Gamers will look at the benefits of exergames, new technologies that aim to address the exercise stigma and make exergames more fun, go in-depth with several exergames, and share the stories of ‘active gaming’ converts.

We encourage you to come on the journey with us and revolutionise your gaming routines. Share your stories with us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #ActivateGamers 

– EC

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Abs.gov.au. (2013). 4364.0.55.004 – Australian Health Survey: Physical Activity, 2011-12. [online] Available at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.004Chapter1002011-12 [Accessed 26 Aug. 2016].

Brand, J. and Todhunter, S. (2016). Digital Australia Report 2016. 1st ed. [ebook] Eveleigh: Interactive Games & Entertainment Association, pp.9-14. Available at: http://www.igea.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Digital-Australia-2016-DA16-Final.pdf [Accessed 26 Aug. 2016].