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

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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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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.

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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Sources:

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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Sources

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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