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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Nintendo Switch: A Different Approach?

The internet has been firing up in response to Nintendo’s announcement of their new console; the Switch, particularly over its key selling point; portability. So we thought it might be interesting to consider if and how the Switch could have an effect on exergaming.

The Switch has two interesting (or as many are saying, revolutionary) new features that have people talking. The first is its portability. From what we can gather from the teaser trailer, the Switch’s tablet acts as an all-in-one, allowing gamers to play their favourite titles on the move. The second is its removable/interchangeable paddles which can be restyled to create a range of different controller interfaces.

We’ve talked a lot over the course of the campaign about the Wii and what it did to bring exergaming into the home. We’ve also been trumpeting VR as the definitive future of exergaming. Whilst its unclear at this stage if the Switch supports motion controls or Wiimotes – Nintendo is notorious for phasing out backwards compatibility after a couple of generations – the element that may make the Switch a versatile exergaming platform is its portability.

Assuming that the Switch is what its rumoured to be – a consolidation of Nintendo’s home and portable consoles – there’s a good chance it’ll include the pedometers that the 3DS utilises to track your movement and give you rewards. It could also potentially support mobile data and GPS signals, or a system similar to the SpotPass. These implementations could see the Switch support mobile exergaming experiences similar to Pokemon Go. Taken to its logical conclusion players could soon be wandering outside to complete quests, searching for in-game Easter eggs in local parks, or even hiking nearby mountain ranges to reach the greybeards in Skyrim,.

Of course, all of this is crystal ball gazing right now since details are scarce about the system, but it’s another approach to exergaming that we may very well be experiencing soon.

-EC

Would you like to see the Switch bring exergame functionality to major titles? Share your thoughts using #activategamers

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Exergame Spotlight: Audioshield

It’s time for another exergame spotlight, and today we’re taking a look at Virtual Reality game, Audioshield.

We were inspired to spotlight Audioshield because it’s the warm-up game used by Tim Donahey in his VR workout routine that we’ve featured several times over the course of the campaign. Whilst it may not have the same aerobic effect as games like Holopoint, it can be an extremely effective upper-body workout. Oh and it’s great fun!

Audioshield visualises the beats of the song you’re listening to into orbs flying towards the player. The player must then use their hands to swing towards and punch the orb. With a blue shield in one hand, an orange in the other, and a combination purple shield, you score points by matching up shield colours with those of the corresponding orbs, with the difficulty increasing with the speed of each song.

Audioshield allows you to use your own songs or pull songs from online streaming services, keeping the gameplay fairly customisable. The scoring system is actually pretty interesting, with not only a technical score based on accuracy but also an ‘artistic expression’ score based on the amount of your physical activity and your punch power. It’s this second score that allows Audioshield to work well as an exergame and rate your physical activity.

Audioshield is exclusive to the HTC Vive which is one of the notable challenges with getting into active gaming through VR. A fair number of VR games will be exclusive to one of the major Virtual Reality systems, meaning that a bit like with consoles you have to either side with one and hope that the games you want come your way, or purchase both (Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) of the systems. With the incredible cost of Virtual Reality as its is right now in its infancy, for most people that simply won’t be feasible.

In the future, when the costs come down on the systems and/or exclusive titles become rarer, it will be an incredible time to be an active gamer. But at the moment, you’re better off getting involved playing mobile exergames or stepping back to some of the older, more affordable options.

-EC

We’re getting towards the end of our campaign now. If you have any exergames that you’d like us to spotlight, or any issues in the active gaming world that we should look at more closely, let us know using #activategamers

 

Stories from Active Gamers

We’ve spent several weeks talking about exercise stigma and put various exergames under the spotlight, so we thought it was about time to talk to some avid active gamers out there. Allison and Alex have each experienced active gaming in different ways and hopefully their stories will serve as inspiration for those that want to take up the exergaming lifestyle.

Allison

“The first game I ever played was Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64 about five years after it actually came out. I couldn’t understand anything or get past the first level but the opening credits were amazing. When I really got into gaming as an early teen, I spent a lot of time at my PC and wasn’t particularly active. I mean when you move into High School you already get less time running around and so it wasn’t the healthiest lifestyle.”

“I remember when Wii Sports first came out and I played a lot of Golf and Tennis, it was the first time that people were talking about games being able to be used as a training tool. My brothers played Wii Fit a lot more than I did, although its balance training was something that interested me and was able to improve my centre of gravity.”

“Their more recent version Wii Fit U was when I really got into exergaming. The minigames were a great way to let off a burst of energy and I used its health tracker far more than I ever thought I would. I’ve played around with the Kinect a fair bit too, and I still use Wii Fit U occasionally, but most of my exergaming has branched out into mobile games. They’ve been the most fun because they’ve allowed me to game out in my local park and all around the place”

Alex 

“My earliest memory of gaming would probably be Crash Bandicoot back in the Play Station 1 days. It was either a massive challenge or I was a bad gamer, I can’t remember which. It’s true you get a lot more exercise in primary school with jump-rope and just running around like crazy. My exercise was fairly irregular later on though. I played a lot of Grand Theft Auto when I was about 13-14. Wii Sports was a classic too, and was the first game that I can remember playing where you had to actually move around. Although it was pretty easy to cheat the system, even with Wii Fit later on.”

“As far as exergaming, I guess I’ve spent most of my time using mobile games to augment my daily routine, with games like Zombie’s Run. I lost about 10kg playing that over a year. I definitely played a lot of Pokemon GO too earlier this year, and still play it on and off. It’s funny I didn’t even think about it as an exergame for a long while.”

“I think active gaming will really be able to take off when Virtual Reality becomes more popular. I had a chance to play it a couple of months ago. You can see that it’s much more difficult to cheat at VR and its so immersive that you wouldn’t want to. Active gaming has absolutely helped improve my health, although I think that, at least at the moment, Active Gaming should be used as just one part of an overall healthy exercise routine.”

Thanks for sharing your stories Allison and Alex!

-EC

Would you like to share your own active gaming adventures with us? Use #activategamers for a chance to be featured on the blog!

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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:

 

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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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.