Exergaming: The Future is Bright

Well we’ve reached the end of our 7 week campaign, and whilst we’re sad to be wrapping things up, we hope that we’ve made an impact and influenced both how you think about active gaming and how you can incorporate it into your daily routines. For our final post, we’re taking a look back at some of the key points and successes from the campaign.

In our first week, we talked about the stigma towards exercise that can keep people from getting the healthy balance they need. It can be challenging to overcome personal demons and motivate yourself, but exergaming is a great way to achieve the balance. We also had our first Exergame Spotlight, looking at Pokemon GO. Mobile exergaming is booming and is an excellent solution for those that don’t have the desire or ability to own a suitable home console, or invest in Virtual Reality at this early stage. Practically everybody has a smart-phone these days and hopefully we’ve convinced you to utilise its abilities, not just in GO but also the other mobile exergames we took a look at –  Zombies, Run and Ingress

We also took a look back at how exergaming really started to flourish with the possibilities afforded by the Nintendo Wii and games like Wii Fit, or even some of the popular Dance Games. Given the popularity of the Wii – even today – its still an affordable way to get into active gaming and one that you should consider, especially if you already own one.

But it’s just as important to look to the future of Exergaming, and as we discussed earlier in the campaign, we see Virtual Reality as the key to the active-gaming revolution. Whilst it may still be in its infancy, VR is the most likely solution to the exercise stigma, able to take gamers off into immersive experiences and away from any negative thoughts towards the exercise they’re engaging in. Games such as Holopoint and Audioshield are early examples of what VR can do for exergaming. There are even more possibilities coming from the recently teased Nintendo Switch that have us excited about where active gaming could be going in the near future.

But there’s no point talking about exergames without seeing them in action, and we’d like to thank Allision, Alex and all the others who have shared their exergaming stories with us, and just because we’re wrapping up doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear more from all of you – keep sharing using #activategamers.

We hope that Activate Young Gamers has helped bring a bit of exergaming into your daily routines, both now and into the future. It’s been a fun ride, thanks for coming along with us!

-EC

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Image from Kathryn Beadle

 

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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

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

 

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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