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

 

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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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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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].