For the longest time, #gaming has largely been seen as a contributor to the mass worldwide obesity problem. With the pastime promoting a sedentary lifestyle, gamers of all levels spend hours, sometimes days, sitting in front of a TV screen or monitor, playing as a character who performs extraneous physical activity. Yet these gamers will often neglect partaking in any physical activity themselves.
However, with the introduction of physical-activity-based gaming equipment and games, this behavior has begun to change in recent years. In contrast to the stereotypical image of gaming in relation to #fitness, it has now become one of the avenues that has the potential to help you stay in shape.
The Rise Of Motion-Based Gaming
It all started in 2006 with the release of the #Nintendo Wii. With the requirement of moving the #Wii Remote to make any sort of progress on screen, the Wii helped revolutionized the way many people looked at gaming, as it encouraged players to engage in physical activity to play a game.
Shifting more than 100 million units worldwide, the Nintendo Wii was the best-selling console of the previous generation, largely due to its wide appeal to different demographical groups. The console's ease of use and movement-based gaming style made it easy for most people to operate, and allowed for fun-filled social activities for groups of people.
These sentiments were echoed in reviews of Wii Sports, the third most popular video game of all time. Although the title's impressive sales numbers can largely be attributed to the fact the title was bundled with the console at launch, there is no denying that the social aspect associated with the title helped drive the popularity of the console.
However, it was only after the release of Wii Fit that people began to examine how gaming might be able to improve fitness. Released in 2008, Wii Fit was an exercise-based video game that aimed to get gamers up and moving in a fun, social way.
Despite the title receiving criticism for most of the exercise programs being low intensity, Wii Fit did garner praise for being a capable source of rehabilitative physical therapy for those recovering from injury as well as helping improve the posture of the elderly.
It is important to note that the success of the Nintendo Wii did not go unnoticed by influential people within the gaming industry. Such was the success of the console and its movement-based gaming system that market competitors #Sony and #Microsoft later introduced motion-sensing peripherals for their own consoles, in the form of PlayStation Move and Kinect, both released in 2010.
Since the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, movement-based gaming has become a natural part of console gaming as a whole, with plans to expand the capabilities thereof as the limits of virtual reality gaming are also explored.
Expanding Motion-Based Gaming To Mobile
Movement-based gaming, however, is not only limited to consoles. #Mobile gaming is, perhaps, the most lucrative market within the gaming industry at the moment, due to the fact that in this day and age, owning a smartphone is largely becoming a necessity.
If estimates are to be believed, there are a total of 1.5 billion smartphones currently in use worldwide, which means 1.5 billion potential consumers for mobile game developers. One only has to look at past mobile games that have gone viral, such as Flappy Bird or Candy Crush, to really understand the potential of this market.
Recently, there has been one mobile game in particular that has worked in getting the masses excited to increase their step count in order to progress the game: Pokémon Go. Although it is debatable whether people actually download Pokémon Go with the intention of using it to stay in shape, there is no denying that it has worked in engaging people in physical activity in the hopes of hatching an egg or capturing a new or rare #Pokémon.
Despite only being released in July 2016, studies have estimated that the combined total of Pokémon Go players' steps has surpassed 100 billion, and the game had increased the general physical activity levels of most of the players who downloaded it.
While users generally do not download Pokémon Go with the intention of using it to get fit, this does not mean that there aren’t mobile games that have purposely been crafted to help users increase their workout intensity levels.
With the recent rise of fitness-tracking-focused technology such as Fitbit, mobile game developers have been looking at creating several different apps that attempt to "gamify" workouts by making use of these trackers. With regard to these types of apps, there seems to be two different categories.
The first category is that of an actual game that attempts to help improve the intensity of the user's workout without actually making these attempts obvious. An example of such an app is Zombies, Run! The mobile game connects to the user’s fitness tracker and at random intervals will simulate a zombie chase experience through your headphones as you listen to music, prompting the user to speed up. There are more than 200 levels to complete and users are able to compare their performance with that of other users around the globe.
The second category consists of more general fitness apps, such as Runkeeper and Strava, that allow you to log your performance and also compare your results with that of other app users, thus introducing a social and competitive element to working out.
These apps seem to have effects much like that of listening to music when you work out, as they subconsciously increase the intensity of the user’s workout. The user works harder without consciously pushing to do so.
The Benefits Of 'Gamifying' Workouts
If anything is to be learnt from games such as Wii Sports and Pokémon Go, as well as fitness-based mobile apps, it is that they bring new facets to workouts for many people by introducing social and competitive elements. In turn, these elements make users less apprehensive about engaging in physical activity.
With the global obesity levels as high as they are, it is easy to understand that there are many people who approach regular workout routines with some sort of trepidation, and not always necessarily because the routine is difficult.
Many people tend to quickly lose interest in a fitness routine because they perceive it to be a boring or monotonous experience. Staring at the back of someone's head while pounding the treadmill in a gym is not exactly the most stimulating experience, regardless of the health benefits it may reap. The perception of a workout being as exciting as watching paint dry can and does lead to many people quitting their routines soon after starting them.
Some may point out that much of the research into the benefits of fitness-based video games, such as Wii Fit, has concluded that the physical activity generated is often not enough to be considered an adequate workout routine. But it is important to note that these types of #videogames do work in getting people used to regular exercise routines.
Sometimes, it is only the effort of beginning a regular exercise routine that prevents people from ever actually starting them. Mobile apps are a good way to help users who have already managed to maintain regular exercise regimens from stagnating, as they are continuously pushed to achieve more.
It seems as if the days of gaming being seen as the antithesis to physical activity are gone, as some gaming developers look to craft experiences that are both fun and beneficial to one’s health. So say goodbye to the idea that the dinosaur treadmill and its fitness friends are the only way to stay in shape, because there are many other new, fun gaming activities out there that will provide you with the same health benefits, and then some.
Have video games ever helped you get active? Please feel free to share in the comments down below.