“Making Exercise Fun – The Evolution of Exergaming (Part One)” highlights the first steps in the evolution of the video game industry that brought us to active video games like Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect. Let’s continue the journey from the 1990’s to present day.
Evolution of Exergaming – 1982 to 2010 (cont’d)
1998: DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION (DDR)
Dance Dance Revolution, first introduced in Japan in 1998 and then released in America a year later, was introduced in local arcades. Once DDR machines made their way to the front of the arcades the crowds began to swarm for hours. For a short while, arcades served again as ampitheaters of public performance, as talented DDR dancers showed off their talented moves to other players. Home versions of Dance Dance Revolution were soon released, making it possible for devotees to practice routines in their livingrooms, lacked the arcade version’s sturdy support and trick bar. This brought about manufacturers of commercial grade DDR pads (i.e. Cobalt Flux, Red Octane and Positive Gaming). Stories of weight loss brought the game into the mainstream spotlight, with some of the most dedicated players experiencing life-changing losses of 50 pounds or more. Progressive school systems even began offering DDR as a part of the physical education curriculum. For example, the state of West Virginia partnered with game publisher Konami to put DDR in all 765 of its public schools.
2003: CATEYE GAME BIKE
Rather than trying to write custom software for their exercise bike, Cat Eye Fitness’s “GameBike” worked with a variety of existing racing games already available for gaming consoles, mapping the accelerator in the games to the speed of the pedals on the bike. The Gamebike looks like an ordinary stationary cycle, similar to those found in health clubs across America. The most obvious difference is the attached television screen which is connected to a gaming console (PlayStation, PS2, Xbox, or GameCube). Built for the racing genre, the Gamebike lets users control the pace of their peddling and resistance in order to adjust their speed in-game. Players can alter direction by pivoting the bike’s handlebars. A standard game console controller is needed for menu navigation. All Gamebike systems allow competitive racing for up to 4 players and the bike is compatible with PlayStation multi-taps. As part of a recent redesign to attract older customers, the system includes a larger, sturdier frame and a seat height adjustment.
2004: YOURSELF! FITNESS
More than any other exergaming device or program on this list, Respondesign’s 2004 Yourself!Fitness is the one most likely to get you into shape. Unlike other active games listed, Yourself!Fitness is only technically a game due to the fact that it is running on a PlayStation 2 or XBox. In reality, it’s something far more powerful: a virtual physical trainer utterly devoted to you getting in shape.
In simple terms, Yourself!Fitness becomes an interactive daily exercise tape. Yourself!Fitness’ ability to dynamically adjust itself to your own human weakness is its major strength as an exercise program. We all miss a day at the gym, but if you miss a day, the program will compensate for it, slightly increasing the intensity of the workouts for the rest of the week to make-up for it. The problem is, it’s not very fun. Unlike Wii Fit, you won’t be asked to snowboard down a mountain while dodging oncoming penguins. But there’s no denying that Yourself!Fitness is effective.
2005: BODYPAD FOR FIGHTING GAMES
The “Bodypad”, a suite of controllers strapped to the knees, waist, elbows and hands, gave gamers the ability to control their favorite PlayStation fighting games just by throwing shadow punches in the air. Despite favorable press and reports of strong sales, the Bodypad soon faded into history for the same reason as most game controllers sold without custom-designed software: it’s more efficient to use a thumbstick and a button than it is to thrust your fist against the air dozens of times per match.
Gamercize is a power stepper peripheral for all major consoles and computers. The Gamercize’s concept is simple: “You plug it into an Xbox, PlayStation or Gamecube to power up the game. When someone wants to play a game they move their feet to power up the game. Pausing on the cycle or stepper results in pausing the game. It’s a “Start” button in the form of a step machine. The more enjoyable the game you choose to play, the less you notice the exercise.” Quite simply Gamercize makes exercise effortless. Take it at your own pace and have fun with all the newest video game titles.
2008: NINTENDO WII FIT
Wii Fit is a video game developed by Nintendo for the Wii console. It is an exercise game consisting of activities using the Wii Balance Board peripheral. Wii Fit is currently the third best selling videogame in history. Wii Fit uses a unique platform peripheral called the Wii Balance Board, allowing the software to, among other uses, calculate body mass index (BMI) when told the user’s height. The game has about 50 different activities, including yoga poses, push-ups, and other exercises.
The Nexersys is a human-sized, interactive fitness machine composed of seven accelerometer-tracked striking pads, a custom computer, speakers, and a flat-screen monitor on a steel frame. It conducts the user through customized workouts based on mixed martial arts sparring techniques and high-intensity interval training. With its pads arranged to approximate striking targets on a human opponent, the Nexersys seeks to simulate the experience of sparring with a boxing trainer or MMA opponent. The machine guides the user through interactive video clips of a personal trainer who encourages, demonstrates, and gives feedback.
In “strike training” mode, it also displays 3D graphics of an animated opponent and the pads that must be hit or kicked to progress in a virtual “round.” It records the users’ stats such as number of strikes and intensity. The Nexersys also includes a heart-rate monitor and keeps track of strike accuracy, power, and calories burned in the duration of each workout. In “cardio training” and “core training” modes, it also can use the pad inputs to track the user’s progress through workouts that feature quick arm and leg movements, abdominal “crunch” contractions, body rotations, and other exercises.
2010: XBOX KINECT
Kinect is a motion sensing input device by Microsoft for use with the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows PCs. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral for the Xbox 360 console, it enables users to control and interact with the Xbox 360 without the need for a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands.
The Future of Exergaming and Active Play
According to the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry is poised to reach $70.1 billion by 2015. More games, newer consoles and new virtual experiences will continue to release into the market. It will be exciting to see what new technologies, games and solutions will be focused in the area of exergaming and active play!