The social distancing measures and self-isolation initiated by the coronavirus pandemic has left people looking for new ways to exercise at home. Could active video games (AVGs) such as Pokemon Go and the recent hit Ring Fit Adventure be the answer?
AVGs are played by moving your whole body instead of just tapping buttons or a screen. They are marketed as a way for people to take part in physical activity through video games, and studies have shown that they can indeed be effective at increasing physical activity levels and helping people lose weight.
The most recent popular development is Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure game for its Switch console, which involves cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening exercises in an interval structure, on top of more traditional game storytelling and animation. The game sold more than 2 million copies in the three months after it was released in October 2019. But looking more widely at commercial statistics from the past 10 years, the number of successful AVG titles is sparse, with at most two titles in the annual top 100 global games – and more frequently zero.
So if AVGs really can benefit your fitness, why aren’t more people buying them? My recent research suggests that most of these games are simply not of a high enough quality and don’t provide enough of a workout to satisfy players. This suggests the industry needs to up its game if it wants to make AVGs a success.
First, the fitness. The UK government advises that people should undertake at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, as well as at least two sessions of muscle-strengthening exercises. While we know that AVGs can increase physical activity levels slightly, they don’t provide a way to carry out sustained periods of moderate activity or any vigorous activity or muscle-strengthening activities.
The one exception is Ring Fit Adventure, which can offer these things, but even that is dependent on your current fitness level. Frequent gym goers are unlikely to find the game provides the challenge they need so it wouldn’t be much of a replacement while stuck in the house.
All this suggests that most of the current crop of AVGs don’t do enough to improve people’s physical fitness to make that a real selling point of the games.
What is the GetAMoveOn Network+ ? The GetAMoveOn Network+ is an interdisciplinary community of researchers and practitioners, funded by an EPSRC grant running from June 2016 to December 2020. Aim Our aim is to transform health through enabling mobility with the help of digital technologies. We are …