Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Exer-gaming helps you lose weight while gaming

Exer-gaming or exertainment is a term used for video games that also make you exercise.

The hit product of this genre of games is the Dance Dance Revolution franchise (DDR) first released in Japan in 1998 as an arcade game. Over 90 different versions have been produced since then both as arcade and video games on Sony PlayStation (original and PS2), Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft XBox. The video game releases alone have sold more than 2 million copies. DDR arcade cabinets can be found in regular arcade halls and increasingly also in fitness clubs.

DDR is a rhythm game usually played on a dance pad with up, down, left and right panels. The dance pad is set on the floor - the arcade cabinets have elaborately constructed sets that incorporate the dance pads sometimes with hand rails. The game will display the arrows in ever increasing speeds on the screen. The player is then supposed to hit the panels on the dance pad with their feet as they appear on the screen. The arrows are synchronized to beat of the music played during gameplay, so if the faster the beat, the faster the arrows will appear and if there's a pause in the beat, the arrows will also pause. The gameplay is not entirely unlike the classic 80s party game Simon.

The State of West Virginia recently made a decision to purchase Microsoft XBox video game consoles and DDR games for all of its 765 public schools to fight childhood obesity.

While DDR is the most popular of the rhythm game genre, as these games sometimes are labeled, there are a wealth of options to choose from. Following is a short list of examples from most of the different sub-genres:
  • Britney's Dance Beat (yes, that Britney).
  • Drumming games, which include a drum controller. The idea is still the same as DDR's, but instead of hitting the dance pad with your feet, you hit the drums with your hands.
  • PaRappa the Rapper was probably the first rhythm game that attracted considerable support from gamers.
  • Space Channel 5 was an extremely popular rhythm game on the Sega Dreamcast game console.
  • Karaoke games are another popular rhythm game sub-genre. They can't really be labeled exer-gaming games though. Probably the most popular game in this genre is Karaoke Revolution.
Another major exer-gaming product group is exercising equipment incorporating games or connecting to video game devices. They either come with special software as in the case of the Peak Training System or various Tacx products designed for indoor cycling or just with the exercising equipment like The GameBike, which acts just like regular controllers on the PlayStation2 and XBox video game machines.

A very exciting new product group is made of devices that use digital cameras and motion recognition software to "see" how the players are moving and then translate them into movement of a virtual representation of the player. Applications range from virtual golf games and Kick Ass Kung-Fu to EyeToy (r).

Exer-gaming is one of the most quickly growing video game markets. The reasons are easy to understand when you look at the statistics of childhood obesity; 16% of boys and 14.5% of girls ages 6 to 11 were obese in 1999 and 2000. While going out for a quick jogging session might not appeal to children much, put them on a DDR dance pad with their friends, and the story is entirely different.

Here's an excellent roundup of exer-gaming.

No comments: