Exergaming: Programming Outside the Xbox
Exergames are “games for health that get the player moving, using physical challenges and interfaces that require movement and exertion,” states Debra Lieberman, a lecturer in the department of communication and a researcher in the Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “They involve the player in dance, aerobics, kickboxing, sports moves, martial arts, biking, virtual window washing or other forms of physical activity.” Dance Dance Revolution and Wii may be the more well-known forms of exergaming, but there are a variety of other products that can be played without a PlayStation-like console.
The “fun factor” is an exergame’s greatest appeal, but its health-related benefits are an added value. Short bouts of game play are similar in intensity to moderate forms of traditional physical activities, such as walking, skipping and jogging (Maddison et al. 2007). A study using Nintendo’s Wii showed that playing an average of 12.2 hours a week could burn off 1,830 calories (Liverpool John Moores University 2007).
Is Exergaming Right for Your Facility?
Investing in exergames won’t necessarily guarantee a profitable return unless the modality aligns well with the goals, culture and demographics of your club. According to the statistics of the video gaming industry, the average game player is 33 years old. Forty-eight percent of players are aged 18-49, and 24% are over 50 (ESA 2007). While children under 18 make up just 28% of all gamers, they are currently the greatest adopters of exergames.
How you implement an exergaming department is just as important as why. Consider the following logistical variables:
- Space: A dedicated area is important for the program to succeed. Plan anywhere from 800 to 7,000 square feet. Like indoor cycling or yoga, exergaming is an experience that thrives under favorable conditions.
- Cost: Exergames cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Remember to include hidden costs, such as equipment security and maintenance, program staffing and training, and marketing promotions.
- Equipment: Stick to games people know. Games operating with motion sensors or requiring minimal heavy pounding are your best bets in terms of maintenance. In the future, expect to see equipment leasing programs that will allow clubs to rotate newer games through their centers.
Pay-per-Play or Free?
Most new programs start out as a paid service because of their revenue-generating potential. Exergaming is unique in that it targets an audience who might otherwise never join a gym. To attract this population, think about creating an exclusive exergaming membership, which might limit access to other amenities in the club. Given the chance to acclimate into a fitness environment, gamers might eventually upgrade to a regular membership.
Learn more about exergaming and how to structure an effective program in Biray Alsac’s article “Exergaming: Programming Outside the Xbox” in the March 2008 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or online in the IDEA Article Archive.
Tell Us What You’re Doing: Has your facility taken the leap into exergaming? If so, what feedback are you getting from members? And do you charge separately for exergames? How is that working out? E-mail your response to [email protected], and it may appear in a future issue of IDEA Fit Tips.
Entertainment Software Association (ESA). 2007. Essential facts about the computer and video game industry: 2007 sales, demographic and usage data.
Liverpool John Moores University. 2007. News update: Playing computer games can “burn up calories.” Feb. 22. www.ljmu.ac.uk/NewsUpdate/index_86603.htm.
Maddison, R., et al. 2007. Energy expended playing video console games: An opportunity to increase children’s physical activity? Pediatric Exercise Science, 19 (3), 334-43.