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What fitness games interest people?— Ring Fit Adventure as an Example

Nintendo's popular game Ring Fit Adventure is one of the most successful cases of fitness games. This article digs into the interest behind the game of playing and exercising at the same time.

1. About Fitness games

Fitness games usually refer to the type of game that combines exercise with gaming. Its invention can be traced back to the early 1980s, when the giant developer Atari was researching how to help players to exercise through gaming. Their product was the combination of Atari's console and spinning bike, but unfortunately, it was ultimately declared a failure. In 2006, Nintendo's Wii successfully made the concept of 'fitness games' widely known, and such games went popular during the Covid pandemic, with Ring Fit Adventure being one of the most successful cases.

2. What appeals to players at the beginning phase of fitness games?

The change in visual effects

Traditional exercise is sometimes boring, so most people in the exercising process, due to lack of self-discipline, often give up halfway and fail to achieve their preset goals. And the creation of fitness games is to solve the problem of being boring. But most fitness games do not have a good combination of sports exercise and games together. For example, in Fitness Boxing (cardio kickboxing ), players need to finish the corresponding action according to the guidance of the coach in-game, and the game system will rate the action according to the degree of accuracy. Fitness Boxing is more like fitness software that uses physical sensation to assist, and it does not fundamentally improve the tedious and boring experience of the exercising process.

However, in Ring Fit Adventure, the real-life exercise movements are presented differently in the game, because the action and movements are no longer the results, but a means, as players need to make different movements to achieve different effects in-game. For example, in the adventure mode, the action of seated forward push will be a flying behavior in the game; in the easy mode, the squat will be presented visually as creating pottery. The change in visual presentation makes the process of exercise itself more interesting, and the variety of presentations in the game further inspires players to experience other gaming (exercise) content.

Squat in easy mode: creating pottery

3. What makes players keep playing?

Gaming framework of RPG

In addition to the visual effect, the more important innovation of Ring Fit Adventure is its gameplay. The adventure mode, which is the core gameplay of Ring Fit Adventure, builds up a framework as an RPG game, and it integrates exercise into the game and achieves the balance between the two. The game follows the usual RPG pattern of fighting and upgrading, the protagonist needs to carry his own spirit ring (fit ring) to start the adventure, fight with all the enemies encountered on the way, and defeat the final boss. The continuous growth of the game character also drives the players to continue to experience the following game content. The two motivations complement each other, which allows players to enjoy playing the game and achieve the purpose of exercise at the same time.

On the other hand, part of the player's attention will be shifted from the fitness itself to the process of playing and upgrading, which to a certain extent helps players ignore the boredom of fitness, eventually translating into longer exercise time as well as better exercise results.

Boss in adventure mode

Visualized immediate feedback

During the exercise process, the player's character will have the 'burning' effect in two parts of their body: the first part is the hair, the size of the flame corresponds to the precise degree of the player's action; the second burning part is the actual body part of each exercise action, the screen will also show the name of the corresponding body part.

First of all, when the player does partial exercise action, the burning effect will provide the player with the illusion that his body is burning fat, and when the player accepts the psychological hint, one will subconsciously correct and perfect their own action to maximize the burning effect (the size of flame in hair). Similar psychological hints are the display of abdominal muscle strength, when the player charges his strength, the beer belly will slowly turn into eight abs. And when the player is in the defense of the boss attack, the shield around the belly will also change its size according to the player's strength. When players subconsciously take their abdominal muscles as a huge shield in front of them, players will be motivated to continue to squeeze the muscle involuntarily. The purpose of the above two designs is actually the visualization of the invisible immediate gains of exercise to the player so that it motivates the player to do more in the exercise process.

Shield around belly and the burning flame

4. Behind the interest in exercise games

Evolution of the same action

In the actual exercise, people usually complete a set of actions repetitively to achieve the purpose, but Ring Fit Adventure made continuous innovation in the gameplay, so that the same action is no longer repetitive and tedious, which minimizes the boring experience that players need to endure when repeating single action.

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In the exercise experience, Ring Fit Adventure not only meets the player's needs for the repeated exercise of a specific action, but the gradual increase in the difficulty of the game also allows players to master the skills of exercise better. In the game experience, the gameplay is constantly changing; even if the players are doing repeated movements, they can still feel a sense of freshness. Take the squat action as an example, at the very beginning, a deep squat is required to trigger the ejection switch, as the player only needs to complete the simplest squat action.

After that, the game introduced a switch that requires continuous squatting to trigger, which has additional requirements on the basic squatting action. Then, the game added the spring mechanism, the effect of which is to bounce higher and higher, and it requires players to squat multiple times. The squats then change from springs to swings, with groups of six squats, and the process emphasizes the rhythm of movement and requires players to complete them consistently. In addition, the squat also evolved into the gameplay of driving, players need to control the track car through squatting, and each deep squat makes the car advance a little bit. If encountered uphill players have to do fast continuous squats, which exercise the player's endurance and explosive power. A simple deep squat mechanism evolved with different gameplays.

5. Summary

Exercise itself is a time-consuming, monotonous, and sometimes painful activity with weak feedback. People need to endure both the boring and tiring process and have to persist for a long time to see the results. On the contrary, the game itself is more of a way of entertainment, and one of the biggest features is strong and immediate feedback, and Ring Fit Adventure is trying its best to amplify these two parts. Players will mainly be attracted by the novel visual effects, the visualization of exercise activities in a gamified way so that players in the exercise process will feel the fun more easily.

At the same time, the real invisible exercise benefits are presented to the players in a visual way, so that the players can maximize their motivation to work out. When players are working out and perceiving the core fun of RPG games after a period of time, exercise itself is no longer the only motivation for players to continue. Finally, the continuous evolution of the same action not only satisfies the players' basic need for increasing difficulty but also minimizes the tedious experience that players need to endure when repeating a single action. The freshness and joy that the gaming content continues to provide ultimately drives the players to continue to play the exercise game.

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