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Exergaming Literature Review

New literature review of scholarly articles about Exergaming from University of Thessaly, Greece. Would you like gym more if you play video games during it? I think I would.

Speaking of exergaming, there's good news for all those kids out there who suck at sports!

A brand new piece from the journal Computers & Education performs a literature review of recent scientific articles regarding computer games and their utility in physical education and health education. Marina Papastergiou from the University of Thessaly in Greece is the author. Here's the abstract:


This study aims at critically reviewing recently published scientific literature on the use of computer and video games in Health Education (HE) and Physical Education (PE) with a view: (a) to identifying the potential contribution of the incorporation of electronic games as educational tools into HE and PE programs, (b) to present a synthesis of the available empirical evidence on the educational effectiveness of electronic games in HE and PE, and (c) to define future research perspectives concerning the educational use of electronic games in HE and PE. After systematically searching online bibliographic databases, 34 relevant articles were located and included in the study. Following the categorization scheme proposed by [Dempsey, J., Rasmussen, K., & Lucassen, B. (1996). The instructional gaming literature: Implications and 99 sources. University of South Alabama, College of Education, Technical Report No. 96-1], those articles were grouped into the following four categories: (a) research, (b) development, (c) discussion and (d) theory. The overviewed articles suggest that electronic games present many potential benefits as educational tools for HE and PE, and that those games may improve young people’s knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours in relation to health and physical exercise. Furthermore, the newly emerged physically interactive electronic games can potentially enhance young people’s physical fitness, motor skills and motivation for physical exercise. The empirical evidence to support the educational effectiveness of electronic games in HE and PE is still rather limited, but the findings present a positive picture overall. The outcomes of the literature review are discussed in terms of their implications for future research, and can provide useful guidance to educators, practitioners and researchers in the areas of HE and PE, and to electronic game designers. [Copyright 2009 Elsevier]

Literature reviews are always useful in that it a) provides a scholarly look at the research pertinent to one area, and b) someone else does all the work for you.

This review, for example, finds that:

  1. Gaming can be of potential benefit to students in the realms of health and physical education
  2. Proof of this is limited, but that is a function of how much research has been done, rather than a lack of positive evidence
  3. The relatively new "exergaming" genre deserves special attention due to its potential

I don't want to seem like I'm focusing on exergaming, it just happens to be what I've come across frequently as of late. What worries me is if some developer jumps on this and starts creating games specifically for exercising (don't confuse that with Wii Fit, as that is specifically made to be a commercial money-maker; I'm talking about something like "e-Pilates" or "Virtual Weightlifting" or something). That tends to be the problem with well-intentioned serious or educational games: the message is the focus and the gameplay is secondary. Don't take my word for it. Take it from Ernest Adams, author of Fundamentals of Game Design: the most common fatal mistake that befalls game designers is to put the message before the game.

So, while I would champion anything that gets kids off their butts and moving, I really, really hope the games are good. First impressions are so important, you know?

(Originally posted on Teach Video Games, September 3, 2009.)

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