The Adolescence of Active Gaming
By: Dwayne Sheehan, MA, B.Ed., B.PE
Active gaming is growing up. It’s no longer the infant that requires nurturing and protecting. Progressive thinkers who have recognized the link between video games, fun and physical activity have been quietly advancing the industry for years. With the popularity of Wii and DDR leading the way, the child we call “exergaming” is now enjoying the adventurous and rebellious years of being a teenager!
Ironically, it’s the children and teenagers of today’s society that need the physiological benefits of active gaming more than anyone else. Children today see screen technologies as integral to their daily lives, thereby influencing how they spend their spare time and impacting time spent doing physical activity. Excessive sedentary screen time has contributed to an increase in childhood obesity, higher incidences of disease, and difficulties learning in school. With sedentary screen time at an all-time high, research is showing that interactive gaming technologies are motivating children to be more active in an environment comfortable to them: one based in technology and gaming. The applications of retail exergaming technology as a motivational tool to help children and adolescents achieve physical literacy could have a significant impact in the fight against childhood inactivity.
At the heart of increasing physical activity is the development of fundamental movement skills upon which more difficult motor tasks are built. Balance is one such fundamental skill which can be further dissected to include postural stability. The potential for a beneficial change in postural stability, and other basic motor abilities, as a result of using exergames, may affect children’s perceptions of physical activity by engaging them in activities that they have confidence in, are successful with, and enjoy.
According to Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) plan, the most influential years in the development of physical literacy occur during the optimal period of readiness prior to puberty. The Canadian Exergaming Research Center (CERC) has been designed to study the impact of active video gaming on the acquisition of fundamental movement skills in children. Located in a public elementary school in Calgary (Canada), the CERC is a dedicated living lab with 27 active gaming stations that are age appropriate and intended to help children improve balance, agility, coordination and laterality. When students are participating, direct connections to the Alberta Physical Education Program of Studies are made to ensure that the outcomes of exergaming activities align with the relevant standards of physical education.
There is no doubt that during this exciting stage of exergaming growth, ideas will continue to evolve and the technology will continue to amaze us. Growing up, as we all know, also has its share of responsibility that may not always be attended to. In order to for the active gaming industry to continue maturing, research must continue to keep up with the pace of the field. By constantly finding ways to scientifically connect the games to physical and health benefits, society will continue to see the tremendous potential of active gaming as a tool in the fight against childhood obesity.
For more information on the CERC and their current research, click HERE