Research at CU encourages gamers to get active

Exergaming

Jacob Jardel

Staff Editor

A Cameron professor is studying how gaming can go from sedentary to active by way of “CU Exergaming.”

Dr. Yoonsin Oh, Assistant Professor of Health and Physical Education, initiated a semester-long research study that aims to see how exergames—video games such as “Just Dance” that require the player’s physical exertion for gameplay—influence participants’ physical activity.

She came up with the idea during her days at graduate school in Wisconsin as part of her university’s Games Learning Society. Studying games like “World of Warcraft” and “Pokemon HeartGold” and “Pokemon SoulSilver,” she found a way to link her interests in video games and healthy lifestyles.

“My interest is fighting against obesity, increasing physical activity levels in terms of more fun and interactive ways with current technology,” Oh said.

This current research project fell right in line with her research interests. According to Oh, it also has the potential to provide members of the Cameron community a unique chance at energizing their physical regimens.

She said, “We started it to have an opportunity for our CU students, faculty and staff to be more physically active by playing video games.”

This opportunity also has the potential to change people’s views on video games.

Oh said, “A lot of people say video games are more focused on sitting down while working fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. That’s the typical mindset of video games.”

However, Oh said that exergames have the potential to break that mold as well as allow participants to shake the mold off their workout plans.

“There are video games that require physical activity and movement,” she said. “Let’s see how it’s working. It has been just starting to develop the research on how it’s effective.”

With the onset of exergames across gaming platforms such as the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation, the modern landscape of video games is beginning to change. According to Oh, however, the change mostly comes via one avenue.

“I see a lot of new trends in increasing and encouraging people to be more physically active, but I don’t see a lot of differences in terms of core game mechanics,” she said

The big difference, Oh stated, comes down to how players exert themselves during the gaming process.

She said, “If you’re playing ‘League of Legends’ and you’re sitting down and clicking around, it encourages you to sit down and click the mouse. But it’s got a lot of strategy to it. There’s more cognitive function to it, but your body is actually sedentary.”

Meanwhile, exergames require the player to stand up and move around in order to interact with the game’s interface. Oh said that the method is the main difference between sedentary games and exergames.

She expressed her hopes that this big difference is the gateway activity that leads participants to more active lifestyles.

“When I did interviews with some of the people who are thinking about being more physically active,” Oh said, “they show a lack of motivation or lack of sticking with their regimen and physical activity schedules.”

She hopes this research will show that gaming actively will boost participant motivation and consistency, noting that preferences play a big role in staying with goals.

“If you like something, then you’ll attempt to do it on top of whatever you’re already doing,” Oh said. “I’m hoping to see if we can pull people’s interest in having fun with motivation and interest in the physical activity through video gaming.”

“I’m hoping that people will enjoy the experience and become more physically active regularly.”

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/85763358[/vimeo]

For more details on CU Exergaming, contact Dr. Yoonsin Oh at yoh@cameron.edu.

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