The first post from my friend Paul Puopolo - an unsung revolutionary in the world of Games for Health. Paul is still at it - he's now the VP of Innovation at Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. This piece was originally published on December 18, 2008.
Having just finished watching my daughter’s basketball practice, we got into the car and headed home. Not too long after we departed the parking lot, we started talking about practice (a typical coaching opportunity) but during our discussion my daughter broke out her Nintendo DS and began playing one of the titles in her “library” while simultaneously responding to my tips on how to best take the ball down the court. I had to laugh a little. Here was my daughter, having just engaged in 60 minutes of physical activity yet enjoying her video game just as much. Two types of play but in her eyes it was just fun.
Obesity rates in the U.S. are at an all time high, particularly for kids under 18 years old. No need to quote themhere. Not to get into a socio-economic debate but there are a variety of reasons that contribute to these numbers (Changes in our community and work environments and apparently the popularity of game technology are just a few).
An interesting article We’ll Get Fit if It’s Fun, based on a research study in England, states that 9 out of 10 kids want to play video games at the same time they exercise. Why? To reduce the boredom! Is it odd that kids today find exercise boring? If you ever climbed on a treadmill, rode a stationary bike or slung some dumbbells, this should be no surprise. When we launched the Horsepower Challenge – a pedometer based online game with 5 schools in Louisville, kids told us a similar story. You can check it out on Humanagames.com.
Game technology provides us a unique opportunity to motivate all generations to improve their health. But more importantly, to have fun doing so.
According to a recent Pew Internet Report over 53% of adults play video games. Are these the gamers like myself who grew up on Atari, with geometric shaped Space Invaders and Pac Man and now have kids who are avid gamers? Probably. But they are also moms who have taken on casual PC games and who Nintendo has captured with the Wii. Even seniors are increasingly getting into the “game”.
Video games provide us the ability to approach health differently. There is no reason that health has to be boring and monotonous. Our job is to focus on what's fun and make it healthy - not the reverse.
I don’t think my daughter is going to stop playing video games anytime soon (if her older siblings are any indication). But I don’t think she is going to stop playing hoops either.