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16 January 2014

The Importance of Online Sport Buddies For Exergame Success

Keywords: games, North America, computer, experiment, gaming, health, intervention, technology, young adults,

Exercise video games, such as ‘Dance Dance Revolution’, and ‘Just Dance’ can improve young people’s physical health. However, little is known about factors that influence the success of exergames. What about the presence of sport buddies for instance? A Journal of Medical Internet Research study shows that the presence of online sport buddies motivates young adults to spend more time on exercising during a PlayStation 2 abdominal exergame.  

Take aways

  • Playing exergames together with online sport buddies (via video chat) is beneficial for young adults’ exercise durations during the game. 
  • However, encouragements from the online sport buddy (e.g., “you can do it”, “keep it going”) is not boosting exercise performances. 
  • For exergame developers, it’s worth looking at ways to integrate (online) group interactions in their active video game, as this seems to increase exercise duration. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Are online sport buddies important for young adults’ exercise duration during exergames? 

  • Who?

    115 students (mean age: 20-years old; 50% male) from Michigan State University 

  • Where?

    Michigan, United States

  • How?

    First, all participants played an abdominal exergame via PlayStation 2. The game contained five different exercises (e.g., push-ups), and used the EyeToy Kinetic software with implemented camera in order to track players’ movements.

    After they all individually played the exergame once, researchers divided the young adults into three different groups. In the first group they played the same exergame individually again, in the second group they played the same exergame but this time together with an online (same-sex) partner via Skype who performed the same exercises, and the third group was similar to the second, but additionally the online partner gave encouragements (e.g., “you can do it”, “you got this”, “keep it going”). The sport buddy was in both groups always the superior one, the one who performed the exercises the longest.

    The young adults were told to perform the five exercises for as long as they could. The total play time was measured by the total number of seconds of all five exercises taken together.

Facts and findings

  • Playing exergames together with online sport buddies (via video chat) is beneficial for young adults’ exercise durations during the game: 
    • The young adults who replayed the exergame individually, decreased their play time compared to their first game performance. 
    • Those who replayed the exergame together with an online sport buddy, increased their play time compared to the first game when they played individually. 
    • Those who replayed the game together with a buddy that encouraged them, increased their play time compared to their first game as well, but not compared to those who exercised with a buddy that didn’t encourage them (see Figure 1). 
  • An explanation for this finding is that encouragements from the sport buddy did not affect young adult’s believe in the self, and therefore it probably did not influence exercise duration time. 
  • Critical note: The results might not be representative of other kinds of online sport buddies, because in this research the buddies were always the ones who performed the best. The study only gives an impression of the influence of ‘superior’ online sport buddies.