Dance Dance Revolution and EyeToy Kinetic Modifications for Youths with Visual Impairments

Article excerpt

Youths with disabilities tend to be less physically active than their peers without disabilities, and one of the goals of Healthy People 2010 is to reduce this disparity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Unfortunately youths with visual impairments do not engage in levels of physical activity that are sufficient for maintaining adequate fitness and supporting a healthy standard of living (Longmuir & Bar-Or, 2000). Many youths with visual impairments have been shown to have lower physical fitness levels than their sighted peers and have trouble meeting the recommended levels of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (Kozub & Oh, 2004; Lieberman & McHugh, 2001).These low physical fitness levels might be the result of limited time spent in physical activity and the lack of opportunities to be physically active.

In order to increase the opportunities for youths with visual impairments to engage in physical activity, schools need to have a strong physical education program (Stuart, Lieberman, & Hand, 2006). Promoting physical activity as enjoyable and beneficial has been and remains a major focus of physical educators. Adapted physical education can provide more choices, and therefore, more opportunities for children with visual impairments to choose activities they like (Robinson & Lieberman, 2004). It is also important that teachers match their teaching style to the youths' learning preference and interests in order to effectively teach the required skills (O'Connell, Lieberman, & Petersen, 2006). One leisure-time activity that has become increasingly popular and has captured the interest of many youths is video games.

Parents and educators should capitalize on the popularity of computer and video games (National Institute on Media and the Family, 2001). One way to make sure that time spent playing video games is active rather than sedentary is to play exergames. Regular video games are played with a handheld controller, but exergames require the player to move parts of the body or the entire body to play a game. In essence, the player becomes the character in the video game. Exergames can be fun and engaging for players of all skill levels (Trout & Christie, 2007).

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) is probably the most commonly used exergame in physical education and after-school programs. It requires players to step to the beat and rhythm of various types of music. Arrows flash on the television screen in four directions (up, down, right, and left) and they cue the players when and where to step on the touch-sensitive dance pad. Players receive points and cheers when they step in time with the flashing arrows.

EyeToy Kinetic is another popular exergame. It displays a live video of the game player onto the television screen using a small web-camera. There are multiple games to play in EyeToy Kinetic, but perhaps the most applicable game for visually impaired students is Breakspeed. In Breakspeed, the image of the person playing is projected onto the screen and a wall of bricks will show up on the screen in either the upper quadrants just below the neck, or the lower quadrants just below the waist. The objective in Breakspeed is to break as many bricks as possible by punching or kicking the bricks that are located in different areas (upper right, upper left, lower right, or lower left). Each time a brick is hit, visual and auditory feedback is provided.

In both of these exergames, the players must move their body in order to play the game. This new genre of video games has led researchers to explore its use in physical education, fitness, and rehabilitation. In fact, recent research reports that exergames are healthy activities because game players engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity while playing (Alsac, 2007; Maddison, Mhurchu, Jull, Prapavessis, & Rodgers, 2007).The purpose of this article is to explore modifications to Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and EyeToy Kinetic for youths with visual impairments. …