Interactive Video Games in Physical Education: Rather Than Contribute to a Sedentary Lifestyle, These Games Demand Activity from the Players
Trout, Josh, Christie, Brett, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Physical Education has become a popular venue for innovative technologies in recent years. In addition to the use of personal digital assistants (PDAs), pedometers, heart rate monitors, laptops, and performance analysis software, physical educators are gradually introducing students to interactive video games. These games, in contrast to those discussed by Hayes and Silberman (2007), require the player(s) to be physically active, thereby negating the long-standing belief that all video games contribute to a sedentary lifestyle.
Technology is by no means a prerequisite for educational games. Similarly, technology should not replace effective teaching, but should be viewed as a supplement to appropriate pedagogical practices. In an overweight nation where obesity is the second leading cause of death due, in part, to physical inactivity (Mokdad, Marks, Stroup, & Gerberding, 2004), any strategy for increasing or promoting physical activity is worth exploring.
Physical inactivity is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic spreading across the country (Kujala, Kaprio, Sarna, & Markku, 1998). The percentage of overweight children and teens (ages 6-19) in the United States tripled from about 5 percent in 1980 to roughly 16 percent in 2002 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005). These alarming figures should spur us to get youths more active.
In recent years, interactive video games have crept into physical education settings, making physical activity fun and challenging for both high- and low-skilled students. Interactive video games offer more than just animated exercise. Many of these games have built-in assessments, such as scoring systems based on skill performance, as well as heart rate monitors and caloric expenditure estimates. Some are even specifically designed to enhance motor abilities such as balance, hand-eye coordination, agility, and core strength. These engaging, interactive video games have the potential to increase physical activity levels among children and teenagers. They can also serve as a tool to educate students about the physiological functions of their body, such as how their heart responds to various intensities of activity.
The topic of interactive arcade games in physical education is a new phenomenon, so empirical evidence is not yet available to support the wealth of positive outcomes proclaimed by teachers and students in the popular media. Despite the lack of research, the state of West Virginia had enough confidence in Dance Dance Revolution (DDR, described below) to authorize the purchase of one machine for each of its 765 public school physical education programs, at a cost of $740 apiece (Toppo, 2006).
While interactive arcade games may enhance skills such as coordination, reaction time, endurance, speed, and agility, there is no research stating that, even if learned, these skills would transfer to other sporting contexts. However, interactive arcade games would be no less valuable if they failed to improve skills in other sports or physical activities. Teaching students to be physically active for life is the aim of physical educators, but at present only 30 percent of adult men and women regularly engage in physical activity (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). Thus, exploring innovative curricular ideas such as interactive arcade games seems necessary and even urgent.
The two most popular video game consoles--Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation--are highly equipped for physically active gameplay with high-tech cameras, accessories (e.g., light-gun, dance pad, steering wheel), and Internet connections to compete against others online. Although the idea will likely provoke mixed opinions, video games may provide a more popular outlet for lifetime physical activity than more traditional sports and physical activities. This trend has already begun, as DDR tournaments are currently being held all over the world. …