By now, you have likely seen, heard, or even experienced it firsthand; in mere weeks, the mobile free-to-play gaming phenomena known as Pokémon GO has spread across multiple continents, captivating numerous countries and achieving record electronic app downloads. Receiving primarily positive feedback from users and critics, Pokémon GO has certainly made an impression on the world in the short time it’s been public, but the consequences of its user-friendly, addictive, and entertaining content have gone quite boldly beyond the screen. News and media outlets from all over are reporting on various social gatherings involving large groups of people, all of them driven by this game! Despite being a simple augmented-reality application designed with a focus on entertainment, Pokémon GO has been playing a shocking role in unifying culture, as well as getting people together and on their feet. Perhaps ironically, this quaint game has encouraged more physical activity and outdoor exploration than the majority of video games in the past, but make no mistake: Pokémon GO could be a decisive episode in the emerging utility and popularity of augmented-reality games, a genre of video entertainment software that could forever change the realm of health and fitness.
What Do Electronics and Games have to do with Fitness?
When history has demonstrated “video games” as frequently synonymous with “sit down and stare at a screen”, the concept that computer software (even that which is based on simulated environments) could improve people’s fitness or athleticism may seem far-fetched. However, virtual-reality as a genre of digital entertainment has made great leaps in recent years. The easiest way to see how augmented-reality gaming impacts health and fitness is to look at how different technologies manifest it in the real world.
Games like Pokémon GO or Ingress, an international “portal defense” game, cannot be effectively played from inside one’s home while sitting in a chair. Utilizing GPS and navigation software, these AR-games require participants to actively get up, go outside, and explore their surroundings, encouraging athletic movement! A dedicated player of either of these games will find their weekly cardio quota filled much easier. Additionally, those without much of a natural taste for physical exercise are provided with a new source of motivation to help them along the way. Walking, jogging, running, etc.…these athletic activities have never been so enjoyable!
Augmented reality gaming has come in other forms to encourage exercise and fitness. Perhaps one of the most common examples in recent history is the Nintendo: Wii, released in 2006, the Wii became a revolutionary gaming console because of its cutting-edge motion sensor technology. Wii Sports, a popular accompaniment to the console itself, was a game that demonstrated the console’s capabilities by hybridizing traditional gaming controls with physical player movement in a variety of sports. As a follow up to the console’s success, the Wii Fit hardware expansion was released 1-2 years later to further encourage electronic entertainment and its role in health and fitness.
Preparing for the Future
Extensive technological advancements involving simulated environments, full-body motion detection, and enhanced movement utilities holds the potential to shrink the gap between digital media and human athleticism in the years to come. Thanks to prospective new fields of development, including holo-imaging, VR-helmets, and artificially-projected environments, the future “sport” may no longer need a massive stadium, and exercise machines like the modern treadmill or elliptical may be replaced by a first-person shooter that incorporates one’s whole body, not just their hands!