Physical activity motivating games: be active and get your own reward

Shlomo Berkovsky, Jill Freyne, Mac Coombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


People’s daily lives have become increasingly sedentary, with extended periods of time being spent in front of a host of electronic screens for learning, work, and entertainment. We present research into the use of an adaptive persuasive technology, which introduces bursts of physical activity into a traditionally sedentary activity: computer game playing. Our game design approach leverages the playfulness and addictive nature of computer games to motivate players to engage in mild physical activity. The design allows players to gain virtual in-game rewards in return for performing real physical activity captured by sensory devices. This article presents a two-stage analysis of the activity-motivating game design approach applied to a prototype game. Initially, we detail the overall acceptance of active games discovered when trialing the technology with 135 young players. Results showed that players performed more activity without negatively affecting their perceived enjoyment of the playing experience. The analysis did discover, however, a lack of balance between the amounts of physical activity carried out by players with various gaming skills, which prompted a subsequent investigation into adaptive techniques for balancing the amount of physical activity performed by players. An evaluation of additional 90 players showed that adaptive techniques successfully overcame the gaming skills dependence and achieved more balanced activity levels. Overall, this work positions activity-motivating games as an approach that can potentially change the way players interact with computer games and lead to healthier lifestyles.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Pages (from-to)1-41
Number of pages41
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • serious games
  • game design approach
  • physical activity
  • motivation
  • player modeling
  • adaptivity in games
  • user study


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