Tuesday, March 20, 2007

This I Believe: Work Should be Fun

Why do work and play need to be segregated? I firmly believe that it is not only important to have passions but have a passion for what one does professionally. A job should not be a means to an end but rather it should provide personal fulfillment in addition to monetary compensation. This perspective is perhaps privileged and even naive, however I feel that I need to derive more than income from my career. Success is finding something enjoyable, something that inspires one and committing to it, resulting in a feeling of fulfillment far more satisfying than any dollar amount. Gaming is viewed as a luxury, and indulgence that people can rely on to release them from the drudgery of everyday life. On the other hand, some people dedicate themselves to creating and producing this “unneeded” luxury item and find the satisfaction that I strive for.

Game developers, game designers, even quality assurance testers are in the industry because they love games. People in this industry have found a way to meld their passion with business and generate a huge profit as a by product. The Game Developers Conference “geek of the week” Alexander Macris, game publisher and marketer shown to the right, relates how he entered the industry because, “it was the best way to combine my passion for games with the pursuit of entrepreneurship.” He is a successful business man by conventional standards, at the top of his field, but more importantly he achieved this while following his passion. He navigated with his business desires and depended on his gaming interest and stuck to it. I admire those like Alexander who have an unwavering love for something and find a way to spawn success from it and hope to attain this status eventually myself. The game industry is one especially ripe with opportunity, growth and filled with people devoted to their field partially due to its young and emergent nature.

Not to say that game development is the sole path to success or that my enthusiasm for games will lead me to a promising and fruitful future; I just believe that for a purposeful life I, and all people, need to follow their interests. This is necessary not only for personal growth and betterment but for the maturation and furtherance of fields like gaming. Without obsession and zeal progress would not occur at the rate we see in the gaming industry or any industry. Game developer and researcher and Blogger, shown on the left, Ph.D. Ian Bogost was posed the question: “are games art?” He responded, “Even asking such a question is an indication that our industry is maturing and games are becoming a dominant form of entertainment.” What he said is true games are not only popular now, but are gaining clout by means of sales, artistic value, complexity, and functionality. Games are no longer a simple frivolity but a method for learning, exercising, connecting socially, working and of course having fun. This is an important process for any field and it is driven by those with the ardor and love for games. These game developers and gamers inspire me; I see what they are doing and have done and I hope to dedicate myself in the way they have to something I enjoy as thoroughly.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Exergaming: Can Video Games Be a Solution?

Childhood obesity in our country is already at a staggering thirty percent which many attribute to their more sedentary lifestyle, pervaded by high fructose diets and video games. Contrary to this view, a recent trend in youth fitness programs surprisingly has kids playing video games to work out spawning the term “exergaming”. Exergames are games that consist of a virtual reality or interactive game that requires physical movement to achieve the goal of the game such as Dance Dance Revolution. Schools are integrating exergaming into their P.E departments and private youth gyms are even dedicating their entire programs to it. However researchers are skeptical as there is little empirical data to support the programs and whether they are truly effective toward the goal of reducing the number of obese children. Professionals in the healthcare and exercise education are ambivalent factions of each supporting and supplanting the new movement. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence for long term achievement for, children have responded well and currently the programs seem to be successful.

Proponents of exergaming increasingly include public schooling systems such as Woodside High School. Laura Perdikomatis, the P.E instructor, has introduced the system at their school and claims, “The kids love (Dance Dance Revolution) .. This is the first time in 11 years of teaching P.E. that I've had to kick kids out of class who don't want to stop exercising”. This popularity is an indication of the programs potential; if kids truly enjoy the games and they are affective, it is a great solution. Laura Perdikomatis and many other educators including the entire West Virginia School board, which deployed in 765 public schools, support this movement due the to blaring apparentness of the children’s peaked interest in exercise. They enjoy going to the gym with the exergaming approach and want to “work out” for longer. Regardless of peaked interest and prolonged time in gym class, the question remains, are the games actually benefiting their health?
Currently researchers at the Mayo Clinics at UCSF and at University of Florida discovered that kids do get a workout; as long as they stick with it. Lustig, a researcher from UCSF reports, “he bottom line is if they do it, it works. But the problem is they don't do it…he only thing that works is mandatory exercise” after giving kids the Dance Dance Revolution game and following their progress at home.

Why should it be their responsibility to continue playing on their own? These are the same children who have a serious aversion to physical activity and are obese. Lustig prescribes “mandatory exercise”, well why not make the games mandatory. They have been proven more enjoyable and though the kids may not go home and jump at the chance to play them on their own. At the XRtainment Zone, a private youth gym dedicated to exergaming whose logo is at the top, children are given multiple choices for exergames and are given health and wellness classes to supplement the activity of the games. With encouragement and guidance and a set regiment of playing the games the children will be more likely to stick to the program and enjoy it. Also Lustig only allowed for the use of one game, when many could be rotated allowing for the boredom of the kids to be less of a factor. The use of exergaming is an interesting alternative to regular exercise that promises more enjoyment and hopefully less obesity.