A team of researchers in the U.S. is trying to find out how to make interactive video games that can assist in improving the player's health.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health has started work on a research project for the purpose, with the financial aid coming from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The project has been named Health Games Research, and its aim is to strengthen the evidence base related to the development and use of games to achieve desirable health outcomes.
"Research shows that young adults play video games as much as - or in some cases more than - children do," said Dr. Deborah Tate, assistant professor in the School's departments of health behaviour and health education and nutrition.
"Since young adulthood is a time of decreasing physical activity and rapid weight gain, video games may provide a more active form of leisure than traditional TV for this age group," she added.
Along with doctoral student Elizabeth Lyons, Tate will probe people's motivations to expend energy while playing video games.
During the study, traditional video games played on home consoles will be compared with more active games that require physical movement beyond just pushing buttons or flicking the wrist.
Such active games require players to use a controller-like a dance pad, balance board or even a guitar.
"The research focuses on presence and intrinsic motivation. Presence is the perception of actually being in the game environment. Intrinsic motivation is the desire to do something for its own sake and not for a reward. Both presence and intrinsic motivation seem to increase the amount of time players spend with games. But these two factors have never been measured or studied to assess their impact on the amount of energy people will expend when playing an active game or when playing a traditional game," said Lyons, who herself is an avid gamer.
The researchers would try to discern what effects different types of controllers may have on the players, and how they influence a person's perspective in the game.
They would also look at the feelings of presence and intrinsic motivation among 50 men and 50 women, all aged 18 to 35.
In all, the effects of playing 10 games will be investigated during the study.
"The findings may help us understand how to make traditional games more active, and active games more compelling," Lyons said.
Apart from the UNC researchers, 11 other teams will also carry out similar studies separately.
"Together, the 12 studies funded in this round will help us better understand how people respond to various types of health games, and this will potentially lead to new game-based applications that can more effectively engage and motivate players to improve their health," said Dr. Debra Lieberman, communication researcher in the university's Institute for Social, Behavioral and Economic Research.