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  Eleven Fit Teens Fail Wii Fitness Test  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-30 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
MedPage Today reports that Wii Sports, a game for the Nintendo Wii console, wasn't found to contribute to recommended daily exercise standards set in Britain, according to a Liverpool University study. Nintendo has been hoping its console would be seen as a fitness aid, releasing the Wii Fit controller and Wii game in Japan earlier this year (due out elsewhere in 2008). A number of academics, researchers, and consumers around the world have been looking at the console as a potential fitness device, with varying results. A Canadian hospital is even using the game console as part of a physical rehabilitation program.

The Liverpool study--ironically, funded by Nintendo's UK marketing arm--might have dashed the game-maker's health-hopes if it wasn't for the fact that only eleven subjects were reportedly involved. The teens--six boys and five girls--were physically fit to begin with, and were studied playing only two games: Project Gotham Racing for the Xbox 360, and Wii Sports. The study found that active games like Wii Sports burn about 50% more calories than passive games like PGR, but that ultimately this only represented a 2% increase in energy expenditure in a typical week.

I'm no scientist, but it seems clear that a larger-scale study might be in order. A more diverse, and larger group of subjects; a wider range of games, particularly some which could be considered more active than Wii Sports. In my own experience, playing 30 minutes of Raving Rabbids on the Wii reminded me how atrophied my spaghetti-thin arms are. While the Wii may not appear to affect fitness levels according to this study, I'd rather play an active video game than a passive one, and I suspect most parents would rather buy an active video game for their kids. Perhaps the next study will involve the Wii Fit peripheral, hopefully with more promising results.
 
     
 
   
 
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  Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds  
 
 
Posted 2007-12-15 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
American watchdog group Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood isn't happy with how popular kiddie-world Webkinz has begun running external ads atop its already-commercial service. According to GamePolitics.com, "A current Webkinz campaign is promoting the film Alvin and the Chipmunks (screen shot at left), while similar ads ran for the recent Bee Movie." Virtual Worlds News reports that Ganz, maker of Webkinz has since pulled one of the ads, although it's not clear to me if this is a response to public pressure.

The ethics of advertising to children aside, Ganz's choice to blast ads at kids whose parents are already paying for Webkinz access comes off like a crass cash-grab . It's the same story with in-game ads found in many of today's video games--the consumer isn't sharing in the publisher's increased cash-flow. A more reasonable approach to advertising via Webkinz (again, irrespective of the ethical issues) would be to offer a discounted or free service in exchange for client-side ads.

Continue reading: Ad-Creep In Kiddie-Worlds
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  A Brain-Computer Interface For ‘Second Life’  
 
 
Posted 2007-10-16 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Throw away your keyboards and mice: Second Life avatars may now be controlled directly by the brain, thanks researchers at Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory. According to blog Pink Tentacle, which translated a news release from Nikkei Net, a user wearing an electrode-studded headpiece can control an avatar in 3D space simply by thinking about moving. Based on a YouTube video of the process (below), control over the avatar is very precise--not what I pictured based on early brain-computer interface experiments.

Continue reading: A Brain-Computer Interface For ‘Second Life’
 
     
 
   
 
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  Why Medical Devices Don’t Work  
 
 
Posted 2007-08-06 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Having spent the majority of last week in a hospital with my wife and new baby, I had lots of time to observe a few different types of medical devices in use. In most cases, I noted a gap between operation of a device as planned by its designer and the practical application of the device as executed by hospital--various minor failings transpired within that gap. I thought I'd file a couple here for future reference (these seem to be pretty typical issues--I look at these as interactive design issues, personally).

Continue reading: Why Medical Devices Don’t Work
 
     
 
   
 
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  links for 2007-07-16  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-16 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
 
     
 
   
 
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  Wii Workout  
 
 
Posted 2007-07-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Even a little wiggling around is better than no wiggling at all, which explains how the Wii Weight Loss guy and Wii Sports Experiment guy have melted some fat, or why the game Dance Dance Revolution was added to the State of West Virginia's school curriculum.

Adding fuel to the fat-burning fire, Nintendo has reportedly revealed new Wii hardware and software intended to increase gamer health. According to TG Daily, players stand atop the Wii Balance Board, which measures body weight and balance. The Wii Fit software will use the Balance Board to chart the results of a fitness regime over time. Nintendo will apparently be adding Wii Balance Board support to future games. I can see surfing games working really well with this, or relaxation games which require stillness, or (obviously) dancing games.

I'm keen to try out the Wii Fit system: It seems like a great example of the productive play I wish more game companies would get involved in.
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-18 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
The American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health has issued a report entitled "Emotional and Behavioral Effects, Including Addictive Potential, of Video Games" which taps into 22 years of scientific literature drawn from the PubMed database. The report contains no new findings, but does provide a handy summary of previous investigation into the impact of video games on health.

The Council on Science and Public Health report refers only to the "potential" benefits and detrimental effects of games, referring to studies which showed an "association" between gaming and negative behavior. This seems a more sensible stance than the one taken by Dr. Peter Jaffe, a University of Western Ontario professor, who contended earlier this year that the effects of entertainment violence (including video games) on children "are measurable and long lasting." My question "Does Violent Media Cause Violence, Or Doesn't It?" still stands--the report indicates "more research" is needed to connect video game content with negative behavior.

Continue reading: ‘More Research Needed’ in Linking Video Games With Negative Behaviour
 
     
 
   
 
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  Games, Television, Dreams, and Doing Things Over  
 
 
Posted 2007-06-12 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Why would office workers watch shows like The Apprentice or Hell's Kitchen and professional soldiers play games like Full Spectrum Warrior or Battlefield 2? The first thing that comes to my mind is that certain TV shows and video games provide an opportunity for a "do-over" that real-life, high-stress jobs don't allow. Television shows give us a form of weak agency, where we can imagine what we might do in another person's shoes and potentially work through the day's problems as a result. Games give us a strong form of agency where we are largely responsible for our own path and fate--as well, we are afforded multiple attempts at solving the same problem.

According to some, dreaming is a way for us to re-envision, re-enact, or re-contextualize the day's events. Do dreams provide a similar do-over environment to digital games and so-called "reality" television shows? In the preface to the book Lucid Dreaming, author George Parish writes "Dreaming is our method of assimilating the new by either discarding it or integrating it into our world model. During dreaming we eliminate errors from and make modifications to our internal private virtual reality, our world model... The business of living does not allow sufficient on line time to even attempt to perform the process of critical assessment and integration of new information into our world model. Our waking minds are not equipped to conduct the review, analysis, and modification required. Dreaming is the process by which our brain integrates the new into our personal virtual reality."
 
     
 
   
 
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  ‘Whyville’ Avatars:  WhyEat?  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-28 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
Why eat? The real-life answer is obvious, but synthetic biological needs are rarely a factor in avatar-based environments. Since 2005, kid-oriented virtual world Whyville has featured hungry avatars as part of a project entitled "WhyEat," funded by the University of Texas. WhyEat entices kids to plan and purchase meals (with in-world currency) in order to avoid such disfiguring avatar maladies as scurvy or weak bones. A "virtual dietitian" provides advice on a case-by-case basis, helping kids make food choices which will result in a better health (and therefore a better appearance). To date, the project has resulted in over 3.5M visits to Whyville's virtual cafeteria, where 8.5M food items have been consumed. Researchers at University of Texas' Health Science Center are now investigating the effects of this virtual-world program on real-world health, according to a recent press release.

Promoting healthy eating is a noble objective, but I suspect there are better ways to entice kids to lead leaner lifestyles. Such as opting for physical activity over virtual activity (or at least on par with virtual activity). I don't think WhyEat has much to do with eating, ultimately. It's more about finding ways to motivate kids to make consumer choices, and tracking those choices. Even better if those consumer choices bleed into the real world. Whyville has already been a marketing vehicle for brands such as Toyota, Stacie Orrico, and Celestron through "edutisement" content. How long before Whyville's eateries include McDonald's restaurants?
 
     
 
   
 
  7 comments  
  Escape From L.A.  
 
 
Posted 2007-05-26 by Tony Walsh
 
 
     
 
I'm writing from LAX, where I arrived after a long flight from Australia. It's been a tedious day here at the airport, what with waiting for my connecting flight, boarding a jet, learning about its mechanical problems, disembarking from the jet, waiting for a new jet, boarding that jet, learning about its mechanical problems, and disembarking again.

By the time my rebooked flight takes off for Boston (and eventually to Toronto), I will have spent about 12 hours at LAX, and over 24 hours in transit counting my escape from Oz. By the time I get back to Toronto (some time around noon Eastern time on Sunday, May 27), I will have been traveling for over 30 hours since leaving Tasmania. Thanks, American Airlines, for failing to check two planes properly before loading them. Thanks also for the ten dollar "food" voucher you so graciously gave me. I can almost afford a fancy coffee and pastry with that.
 
     
 
   
 
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Dinozoiks wrote:
Wow! Thanks for that Tony. Just posted a bunch of other tips here... http://www.dino.co.uk/labs/2008/45-tips-when-designing-online-content-for-kids/ Hope it helps someone... Dino...
in Dino Burbidge's '10 Things To Remember When Designing For Kids Online'


yes, many of the free little games are crappy. but as an artist who has recently published free content on the itunes app store,…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


I vote for popup radial menus. Highlight a bit of text, the push and hold, Sims-style radial menu pops up with Copy, Paste, etc....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


Hey Tony! A client of mine is looking to hire an internal Flash game dev team to build at a really cool Flash CCG…
in Dipping Into Toronto's Flash Pool


Yeah, there's a lot of weird common sense things I've noticed they've just omitted from the design. No idea why though....
in More iPhone Gestures, Please


It also bears noting there's no mechanism right now for a developer to offer a free trial for the iPhone; the App Store isn't…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


@GeorgeR: It's on my shopping list :) I've heard good things about it as well. And Cro Mag Rally. @andrhia: meh, I don't know…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


...you get what you pay for, you know? I actually bought Trism based on early buzz, and it's truly a novel mechanic. I've been…
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


The only one I've heard good things about is Super Monkey Ball. Have you given that a whirl yet?...
in Free iPhone Games Are Awful: Strategy?


Advance warning: this frivolent comment is NOT RELATED or even worth your time ... But whenever i hear "Collada", i think of that SCTV…
in Electric Sheep Builds Its Own Flock


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