The gamification of fitness – A review of the Goji Play system

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We all love when two ideas that seemed so widely unrelated come together and form something completely new and revolutionary. Have you ever spent hours and hours on a video game, deeply immersed only to realize that it’s 3 am and you have to work in the morning? Wouldn’t it be great to channel this incredible power of video games into something that will be beneficial to our health?

It seems like a straight shot to combine something that we all enjoy such as video games, with another thing that perhaps only a few lucky individuals in the world seem to get a kick out of: exercise. Nintendo tried it out with the Wii Fit board and games, but they seemed somewhat boring and not very intense. Other games, perhaps not as intended, delivered a higher intensity workout with a very enjoyable level of fun, such as the Dance Dance Revolution series, and many other dancing games that came after. Using the revolutionary Kinect, the Xbox provided us with a whole new way of moving and playing. However, it has been proven that there are places where you do certain things and places where you do others, and the living room is a place to play video games, just like the gym is a place to exercise. I can hardly imagine someone coming into his living room to say: “Gee, I will rather play this mildly entertaining fitness game, in stead of relaxing in the couch and playing FIFA 2014.” At least the football players in FIFA will do some kind of exercise…

Lifestyle EllipticalThere seems to be a gap here, where video games and exercise are separated by the place and time where we engage in these activities, at least to many of us. Enter Blue Goji, a company formed by former members of the team who brought us the incredibly fun Guitar Hero. Who better to engage in a quest to fill this gap and bring video games to the gym to help motivate even the laziest couch potato? (maybe to become a treadmill potato). With their revolutionary Goji Play, you just need to connect a tablet or smartphone via Bluetooth with their provided motion sensor and hand controllers. Their games are designed to take the motion coming from the sensor and incorporate it into gameplay as speed on a bike or stamina on a boxer, you just need to hit the buttons on the controllers to dodge obstacles or send some jab, jab, hook combos to your opponent. These hand controllers are easily attachable to stationary bikes or elliptical handles or could be held while running on a treadmill. Goji Play HardwareThe great part about all this, and something that the company strongly advertises, is that workout time flies by as you concentrate on the game, so you end up feeling like you didn’t workout at all, you just played. You can also see all the wourkout stats in real time and then see a graph of your wourkouts over the week or month.

FisticuffsThere is still a little room to improve, mainly in the amount and variety of games available. Some such as Fisticuffs (boxing) and Spin or Die (bike) are very fun, other such as Trivia Time (trivia) and Beat Drop (tetris-like) not so much. One very important thing that these games are lacking is the option to include interval training or other types of cardio training such as fat burning circuits or heart rate zone training. Along these lines, it could be a great idea to pair the games with heart rate monitors and incorporate this info into gameplay. For some games, the intensity of the exercise is not taken into account, for others, the threshold for maximum intensity is too low and can’t be modified or adjusted to each user. Regarding the hardware, the hand controllers are pretty neat, and it feels like you’re using a high quality product. However, when attached to the elliptical handles, the buttons tend to poke out too much and are somewhat uncomfortable to press with your thumbs. As many new ventures, this one has still some ground to cover, however, the idea is splendid and I’m sure that they will become a great factor for helping many people and patients.

[Idea alert!: perhaps many patients could be prescribed Goji Play apps with physician-specified goals or objectives to fulfill their daily exercise requirements.]

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The ball is at your side of the court: How do you think gamification will influence healthcare in the next 10 years?

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