Virtual reality (VR) fitness games offer an engaging way to be active. But how can developers ensure their games motivate players to actually exercise versus just having good intentions?
Let's wind the clock back a bit, at my previous startup I co-founded, we collaborated with the University of Essex to study how our platform can help employees reduce sitting time and improve diet. The responses showed we’ve created an accessible solution that people loved using.
A key finding was that employees get engrossed in work, often having 5 minutes or less between appointments. One noted that without regular movement they felt "flat" by day's end. Another said prolonged sitting exacerbated health issues.
Short activities that fit between tasks were more achievable, especially when planned into the workday. As one employee said, "I was impressed with the content of the actual videos themselves, because it made it so simple, quick, and easy."
The study has just been published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology and suggests useful tips, you can read it here.
The study tested a 5-day program that gave desk-based employees resources to reduce sitting time and make balanced meals. Some received daily plans detailing specific exercises and recipes to follow. Simply providing the resources only led to 10-20% engagement. But those with clear plans used the resources much more.
Interviews found simplicity was key - the easier activities fit into daily routines, the more likely people did them. Short 2 minute exercise videos worked better than more complex routines. Participants wanted flexibility to adapt activities to their needs and interests over time.
In the context of VR fitness games, this means making sure exercises are achievable for a wide range of abilities. Allow customization as players improve. Frequent reminders help motivation, but avoid becoming nagging. Build in variety to keep engagement fresh.
Most importantly, focus first on easing beginners into exercise versus overchallenging - small bouts of activity consistently done have proven health benefits too! Aim for snacking versus gorging.
Success comes when moving feels like an achievable part of one's daily life, not another chore, and I belive this type of approach will see better adoption of VR fitness games over time. It's the stealth health approach I have written about before.
I wonder how many people are put off with the adverts of sweaty twenty somethings in lycra, probably ten fold more than buy the games?