A Different Lens: Active Video Games

by Brian E.

As a kid, I spent a lot of my time involved in almost every sport I could sign up for. All year round I was involved in practices, traveling to tournaments, and being introduced to new coaches and social environments. By being always on the go, I was drawn to the appeal of video games as a hobby which made up for much of my down time between sports. It was just an extra thing that allowed myself to express my competitive nature, but also served as a time to relax and unwind. However, I ask this question: can video games actually be beneficial for children/adolescences?  Well, after dedicating many hours of personal experience to the cause, I hope to shine some positive light on video games.

Thanks to the wonderful development of technology, we have options known as active video games (AVGs). Examples of these games are Wii Fit, DDR, Kinect sports, all which require some sort of physical activity to play. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that regular physical activity reduces the chance for childhood obesity. Adolescences spend much their time with sedentary activities during the day, most of which consists of screen time. With the use of AVGs, youth have been able to maintain excitement and enjoyment for games, while benefiting from the physical activity aspect. Heart rate and VO2 max are some reported factors that were higher dealing with AVGs versus other sedentary behaviors (Gao 2015). In addition, heart rate was reported slightly higher than results from physical activities done in a laboratory setting. It is important to note adolescences also reported more liking and enjoyment with AVGs over sitting video games and watching television.

Self-esteem, out of the 39 other assets covered in course material, relates the best to AVGs. When I was in high school, we had dance in gym class that everyone had to participate in. As you may guess, not everyone was good and most had no interest in participating. Think of the AVG “Just Dance” in comparison, which is a game that requires the individual to perform dance moves shown on the screen. With a score based on timing and right movements, the pressure is on. I mention the score as it reflects your grade received in the game; and lucky you, there is no limit to how many times you can try that dance to achieve your best. What better way to boost self esteem than having yourself as the opponent. This specific activity has no consequences or judgements for failing other than the game’s score and the perceived individual’s feeling. Oddly enough, Gao (2015) found that by playing AVGs, adolescences report a higher expenditure of energy opposed to other physical activities.

Although AVGs prove to be effective in improving sedentary behaviors in youth, they should be used in moderation and not in place of traditional physical activity. Looking at the 5 C’s of positive youth development (confidence, competence, connection, character, caring and compassion) and comparing these to AVGs, confidence is the only true benefit. Confidence relates to self esteem, as it is gained from being successful within the activity. To fix this problem with AVGs, I suggest that schools, community centers or summer camps adopt some sort of AVG activity like the ones mentioned. This could allow opportunity to grow in areas of connection and character as the AVG activities would not be confined to a home setting.

It is important to the development of AVGs that teachers, parents, counselors, and adults in general are educated further on the subject. Thus, traditional physical activities and AVGs can be interrelated, which have both been proven beneficial to youth. I feel that there needs to be more research done that looks at age specific populations, the type of AVGs they are engaging in, and what effects those games have over a longer period of time versus the effects of sport. As I said, AVGs should not be the main means of physical activity, but research suggests it is a positive tool in the development of adolescences. With more research, education and integration, active video games serve a purpose that can help turn down time into healthy experiences.


Personal experiences

Class material

Gao, Z., Chen, S., Pasco, D. and Pope, Z. (2015), A meta-analysis of active video games on   health outcomes among children and adolescents. Obes Rev, 16: 783–794.

This entry was posted in 40 Developmental Assets, 5Cs of Youth Development, Positive Youth Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Different Lens: Active Video Games

  1. jambowoods says:

    I love how you took a topic that has garnered a lot of negative feedback and developed a positive spin to it. I think video games get a “bad rap” overall, and it is important to attempt to look for a positive note. Especially as video games are becoming increasingly interwoven in our society, notably among youth. Therefore, trying to find a benefit to video games is an important discussion.

    As you mentioned, video games have their place and should not necessarily replace sport and recreation, though perhaps could be used in synergy. AVG’s seem to be a viable option for this as they introduce a physically active component. Although, I think its important to be weary of active video games that may not be as advertised. I’ve seen some video games that proclaim to be AVG’s, however, in reality they can be played without much added movement. For example, the Wii had originally advertised itself as a more active alternative. Though, as many would come to find out, it was usually more effective to use less movement. Take Wii tennis, although you can move around, and use full swings to play, a simple flick of the wrist is more efficient, and produces better results.

    On the other hand, more recent technologies have made advances on this front. AVG’s have come a long way, and are much more active than before, They can also appeal to a different demographic. Some people who may not be very interested in sport, may be drawn to AVG’s instead.

    I think you’re right about needing more research on the topic. But we shouldn’t completely discount video games as detrimental to positive youth development. They definitely have their place, and with more research, their benefits may be far reaching.

    Great article Brian!


  2. bessteague93 says:

    Video games have always been a positive tool for development in my family but we had a unique situation that I think is a topic that should be discussed more when talking about the benefits of video games. When my brother was in kindergarten he was diagnosed with leukemia and for the next 25 months he went through chemo-therapy which meant we spent a lot of time in the hospital as kids. My brother’s doctors suggested we get different video games to help with my brother’s eye-hand coordination and motor skills development since he wouldn’t be learning these the way the rest of us did by playing and playing sports. And so, my family in 2000, a time before every house had these things, had a computer and game boys. Some of my fondest memories of this time is playing Mario with Harry in the hospital on our gameboys (They had black and white screens!). Video games help a kid who spent the majority of two years in bed still develop skills that are normally developed through being physically active, helped his mental health, and his social life. I can only imagine how much video games would benefit a kid in this situation today with advancements in online play. They could be in a hospital hours away from their friends but still be able to talk to them, hear their voices and play with them as if they’re in the same room.

    – Bess T

  3. aduches1 says:

    It was a great article Brian, and I feel that you did a good job talking about some of the things that are often forgotten with active video games. I agree that they do have an impact on the asset of self-esteem. I also feel that active video games can also play a role with the family support asset. These activities can be played with family and encourage social interaction and having fun as a family. My own experience with active video games is through fun evenings competing with my parents and step-siblings playing WII sports. I can also see value in how activities video games can encourage youth who may not want to participate in organized sports and recreation activities to still participate in some form of physical activity. One of my step-siblings is one of these people; they find nature “dirty” and they do not enjoy going outside or going to a gym, but they love dance active video games and they frequently play them. Yet on the flip side I have also seen a fair amount of cheating with these games through minimizing movement by things like flicking the wrist instead of moving the entire arm. So I agree with you that they do have a role but that more research on themy and wonder how they can find new ways to encourage more physical activity.

    Andrea D.

  4. jordanmacgregor says:

    Really great paper on being active with video games. I remember when I was a child that my mom would always make me go outside even if I tried to stand or do some sort of activity as I was playing. Video games always helped me with my eye hand coordination, team work, and strategy that I still apply to my everyday life. Now that video games are more interactive, it definitely sets a better platform to allow people of all ages to stay in front of a screen but also burn some calories at the same time. Even now in today’s culture, people are moving towards video games as a use for family time just like what a classic board game night would entail. I would say that these days have the least amount of negativity towards spending a lot of time playing video games. People can now learn, and lose weight just as much as they can lay on a couch and play something a little more mindless. When looking at it through this lens, the only thing that people can really judge is what other peoples choices are instead of the platform itself. I remember the first time I played Wii sports and how I worked up a sweat while playing video games it was the best thing I could have asked for as a young athlete who was also a gamer. Video games were also a big influence on my imagination. Whenever my mom would send me and my friend outside from gaming we would still pretend we were in the game and play out the levels with our imaginations. With some of the new systems they are releasing these days I’m excited to see what they will come up with next to make video games more interactive.

    Jordan M.

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