Physical inactivity can lead to obesity, which presents a major public health challenge in the United States. While active video games may help increase motivation for physical activity, few of these games take advantage of group dynamics to motivate increased exertion. This study examined effects of conjunctive partnership on exertion during active video game play.
Researchers assigned college students to play isometric abdominal exertion games on a mock-up of a motion sensing video game system. The study participants were assigned to play individually or to play on a team with a virtually-presented exercise partner that was manipulated to perform better than the study participant every time. The team task was conjunctive. That is, participants were told that their team would score only as well as the weaker player, so they became aware that their own performance would yield the team’s score because their virtual partner was performing better than they were. The discrepancy between the performance of the study participant and the virtual partner was varied to discover the amount of discrepancy that would most greatly motivate the participant’s physical exertion and persistence at the exercise task.
This research, conducted with support from the Health Games Research national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, suggests that playing active video games with a moderately better-performing virtual partner in a conjunctive task may lead to more exertion and effort than playing active games individually.