Virtual Games and Real-World Communities: Environments that Constrain and Enable Physical Activity in Games for Health

Virtual Games and Real-World Communities: Environments that Constrain and Enable Physical Activity in Games for Health

Mary K. Stewart (Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA, United States), Danielle Hagood (University of California, Davis, CA, United States) and Cynthia Carter Ching (University of California, Davis, CA, United States)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2017010101
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Abstract

This article examines two communities of youth who play an online game that integrates physical activity into virtual game play. Participating youth from two research sites—an urban middle school and a suburban junior high school—wore FitBits that tracked their physical activity and then integrated their real-world energy into game-world resource boosts. This incorporation of daily life as a mechanic of the video game creates a tangible connection between players' physical and virtual experiences. To better understand that connection, this article presents survey, GIS, and mapping data to detail the two communities as multi-domain ecologies, and then presents interview and focus group data to illustrate the players' perceptions of the affordances and limitations of their physical environments. Ultimately, the authors argue that a multi-layered analysis of real world communities is essential for designing games for health and for effectively facilitating game-based learning within players' complex ecologies.
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Literature Review

This section reviews two important conversations in the field of educational gaming: the relationship between physical activity and video games, and the influence real life exerts on game play. The authors then introduce community ecological perspectives as a framework for examining the interplay of real-world communities and virtual games. The goal is to illustrate the importance of accounting for real world environments in the design of games for health and in research on game-based learning in physical spaces.

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