Using movement-based video games to train professional athletes – is this the future?

BCM215, Uncategorized

Movement-based video games have enlightened the possibility of genuine research between gaming and health, which will perhaps break the “couch potato” stereotype that gamers are reputable for. Sport-related video games, such as Madden NFL, NBS and MVP Basketball, to name a few, are increasingly popular in the community. Virtual Reality (VR) has additionally become more accessible, and with proper research conducted by STRIVR, we can determine the future possibility of using gaming as a form of professional training.

Playing video games is habitually perceived as an activity with little to no beneficial outcomes. Like watching television and using the computer, it is considered a sedentary hobby that has frequently been associated with boosting obesity. Movement-based video games enable their users to employ active body movements as a mode of interaction (Pasch, M. et al, 2009). Movement-based video games can range from motion-sensing games like Wii Sports to Virtual Reality such as Everybody’s Gold VR and Echo Arena. In order to consider movement-based video games as a form of professional training, they need to mimic certain movements that allow for skill improvement, including natural control, physical challenge, mimicry of movements and proprioceptive feedback.

Not only could movement-based games be additional support for off-the-field training in the professional world, but this would also conclude that playing video games could become part of the solution against obesity by requiring their users to be physically active and move away from the couch potato stereotype.

Before I explore the potential in training the professionals, I want to see how movement-based video games can affect individuals who may need to focus more on their health daily. One game that I certainly have enjoyed in the past that allows users to stand and move around is Wii bowling. Wii bowling is one of 5 games that are part of a collection known as Wii Sports. These games, which also include tennis, baseball, golf and boxing, were designed to “demonstrate the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote” (Fandom, 2009). The objective is the hit the virtual pins at the end of the lane using the controller device as if it was an actual bowling ball. Differences in real-life bowling and the virtual game would be the weight of the ball versus the controller device. It is not the most straining activity, however, you are required to get out of your chair and move around to enjoy the full purpose of the game.

A study was conducted by Lucas A. Willoughby, a former graduate from the University of West Florida, and by directing 44 elderly individuals to play Wii Bowling, he found that the game increased the heart rate of the participants by approximately 40 per cent. He exclaimed that “the older adults felt more enthusiastic and rejuvenated” and were “in better psychological shape than when they started.” Elizabeth DiRico, who works for a WellPoint health benefits company fitness centre and was also part of the study noted that the boxing game provided more of an exercise boost, equivalent to a light jog (Medicine Net, 2009).

The Professional’s

We have concluded that even simple movement-based video games can have a positive impact on the health of individuals in an everyday setting. So what can these games do to positively affect professional athletes in their training? Virtual Reality games that simulate real-life sports are becoming increasingly popular. Using VR as a form of training is positive as it minimises the possibility of risk injuries and “wear-and-tear” that occurs when you’re on the field. A former kicker on Stanford’s football team Derek Belch started investigating and experimenting with VR and sports. He became the founder of STRIVR Labs, which is a company that uses VR to prepare professionals and college athletes for competition.

An example of STRIVR’s work with preparing athletes for the real deal is their work with U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Through VR they can recreate the course that athletes are preparing to compete on, allowing for significant preparation for their upcoming race. They call this process “mental access”, as it allows the competitors to mentally prepare for their race, such as “the positions of the gates, the terrain, the way the turns appear—all this mental prep and visualization is crucial to this sport at the highest level” (STRIVR, 2018).

STRIVR additionally helped famous basketball player Ian Mahinmi, who’s played centre in the NBA and won the championship with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. STRIVR’s research concluded that after playing constant virtual reps for three weeks, Mahinmi’s free throw percentage increased from 59.7% to 73%. Virtual Reality gave Mahinmi a chance to practice without putting strain on his body, with the “repetitiveness in the life-like immersive setting” allowing him to “internalize the motions, and get the feel of being on the court” (Willage, J, 2018).

Movement-based video games come with a lot of benefits that allow individual gamers so move their bodies, which can ultimately enhance skills through repetitive movements and cardiovascular efficiency. Research is still being made to determine if these games are a less-riskier and effective option for professional athletes. However, with companies such as STIVR, we know that VR and other movement-based games do have positive implications on skills.

References:

Fandom. 2009. Wii Sports. [ONLINE] Available at: https://wiisports.fandom.com/wiki/Wii_Sports. [Accessed 11 September 2019].

Medicine Net. 2009. Interactive Video Games Offer Exercise Benefits. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=100998. [Accessed 11 September 2019].

Pasch, M. et al, 2009. Movement-based Sports Video Games: Investigating Motivation and Gaming Experience. Entertainment Computing, [Online]. 1/2, 49-61. Available at: https://people.lu.usi.ch/paschm/pdf/2009_jec.pdf [Accessed 18 September 2019].

STRIVR. 2018. Going For Glory: STRIVR and U.S. Ski & Snowboard. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.strivr.com/strivr-skiing/. [Accessed 18 September 2019].

Willage, J., 2018. Using VR to improve free throw percentage in the NBA. STRIVR, [Online]. 1, 1-4. Available at: https://www.strivr.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Mahinmi-FTs.pdf [Accessed 18 September 2019].

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