Fish’n’Steps: Encouraging Physical Activity with an Interactive Computer Game
A sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor to chronic diseases, and it is often correlated with obesity. To promote an increase in physical activity, we created a social computer game, Fish’n’Steps, which links a player’s daily foot step count to the growth and activity of an animated virtual character, a fish in a fish tank. As further encouragement, some of the players’ fish tanks included other players’ fish, thereby creating an environment of both cooperation and competition. In a fourteen-week study with nineteen participants, the game served as a catalyst for promoting exercise and for improving game players’ attitudes towards physical activity. Furthermore, although most player’s enthusiasm in the game decreased after the game’s first two weeks, analyzing the results using Prochaska’s Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change suggests that individuals had, by that time, established new routines that led to healthier patterns of physical activity in their daily lives. Lessons learned from this study underscore the value of such games to encourage rather than provide negative reinforcement, especially when individuals are not meeting their own expectations, to foster long-term behavioral change.
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