Designing for Exertion: Using Heart Rate Power-Ups to Improve Energy Expenditure in Exergames
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By combining the joy of movement with digital games, exergames can encourage people to exercise. Unfortunately, current exergames may not inspire exertion levels that meet the exercise guidelines provided by the American College of Sports Medicine, and may not encourage long-term participation. In this thesis, we present a novel exergame mechanic, Heart Rate Power-ups that can be used to increase player exertion in exergames. Heart Rate Power-ups provide a benefit in the game when players reach a target exertion level. We performed a user study to evaluate the efficacy of Heart Rate Power-ups at increasing players’ exertion and to assess their impact on player experience. This study compared player exertion and enjoyment of three games with and without the presence of Heart Rate Power-ups. We found that player exertion increased for two of the three games and that players responded positively to the addition of Heart Rate Power-ups. Our experience allowed us to provide design principles and applicability guidelines for the implementation of Heart Rate Power-ups. Converting popular off-the-shelf games into exergames allows developers to provide content with less effort than creating games from scratch. Continually providing new content may renew player interest and positively influence players’ long-term commitment to exergames. We converted two popular games, Valve Corporation’s Half-Life 2 and Bethesda Game Studios’ Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, into cycling based exergames with Heart Rate Power-ups. The conversion was achieved via modding interfaces provided by the games’ publishers. We performed a user study on the converted games comparing the traditional games with a straight cycling version and a cycling version with Heart Rate Power-ups present. The results confirmed our hypothesis that a straight cycling conversion would generate low exertion levels and using an off-the-shelf games modding interface to implement Heart Rate Power-ups improved exertion levels. This thesis highlights the importance of designing exergames with exertion in mind and provides insight into a technique for those wishing to do so.