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Combating Child Obesity: Helping Kids Feel Better by Doing What They Love

June 10, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next
 

"...Descendant of Erdrick, listen to my words..."

~Dragon Warrior, 1989

For many gamers of the 8-bit generation, this opening line was an introduction to their first experience of the quintessential "hero on a quest" role-playing game (RPG).

For the next few weeks of the player's life, they would venture into dank, unlit dungeons and swamp-infested lands in search of treasure, a mythical Ball of Light, and the villainous Dragonlord.

Dragon Warrior completely immersed the player in a personal journey as they defeated hundreds of green slimes, upgraded magical weapons, and rescued a princess. Throughout all of this, the player witnessed their character physically growing in power.

As their avatar leveled up, many gamers would notice their virtual confidence rise in conjunction... but what did it do for their real world self-esteem?

When all was said and done and the mighty Dragonlord was defeated, the player would return to reality.

While their pixelated hero ran countless miles across countryside and engaged in hundreds of physical battles, the actual body of the gamer just spent dozens of hours doing thumb push-ups with their rear planted firmly to the couch.

Keep in mind that there's nothing wrong with a non-active video game; video games and physical relaxation generally go hand-in-hand.

But isn't it possible that there is an untapped market that would evolve the quest genre by combining it with active play? Could there be a reality that maps the player's actual limbs to the hero's virtual ones?

In the past twenty years, the percentage of overweight adolescents in the United States has more than doubled, resulting in nearly 30% of American children today being considered obese or overweight.

There are numerous reasons for this disturbing fact: an unhealthy diet, decreased interest in customary outdoor play, overuse of the Internet, and the proliferation of television programming. But the aforementioned factor of inactive video games is what our small team at Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) is striving to address.

There is an unfortunate correlation between the increase in child obesity and the popularity of video games. In 1999, the average child played video games for 29 minutes a day. According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), that number has more than doubled to approximately 63 minutes per day in 2007.


Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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