JOPLIN, Mo. —
Krissy Gooch remembers all the dances at Joplin Family Y South in the days after the May 22, 2011, tornado.
Best Buy had loaned an Xbox 360 and Kinect controller for a massive childcare program, Gooch said. One of the games kids played was “Just Dance,” an interactive game where players have to match dance moves performed by on-screen characters.
“The kids played that game a lot,” said Gooch, the nursery coordinator for the Y. “They loved it.”
Susan Flowers sees a similar trend among her students in physical education classes at Emerson and Irving elementaries. She said that even if one student is playing an interactive video game, other students will make the same moves and play along.
Flowers said that area schools, including those in the Joplin district, use active video games as a way to get kids moving. It’s a trend that a respected federal fitness organization has now validated.
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition has changed its guidelines to include playing active video games -- the type where motion-activated controllers or cameras are used.
Games such as “Wii Sports,” “Just Dance,” “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” and others require significant body movement to play, which gives the players legitimate physical fitness.
“Even with the bowling game, kids are breaking a sweat,” Gooch said. “The kids always wanna play it, and it’s a workout for them.”
Gooch said the Y has a Nintendo Wii that participants in childcare programs can use.
Grace Love, member relations director for the Y, said that kids who may not be interested in other sports will pick up the Wii’s controllers.
“Especially kids with an aversion to physical activity, it reaches a different crowd,” Love said. “If a kid hates sports, or isn’t good at basketball, they still may be willing to play a Wii game.”
Flowers said she uses “Wii Sports” to supplement an actual activity. Take bowling, for instance: Students will bowl using actual pins and balls, then also play the bowling game on “Wii Sports.”
The consoles are also used for other periods in the school day.
“We’re also beginning to use them for structured activity times,” Flowers said. “During rainy days, physical activity is hard to do, but this is a way to get a class moving.”
Such practices have been developing over the last three years, Flowers said. So is it about time that the President’s Council on Fitness, which has been pushing pushups and pulling for pullups since the Eisenhower administration, finally caught on with its advocation of active gaming?
“It might be a little delayed, but mostly it’s right on time,” Flowers said. “They are recognizing that there is more active gaming out there.”
There are three major video game consoles available in the U.S., and each of them have some sort of motion controller and a line of games that use it.
The Nintendo Wii was first. Released in 2006, developers eschewed high-powered graphic performance to instead blaze a trail in motion gaming. A special sensor detects motion in one controller, which means that the whole arm must be used.
Because of the system’s unique controller, virtually all the games released for the Wii involve motion.
Though the Wii didn’t have the graphics capacity of Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 -- systems that were released before the Wii -- the two companies scrambled to release motion input devices.
Sony’s Move controller used the same general design as the Wii. A camera detects the motion of a glowing ball on the end of the controller.
Playstation 3 games released after 2010 are compatible with the Move controller, but it doesn’t work for every game.
- Microsoft released the Kinect controller in 2010. Instead of detecting a motion controller, the Kinect detects motion in front of it so that a player’s movements are read, eliminating the need to hold onto a controller.