Can sports-based gaming encourage kids to be more active?

The London Olympics are finally here, and sports based virtual worlds, and motion sensor technology such as the Wii and the Kinect, are sure to piggy back on all of the excitement the games bring.

There are a number of virtual worlds that use sports for gaming and teaching, but can they encourage kids to be more active, or are they keeping kids in front of the computer screen for longer?

We had a look at two of these virtual worlds, and found out whether they are working to improve physical activity in kids, and if they could be used with PE classes to encourage physical activity in kids. There are two types of sporting virtual worlds, those that actively encourage kids to get out and exercise using tracking technology, and others that use gameplay to teach healthy eating and exercise.


FunGoPlay is a sports themed virtual world that encourages kids to be active, healthy and exercise.  The world has integrated “connected” sports gear, like footballs, that tracks offline activity and rewards kids online with special features. Electronic sensors register the physical activity that generate codes that kids enter on the website to unlock rewards. The world offers single and multi-player games, customization options, original characters and storytelling in a safe community for kids.

“The FunGoPlay Sports Gear soccer ball is the first in a line of products, designed to help fight childhood obesity, that turn kids’ physical activity into online rewards! We’re developing a new product line called FunGoPlay Fit Gearthat will track ALL of your child’s daily physical activity! Whether playing sports, doing chores, or walking to the bus stop, FGP Fit Gear will unlock great online rewards! The more your child plays,the more they earn on FunGoPlay! By combining kids’ two favorite activities—digital entertainment and real-world, active play—FunGoPlay provides a unique balance of online and offline play.”

The site actively encourages physical activity and with their line of sporting goods that integrate with the virtual world, it  could be used to supplement physical activity teaching.

Camp Pete is another sports themed virtual world that teaches sportsmanship, healthy habits and basic football skills by celebrity coach Pete Carroll. Kids learn how to lead a healthy, active lifestyle on and off the football field by watching videos of the coach and playing football-style games. Coach Carroll teaches kids healthy habits, leadership skills, basic football skills and exercise tips through a selection of videos. For kids that have an interest in football, this virtual world could be a great supplement for post-training learning and wind-down.

Motion capture technology is also being used in the classroom to promote activity. There are some great videos online of teachers that have used technology in their classes to increase physical activity, like this school using the Wii and heart rate monitors for learning:

Another school uses the Wii with Just Dance to practice for a dancing competition.

All of these resources are excellent for getting kids more active, but in particular when they are used in conjunction with real-life physical activity. What do you think? Have you used sports-based gaming in your classroom, and how effective was it?