I first found out about Floyd Mueller and his creative “Lecture 2130” at the University of Melbourne, Australia from the Games For Health listserve. Mr. Mueller is doing some pretty amazing stuff with his computer game design students using Exertion Games. Here’s my fascinating interview with this innovative instructor and how his students are taking exergaming to the next level.
HG: For those unfamiliar, define “Exertion Game”? How is this different from an exergame?
FM: For my work, I use “Exertion Game” because I want to highlight that in my games the exercise affects the game outcome. For example, running on a treadmill while playing Xbox is not an Exertion Game for me. I also use Exertion Game to highlight the game aspect, for example, interactive yoga exercises such as some done with the Wii Balance Board, they are not games. By highlighting these aspects, I hopefully will be able to show designers that there is still a vast amount of potential we have not explored yet!
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HG: Tell us more about your class at RMIT. How and why did you start teaching physical games “Lecture 2130″?
FM: This is a first year class for aspiring new computer game designers. Through an extensive selection process only the best students with the most potential will be selected, as competition is fierce. I have been researching “Exertion Interfaces” for almost 10 years now across Europe, the USA and Australia, being interested in designing better technology for the body. This class teaches the important role that physical concepts have in computer games. It evolved from looking at the underlying principles in 3D worlds, as seen particularly in FPS, to the emerging trend of physical games that challenge our understanding of the player’s body. This becomes important when designing for new platforms such as the iPhone, Nike+ and the Nintendo Wii. With this trend from being ‘physical’ in the virtual world to being ‘physical’ in the real world, we realized that there was an opportunity to make a difference to the future careers of young game designers, but also to the future of gamers, as these games can address the obesity issue.
HG: What makes exertion games appealing to students?
FM: Maybe it is a realization that games that go beyond the gamepad experience can be more social, more emotional and healthier. These games will be huge, and change the lives of millions, and students see the market and potential to be creative in an otherwise very competitive market.
HG: I see from your blog that students in your class have to create their own Exertion Games as part of their large final project. How much did it cost students to create their game? How long?
FM: The students had 6 weeks from their first class at university, which included forming a group of 5 students, to a Madness session where they had 1 minute to present their idea to 80 other students to get rapid-fire feedback to implementation to demo’ing in week 6, including showcasing the game on their website. They each invested 20 Australian dollars (ca. $US 18), so they had $AU 100 together as a team. Currently, they are preparing for the next demo round to do it all over again with even more exciting games!
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HG: Can you see these games being used in the “real world” such as those made for The Fun Theory? For example, the Escalatek game could utilize a mall or office building. How could the game be modified or implemented to benefit the public?
FM: We actually talked about the Fun Theory (it is not actually a theory though) on the blog, and a lot of our games fall into this category. The Escalatek team already has some ideas on this, and I let them (and the others) talk about how they ‘blur the magic circle of play’ (some of the topics discussed in class) in order to benefit the public.
HG: Was there one project in particular (2009 or 2010) you thought had commercial potential? Why?
FM: I thought the Hardcore Swimming game could be sold for Nintendo tomorrow, so could the Hot Head Balloon game. The JunkFooders’ Game was loved by everyone because it required so much exertion and could be installed in schools. And another game uses existing Foursquare technology on an iPhone but turns it into a game.
There are many, many other creative ideas on the class’s blog. Each team has a webpage (accessible from the left menu on the class’s blog) where they document their ideas and progress. Be on the lookout for more ideas from this innovative class, and stay tuned for part 2 of this interview series where we go behind the scenes with one of these amazing student teams.