Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Information Technology

School

School of Computer and Security Science

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Associate Professor Philip Hingston

Second Advisor

Dr Martin Masek

Third Advisor

Professor Ken Nosaka

Abstract

The concept of merging exercise equipment with video games, known as exergaming, has the potential to be one of the main tools used in addressing the current rising obesity epidemic. Existing research shows that exergaming can help improve fitness and additionally motivate people to become more active. The two key elements of attractiveness - how much people want to play or use the exergaming system; and effectiveness – how effective the exergaming system is in actually increasing or maintaining physical fitness, need to be maximised to obtain the best outcomes from an exergaming system; we put this forward as the Dual Flow Model. As part of the development of our exergame system we required the use of a heart rate response simulator. We discovered that there was no existing quantitative model appropriate for the simulation of heart rate responses to exercise. In order to overcome this, we developed our own model for the simulation of heart rate response. Based on our model, we developed a simulation tool known as the Virtual Body Simulator, which we used during our exergame development. Subsequent verification of the model using the trial data indicated that the model accurately represented exergame player heart rate responses to a level that was more than sufficient for exergame research and development. In our experiment, attractiveness was controlled by manipulation of the game difficulty to match the skill of the player. The balance of challenge and skills to facilitate the attainment of the flow state, as described by Csikszentmihalyi (1975), is widely accepted as a motivator for various activities. Effectiveness, in our experiments was controlled through exercise intensity. Exercise intensity was adjusted based on the player‟s heart rate to maintain intensity within the limits of the ASCM Guidelines (ACSM, 2006) for appropriate exercise intensity levels. We tested the Dual Flow Model by developing an exergame designed to work in four different modes; created by selectively varying the control mechanisms for exercise workout intensity and game mental challenge. We then ran a trial with 21 subjects who used the exergame system in each of the different modes. The trial results in relation to the Dual Flow Model showed that we developed an excellent intensity control system based on heart rate monitoring; successfully managing workout intensity for the subjects. However, we found that the subjects generally found the intensity controlled sessions less engaging, being closer to the flow state in the sessions where the intensity was controlled based on heart rate. The dynamic difficulty adjustment system developed for our exergame also did not appear to help facilitate attainment of the flow state. Various theories are put forward as to why this may have occurred. We did find that challenge control had an impact on the actual intensity of the workout. When the intensity was not managed, the challenge control modes were generally closer to the desired heart rates. While the difference was not statistically very large, there was a strong correlation between the intensity of the different modes. This correlation was also present when looking at the players‟ perception of intensity, indicating that the difference was enough to be noticed by the subjects.

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