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Henry builds a brighter tomorrow


THERE’S MORE… Gaming keyboards mashed Make a remote server Are you addicted to games? Get fit with your PC Mas ter


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Issue 232 Nov 2009 £5.99 Outside UK & ROI £6.49

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Thanks to Space gym


he world is divided into two camps – those who like to run around in public and those who don’t. Most of us would rather throw our PCs in the toilet than heave our bodies at high speed around the pavements with one finger ready and primed to dial 999. So it was the latter camp that was relieved when the concept of the exercise game sidled onto the market. Everyone’s heard of the idea. Hell, there’s probably a hermit in the Himalayas who, even now, is powering up his yak-driven PC and stepping onto his dance mat.


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Apparently there’s even a proper term for it. A portmanteau of ‘exercise’ and ‘gaming’, which leads to ‘exergaming’, a quite horrible term that will, no doubt, be popular at health and fitness symposiums. Those who love their PCs generally do love their games so finding out that we can limit the terrifying expansion of our guts (beer and World of Warcraft are perfect bedmates) while enjoying some kickass killing time seems like the perfect solution. Before you head on over to your nearest online store to buy the best in exergaming gear on the market, read on to find out if it’s really good enough to rely on for your health.

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N O I T A R I P S R PE surely not? , ce vi de it -f ep ke a as C P r ou Y rgaming’ Tamsin Oxford explores ‘exe

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Virtual perspiration Let’s face it, one of the main reasons exergaming is so popular is because you, theoretically, don’t notice you’re exercising. Amusingly calling it ‘stealth’ gaming, Mobilis (www.mobilis, specialists in medical and sports healthcare, found that “exercise by itself is too much to bear in its intense format and certainly very hard to sustain”, and while they are talking of using exergames in rehabilitation, they may as well be talking about anyone with a busy life and a short attention span. Dr Alasdair Thin, lecturer in human physiology (his blog: The Quest for the Perfect ExerGame can be found here: at

1987), Nintendo Power Pad (1988) and the horrifying Nintendo PowerGlove (1989). Whoever got suckered into the PowerGlove would have only achieved Jean Claude van Damme status by dint of having to wave their arms about like epileptic octopi in order to orchestrate the simplest of moves. PCs were not forgotten in the race to make us thin and the RacerMate CompuTrainer ( asp), powered by the Commodore 64, for cyclists was launched in 1986 and continues on today, although these are pricey toys for the more dedicated soul. Then, of course, the darling of exergaming hit the arcades in 1998, Dance Dance Revolution. As addictive


ALASDAIR THIN Lecturer in human physiology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (www.

“Fun. Fun. Fun. One of the attractions of exergaming is that the exercise is secondary” Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh agrees. When asked why he thinks exergaming has become so popular he says: ” Fun. Fun. Fun. One of the attractions of exergaming is that the exercise is secondary to the game play and that you are sufficiently absorbed by the game play to the extent that you are less aware of the physical sensations of exertion.” It was in 1982, when Atari launched the joypad that exercise games first started to pick up speed, with inventions ranging from the bizarre to the insane marching happily into gullible living rooms. Consider the Atari Puffer (1982), Exus Foot Craz (a clear forerunner of the modern dance mat in

“Workin g out is

to watch as it was to play, DDR soon developed a massive following. Stories of weight loss and increased fitness began to infiltrate the media at high speed, with the developers themselves admitting to having lost weight while perfecting the product.

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CEO of Gamercize, founded in 2004 to make Excergaming peripherals for the PC. Products include the PC-Sport stepper.


Sites like Get Up Move (www. are packed with success stories, people talking about how much weight they’ve lost, how long it’s taken them and what routines they followed. The 2002 PC release was a hit – shy gamers could flail around in the privacy of their lounge while more confident fans could hold DDR parties

KEVIN COLBURN CEO of 3D Innovations (www.3dinnovations. com), who designed the PCGamerBike for WoW players to burn fat while raiding with their guild.


okay, bu t I prefe r workin It’s war g in. mer!”



ad nauseam. The game is part social activity, part exercise routine and part gaming challenge; it’s a unique cocktail that makes it addictive and entertaining enough to potentially work as an element of a daily exercise regime. Researchers from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center did a study comparing energy expenditure while resting, watching TV, playing DDR, walking on a treadmill and playing Wii Boxing. Interestingly Wii Boxing and DDR showed results similar to moderate or intense walking exercise. Although the study also said that these games burned more calories than sitting and watching TV, which isn’t exactly ground-breaking information. So DDR has been held up as a solid example of getting fit using gaming by numerous experts and has inspired a fanatic following, but does it work? “From an energy expenditure point of view the more muscle mass that is involved in the moves required to play the game the better,” says Dr Thin, “Also the skill level of the player is an important factor in determining the level of exertion. In the early stages of playing exergames that have high skill demands (eg. DDR) the player’s skill, or rather lack of, is likely to limit their level of exertion. There is at the moment only limited research data, but there’s evidence (including my own research) that does point to some exergames being comparable to conventional forms of aerobic exercise.” Diet and fitness expert Laura Williams ( uk) adds: “You’d have to be prepared to dance for an hour every day to lose about a pound a week and you’d need to be breaking a sweat the entire time.” None of that half-hearted stepping from side to side on Easy then? RedOctane, the original creators of DDR-based accessories, did a study ( in conjunction

November 2009

for lunch, and chips ken. ie p f o e ting regim e this photo was ta my new die inc “Thanks to ed to put on 12lbs s buds…” te s ta u o y I’ve manag n Dam


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Virtual perspiration

DIET DILEMMA Exercise and you’ll eat more. Try not to stuff your face!









Already the melodic sounds of the more dedicated gamer snorting into their pints as they dismiss DDR with a practised flick of a RSI wrist can be heard. Who in their right mind defines that as gaming? But there are wise, wise men who have anticipated your needs to create machinery that will work a charm with a nice FPS or MMORPG, while you sweat heavily in




Richard has been gaming ever since the days of the Sinclair Spectrum so it isn’t enormously surprising that he also invented a bunch of gadgets and gizmos that will keep you fit while you play manly games. “Gamercize was started quite by accident in 2004,” he says, “I noticed my children were stuck inside during the holidays glued to the PS2 and they were out of condition and putting on weight. I also realised that in a battle between outside and Sony, Sony would win.” Another well known exergaming peripheral is the PCGamerBike from 3D Innovations ( This is a portable, magnetic exercise bike interacts directly with your PC so your pedalling directly controls your movement in the game. You can to set the bike to Pulse mode so when you’re playing a racing game the speed at which you’re pedalling will influence the


and shimmy off those excess pounds, you can indulge in a whack of free (yes, folks, free) DDR-style games and songs at Stepmania ( A plethora of open source programmes and options are right there for you to download and enjoy. And if you’re in the mood to code, rather than to vogue (sigh - Ed) there are tutorials to help you transfer your favourite tunes into the right format.



“You’d have to be prepared to dance for an hour every day to lose about a pound a week”



the background. The PC-Sport from Gamercize is a step machine that slips neatly beneath your desk. You plug your mouse and keyboard into it, sit down and start stepping. If you stop, so do your peripherals. Frankly, the idea is genius. You can stand up and use the PC-Sport but you’ll have to use a USB game pad to play the game. “The Lego series is my particular favourite here,” says Richard Coshott, CEO Gamercize UK: “Expect to double the calorie burn when standing, it’s a lot more effort but the distraction of the game you choose will get you through.”


with their In the Groove game (a similar title to DDR) that showed how dancing exercise has the potential to reduce anxiety, improve thinking skills and, strangely enough, increase dance skills. The question left hanging, of course, is why it isn’t it available for the PC anymore? Like the gym and your new bike, it soon ends up in a dusty box with a cracked mat in a back cupboard somewhere, while you still move through a packet of Hobnobs in two FPS hours. Even DDR is at risk of ennui and boredom. However, if you’re suddenly inspired to straddle the mat


ing out after work t s re ld u o h ou s ver. “They say ylet your muscles reco rs now. ” a e to y r u sting for fo I’ve been re



Exercising your heart out every day will always be a good thing and has been linked to longevity, improved health and plenty other lovely things but there’s no point in doing all this hard work and then scoffing down two cheeseburgers and a waffle. A healthy balanced diet that includes your five a day is essential to keeping your body in peak condition, and to losing weight. If the average exercise session burns anything from 400 to 600 calories an hour, obviously depending on your level of intensity, then the last thing you want to do is undo all the good by opening your mouth. One of the risks of exercise, other than getting all red and sweaty and deeply unattractive, is that you tend to snack more. Dr Thin says, “Watch out for hidden calories, especially too many snacks.” Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories your body burns to stay alive and it makes up 60 percent of the calories burned by the average person (source: A further 30 per cent is used up doing activities like moving your arms, washing the windows and so forth. By increasing muscle mass and movement you can directly affect the amount of calories your BMR uses and how much more your activities can burn overall. While you don’t necessarily need to become a fanatical calorie counter to lose the weight it’s a good idea to avoid those foods that will pile up the pounds: a cheeseburger, a coke and a chocolate adds up to a whopping 1,048 calories. Here are the calorie counts of some of the most common snacks and drinks, you’ll be amazed…


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Virtual perspiration speed you’re moving in the game. Both the PC-Sport and the PCGamerBike include software (although with Gamercize it’s a trial version) that monitors your output and gives you a good estimate as to how much of a workout you’ve done. Both have even got dedicated World of Warcraft sections on their websites. Now not only can you apparently get fit while playing WoW but, because exercise sends oxygen to your brain e iv Y s and speeds up your JEREM chieved these mas an growth a reflexes and thinking, wer: Hum per day!” on how I s e n ic A ! v n d o a ies swo babies ked for s d d you’ll soon be in high a e la n z e e h te e t f u “I’m o t make shly sq demand for raids. guns tha hree fre t m ro f es Considering how hormon much time gamers spend online playing WoW, putting

each day you would definitely see results. However, if you don’t have the office space for the bike then you’re going to have to work a lot harder. Richard Coshott, explains: “The calorie burn for average use of the PC-Sport is around 150 to 200 calories an hour, but a 170 pound male can burn 400 calories with it set to maximum.” “Bike and stepper exergames in particular have a focus on more aerobic and endurance type exercise. The nature of many of the gameplay mechanics is more explosive, involving short bursts of high intensity activity. Interestingly new research developments in exercise physiology are finding that sprint type training can provide significant all-round fitness.”


So all of these forms of exercise have measurable levels of calorie burn and energy expenditure, but does this mean

“Exercise speeds up your reflexes and thinking – you’ll be in high demand for raids”


allow me to keep it “Keep fit in your own way and in mine. Humbug I say! ”

themselves at risk of “muscle atrophy and decreased cardiovascular health”, this has to be a good thing right? Dr David Haslam, Chair of the National Obesity Forum (www., an organisation established in 2000 to raise awareness of the health issues around obesity, says: “This form of exercise is better than nothing, but it’s not as good as old-fashioned traditional physical activity with regards to weight loss or reduction in disease risk.” According to Kevin Colburn, CEO of 3D Innovations, at the maximum setting on the PCGamerBike a 200lb person would burn approximately 640 calories an hour and if you used it for an hour

anything when it comes to losing weight? Laura isn’t sure: “People don’t realise how tough it is to use exercise as a means of weight loss. You need to do a lot!” When you’re exercising, whether to get fit or lose weight, you need to maintain a moderate pace – a speed at which you feel challenged, but can still hold a conversation - and you will need to be breaking a sweat the entire time. “A typical 13 to 14 stone male will burn approximately 545 calories an hour cycling at moderate intensity,” adds Laura, “So if you wanted to lose say two pounds a week you’d need to burn 1000 calories a day, the equivalent of running 10 miles for most people.”

HEALTH HaX0rZ If the Wii Fit programme isn’t cutting it maybe it’s time to start hacking your way to fitness? Have a Wii Balance Board? Depressed that the stats tell you Wii Fit isn’t all that? Never fear, David Lippman, a mathematics professor at Pierce College at Ft Steilacoom in Lakewood, WA, has created a Wii Balance Board and Stepmania hack. Follow these instructions to set your board to boogie. You’re going to need the following ingredients: Wii Balance Board, Bluetooth adaptor for your PC, GlovePie ( download), Stepmania (www.stepmania. com) plus some songs from the site. Once you’ve chosen the songs you want


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to include open up their directories and rename the original .sm files with a .bak extension. Head on over to David’s site ( to process your .bk/.sm files (here you can choose what kind of a workout you want with your song) and to download the image pack. Connect your Wii Balance Board to your PC via Bluetooth but don’t press the red sync button yet. Open up GlovePie and load the script that starts with the following instructions: //Connect the BalanceBoard *before* the wiiremote to ensure things

//behave correctly //After starting script, step on and off the BalanceBoard to //calibrate it. Start up Stepmania, select the songs and start stepping. The interface is different from the one you’re used to but you’ll be able to follow the display fairly easily. Instead of stepping on left and right arrows you’ll step left and right with both feet as you do in the Wii Fit. If you’re keen on doing the cardio boxing option you’ll have to connect a Wiimote to your PC using the same steps above and use a nunchuk.

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“I t mo

Virtual perspiration Using the same model above (13/14 stone male exercising at a moderate pace), if you were to do ‘real’ exercise then an hour of swimming would burn 690 calories, running 900, walking 300 and even bowling burns 250.


If you compare these statistics to those offered by Richard and Kevin perhaps exergaming isn’t so far off the mark. Ultimately it’s level of success will depend entirely on you – you determine the intensity and the time spent doing it. Anything less than an hour isn’t exactly a waste of time but it isn’t going to get you the body of a god either. Dr Thin concurs: “All exergames are not equal and as far as I am aware no single exergame has been evaluated on a range of different fitness components in order to assess its impact. Exergames where conventional gym type equipment, like the PC-Pro and the PCGamerBike, provide a gym-style workout combined with the fun and engagement of a video game. So in these cases the level of workout is dependent on the settings and the player’s effort.” Laura added that if she were to create a routine including exergaming then she would recommend a combination of longer, lower intensity aerobic sessions of around 40 to 60 minutes with interval training and resistance work like lunges and squats to build your muscle mass. Certainly the experts agree that it’s better to exergame than to do nothing at all but they argue about the benefits. Dr Haslam believes that it is “inferior to traditional or routine daily exercise.”

However, that is the debate about exergames as they exist today; possibly only in their third or fourth generation. They are constantly evolving. The market is one of the fastest growing gaming niches with manufactures like Apple, Nike, Nintendo and EA cashing in. 3D Innovations and Gamercize believe that a large portion of this growth can be contributed to the Wii Fit phenomenon that brought exergaming sharply into the spotlight in 2008, although neither of them thinks that this is a particularly effective tool. “The statistics from Nintendo say that after a year of Wii Fit, the average gamer time is 18 hours and 18 minutes. Now, you can’t get fit by spending an hour and a half per month on the balance board,” says Richard. Regardless of whether the Wii Fit works or not, it has done a lot for the image of exergaming and there is the hope that future instalments will be more cohesive with more tangible benefits to the user. “There needs to be a more holistic development process in creating the exercise and the game in parallel,” says Dr Thin, “I am anticipating future generations of games designed with input from exercise physiologists like myself in order to maximise the potential health benefits.” Who knows, perhaps in the next few years, the perception of the PC lover will have changed from geek to god. “I’d love to give it a try,” says Guv, a WoW fanatic who plays for several hours each day, “but I’m frightened I’d knock my beer and ashtray over.” Perhaps not then… ¤

RACHEL e I won’t be Gump, sham !” st re o F e b ire to beard “One day I asp achieve the impressive able to

CHRIS “I treat my b o monks eat dy as a temple; a temp Chinese le where th e each other takeaway every day a with chicke n n drum stic d beat ks”

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Mike Rawlinson


Lets get physical, physical! Let me hear your body talk… ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association, www. have rather interesting views on the issue of exercise gaming. When asked whether they believe if it can be considered a valid form of exercise with measurable results, Mike Rawlinson, Director General, ELSPA says, “There is no doubt that far from merely being the domain of couch potatoes, many videogames today demand physical exertion for engagement from their players. Many games allow families to get physical together and this is obviously all to the good…” ELSPA believe that exergames are successful purely because of their ability to entertain. “Like most videogames today, the popularity of so many titles is their ability to involve players socially and in an obviously fun way,” says Mike, “If there are any benefits to be had – such as fitness – so much the better. But if these games weren’t fun they wouldn’t sell.” So do ELSPA think that exergame believers are just kidding themselves? Mike says: “The gaming public is neither stupid nor so easily fooled! Games such as Wii Fit or dancing games can help a healthy exercise regime, but no-one is suggesting they replace a healthy lifestyle.” Perhaps not but the statistics given to us by exergame creators like Richard Coshott and Kevin Colburn suggest that they do work but that they are dependent on the user’s determination rather than on the product.

November 2009


9/9/09 12:13:32 pm

Virtual perspiration  

The world is divided into two camps – those who like to run around in public and those who don’t. Most of us would rather throw our PCs in t...