Heart Rate Power-ups

Exergames combine the fun of video games with physical activity. But to be a suitable replacement for traditional forms of exercise, exergames need to bring players' heart rates to levels that will lead to health benefits. Meta-reviews of the energy expenditure resulting from exergame play have been mixed, showing that existing games often do not get participants moving vigorously enough.

Designers need techniques that will help them design for exertion. Heart rate power-ups are a generic technique where players are rewarded for attaining their target heart rate zone. For example, in our Thighrim adaptation of the popular Skyrim game, reaching target heart rate gives higher damage and higher healing rate, and removes the stamina cost of sprinting.

Two studies show that heart rate power-ups significantly increase players' heart rates, with no reduction of player enjoyment.

For more information

Mallory Ketcheson, Zi Ye, and T.C. Nicholas Graham. 2015. Designing for Exertion: How Heart-Rate Power-ups Increase Physical Activity in Exergames. In Proceedings of the 2015 Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (CHI PLAY ‘15). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 79-89.

Mallory Ketcheson, Luke Walker, and T.C. Nicholas Graham. 2016. Thighrim and Calf-Life: A Study of the Conversion of Off-the-Shelf Video Games into Exergames. In Proceedings of Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2016). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 2681-2692.


Mallory Ketcheson, Zi Ye, Luke Walker, Nick Graham