Adding Exercise to Off-the-Shelf Video Games

Exergames are a fun and engaging way to participate in physical activity. As with other types of games, however, players require ongoing new content to maintain interest. One way to provide users with high quality content with minimal development work is to convert existing off-the-shelf digital games into exergames by using the game’s “modding” interface.

To explore how well converted exergames inspire high exertion levels, we converted two popular games, Half-Life 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, into exergames. In the resulting Calf-Life and Thighrim games, players pedal an exercise bicycle to move their avatar in the game. When players pedal fast enough to reach their target heart rates, they receive in-game benefits such as increased damage and increased healing.

A study of 18 participants found that the resulting games support anti- sedentary levels of exertion while falling slightly below national recommendations for cardiovascular exercise. Adding exercise to the games did not affect players’ enjoyment.

For more information

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, Luke Walker, Nick Graham