Games, Play, Exercise and Health: Rethinking the Design of Exer-games

Talk by Conor Linehan, University College Cork

2017.02.02 | Anne-Mette Pedersen

Date Tue 06 Jun
Time 11:00 13:00
Location IMC Meeting Room, Jens Chr. Skous Vej 4, Building 1483-312

We regularly hear news stories about the obesity “epidemic” spreading across the western world. The cause is simple. People eat too much junk food and spend too much time playing video games and watching television. Interventions are needed to get people up from their couch and into the gym, or onto the football field. Many commentators have suggested that, since games are part of the problem, they should also be part of the solution. If we can “Gamify” exercise, people will exercise without even realising! However, there is a rarely-reported flaw in this argument. There is no evidence that playing video games leads to obesity. Neither is there any evidence yet of games successfully treating obesity.

In this presentation, I will first discuss how a simple misunderstanding of one article from the field of children’s health has spread through the academic literature on this topic, and been cited hundreds of times to justify that games are both causes and cures of obesity. Secondly, I will suggest a more productive approach to the design of exercise games. Instead of thinking of games as something that can simply help tip the calorie calculations in the right direction, let’s consider their potential to promote functional strength, cardio vascular fitness, social and embodied cognition, and most importantly, play and fun. I will finish by presenting a series of projects from my own work, which promote intense yet playful exercise.



Marshall, J., and Linehan, C. (2017, in press). Misrepresentation of Health Research in Exertion Games Literature. In Proceedings of ACM conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2017).

Marshall, J., Linehan, C., and Hazzard, A. (2016). Designing Brutal Multiplayer Video Games. In Proceedings of ACM CHI 2016, 2669-2680.

Marshall, J., Loesche, F., Linehan, C., Johnson, D. and Martelli, B. (2015). Grand Push Auto: A Car-based exertion game. CHI PLAY 2015 Extended Abstracts, 631-636.

Gerling, K., Hicks, K., Kalyn, M., Evans, A. and Linehan, C. (2016). Designing Movement-based Play with Young People Using Powered Wheelchairs. In Proceedings of ACM CHI 2016, 4447-4458.

Contact: Conor Linehan, Lecturer Applied Psychology, University College Cork, Ireland