Background: Exergames have attracted the interest of academics, practitioners, and designers, in domains as diverse as health, human-computer interaction, psychology, and information technology. This is primarily because exergames can make the exercise experience more enjoyable and entertaining, and in turn, can increase exercise levels. Despite the many benefits of exergames, they suffer from retention problems. Thus, the objective of this article was to review theories and game elements that have been empirically examined or employed in an attempt to make exergames more motivating so people engage in sustained physical activity (duration of physical activity) in a repeating pattern over time (frequency of physical activity). Methodology: A literature search and narrative review were conducted. Results: Five major theories and elements were prevalent in the exergaming literature: (1) self-determination theory, (2) gamification, (3) competition and cooperation, (4) situational interest, and (5) social interaction. These theories and elements are important for encouraging long-term play and show promise for designing exergames to promote sustained engagement and motivate physical activity. We discuss their strengths and weaknesses throughout the paper. Conclusions: The long-term effectiveness of exergame interventions is unclear mainly because of the limited amount of long-term studies. Better metrics are also needed to evaluate this effectiveness. We also identified particular attention to social factors and group dynamics, such as multi-player exergames and more effective player matchmaking strategies for increasing social connectedness, as a key area of future research.

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PeerJ Computer Science
Department of Systems and Computer Engineering

Chan, G. (Gerry), Arya, A, Orji, R. (Rita), & Zhao, Z. (Zhao). (2019). Motivational strategies and approaches for single and multi-player exergames: A social perspective. PeerJ Computer Science, 5, 1–34. doi:10.7717/PEERJ-CS.230