December 30, 2021

Exercise-friendly Gaming

Over the past several years, I’d been watching educational YouTube videos while on an elliptical in a gym. During the pandemic, however, gyms closed down, and I had to figure out what to do.

Late last year I bought a cheap exercise bike that I’m actually very satisfied with. Instead of watching videos on my phone or tablet, I can just roll my bike in front of my computer monitor and watch whatever I want there.

This was a great replacement for my usual routine with the elliptical, but early this year I realized I could actually play video games while on the bike, too. The only requirement was that the games be playable with a controller.

Some games have worked better than others: I’ve found that the ones that have some kind of psychological connection with physical activity are the ones that work best for me. For example, running around in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey made me pedal harder on my bike. Though I didn’t do anything scientific to measure what kinds of games resulted in better exercise, I did find that the ones where I was doing something physically active in the game felt more satisfying than others. In contrast, I tried playing some puzzle games but realized I was spending so much energy thinking that I almost forgot to pedal.

Over the years, there’s been a lot of buzz about fitness games, and while I also bought the excellent Ring Fit Adventure last year, the fact is that there will always be fewer fitness games than video games in general, and all games get boring after a while (Ring Fit Adventure only lasted a month or two for me, though I’ve been meaning to get back to it). So it’s nice to know that even if a game’s controls aren’t directly powered by physical activity, the game itself may still be exercise-friendly.

© Atul Varma 2021