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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU to create and research exergames to get kids moving

When people hear the word videogames, it often conjures images of users sitting on a couch and eating potato chips while shooting enemies on the screen. New Mexico State University plans to change that perception with a four-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture by creating and working with games that encourage physical movement.

Set to start May 1, the $1.5 million USDA National Research Initiative Grant was awarded to the NMSU Cooperative Extension Service to research exergames and their impact, and to develop additional games and nutritional tools. Exergames include games that make users physically active, such as Nintendo's Wii.

"Exergames have the potential to make physical activity fun, bring families together to exercise, and replace more sedentary game play with active game play," said Barbara Chamberlin, extension instructional design specialist and assistant professor.

NMSU will partner with the Maine Medical Center, located in Portland, Maine; West Virginia University, located in Morgantown, W.Va.; and the University of California, San Bernardino to carry out research on the physical, social and psychological aspects of exergames use.

NMSU media productions faculty and staff will develop new games and a comprehensive guide for programs that would like to use exergames in class or extra-curricular activities. Games and implementation recommendations will be tested with at-risk audiences nationally as part of the grant and USDA's Children, Youth and Families at Risk program.

"We are finding that exergames are popular with all ages, and appeal to a wide variety of different people. Physical activity is so important for kids and adults. When we make exergames, we're able to make videogames a great way of helping people move more, in a way that is a lot of fun," Chamberlin said.