Developing motivation and engagement in users of innovative fitness technology (Presentation)

Student: Thomas Awdry
Company: Broadsword Publishing
Academic Supervisor: Dr Emily Oliver & Dr Joanne Hudson

Motivation in fitness technology

This MPhil project is being conducted alongside Aberystwyth based video game and software development company ‘Broadsword Publishing’, and the project is the development of a boxing exercise game through their subsidiary company ‘World Boxing limited’, the product has been labelled ‘Quick Hands’.

The purpose of the research being conducted in the MPhil project is to determine how best to optimise the application of motivational principles to a virtual interactive exercise environment in order to maintain players engagement and activity in the game, whilst also engaging in physical activity.

An in depth look into the literature led to the theory of Need satisfaction, that humans possess base needs that when satisfied, result in higher levels of motivation and engagement.

The first study conducted in the MPhil was an online survey based on the research of Sheldon et al. (2001) to determine what basic psychological needs are satisfied during satisfying exercise and video game experiences, as well as what needs may be unsupported or thwarted during unsatisfying exercise and video game experiences.
Findings from this survey supported research in the area of need satisfaction in exercise, and found that these same needs are also prevalent in satisfying video game experience, which suggests that these psychological principles can be applied to this medium.

The second, exercise based study, has just finished the data collection phase. Using Broadsword publishing’s prototype of ‘Quick Hands’ as the medium, we tested the effect of different exercise conditions on player’s motivation, enjoyment and engagement within the realm of relatedness (feeling of closeness to others) need satisfaction.

The primary aim of study two is to determine whether exercise video game motivation and engagement are affected by relatedness satisfaction. A secondary aim is to evaluate whether physiological measures are related to degree of need satisfaction and game motivation.

The conditions measured were an Individual condition, in which the player engaged with the product independently, a competitive conditions that the players competed against each other on adjacent products, a co-operative condition where the players worked together on the product to accumulate the highest team score and a control condition in which is the participants engaged in a boxing exercise of comparable intensity without the various features of Broadsword’s Quick hands product. The addition of salivary hormones to objectively measure levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction within the exercise is a very new area of research. This is a very good example of how academic needs and the company testing requirements have collaborated together to ensure that both parties gain as much as possible from the project.
The implications of this research can have strong impact for both academic and company purposes.

This research can progress the academic understanding of need satisfaction in different contexts and also introduce physiological indicators of satisfaction into the literature. The company benefits from a deeper understanding of how gameplay design and interaction can effect human base motivation, and how different play modes could affect the motivation.