The club industry better start paying more attention to “gamers,” people who play video games on their computers, TVs or game consoles. There are more than 150 million computer gamers worldwide, and several indicators show that the gaming industry will grow as much as 50 percent in the next four years.
One of the reasons why gaming has become wildly popular is that it has created its own social eco-system for millions of people. Gaming has become a non-threatening way for people to interact and compete with others.
Gamers are not just kids and teens, either. People in their 30s who grew up with computers represent one of the fastest growing segments of this burgeoning group.
Studies show what we already know: Gamers are more likely to sit at a computer than exercise. However, gaming that includes movement is beginning to provide a safe environment for those who are intimidated by exercise and other forms of person-to-person interaction.
Rob Murdock has served as an executive with technology companies such as Intel and In Focus. Murdock, now a director for a major equipment manufacturer, has seen many companies in our industry struggle with products that try to incorporate movement with fun and entertainment.
“We have to find ways to make gaming incorporate exercise, rather than incorporating gaming into exercise,” Murdock says.
Tony Murrillo, another IT executive in the health care industry, says gamers don't consider themselves athletes and feel self-conscious exercising in front of others.
“These same people do want social interaction and even competition, but it needs to be somewhat private and stimulating at the same time,” Murrillo says.
Komani International, a gaming company, has had some initial success integrating Dance Dance Revolution into school programs in states such as West Virginia. The Mayo Clinic has also done a study that shows that kids who participate in gaming with movement lowered their weight and improved their health.
There are some promising advances by gaming companies that are attempting to weave sports, fun and movement into their products. Regarding gamers and the club industry, gaming experts have learned the following:
Our industry needs to find a way to integrate games into exercise machines that incorporate movement but also have the mental stimulation and even the competitive nature of the most successful games.
Manufacturers should use the knowledge that gaming companies have garnered in their research to develop “movement” programs that incorporate the best of what gamers like and use. Gamers are not simply technology “geeks” who will pedal a bike to participate in a game. Remember, start with the gaming experience and build movement.
In your member surveys or review of demographic data, find out if there is a contingency of gamers and what games they play. Spending time on Google will reveal gaming trends that are both gaining and waning.
Take the time to truly understand the mindset of the gamer. Don't make assumptions. It's a safe bet that many of your members have spouses, friends and other family members who are gamers who need to exercise. Consider drawing the gaming demographic into your club by having computers and games available, even if they are not yet incorporated into your exercise equipment.
The number of participants in gaming dwarfs the number of those who belong to health clubs. This trend will continue as games and technology become more ubiquitous.
Gregory Florez is CEO of FitAdvisor Health Coaching Services and First Fitness Inc., which was rated as the No. 1 health coaching online training service by The Wall Street Journal. Florez can be contacted at [email protected]dvisor.com.