Self improvement games tap into the popular trend in exercise, workouts and therapy. Experiences as diverse as Brain Training on Nintendo DS and Wii-Fit on the Nintendo Wii have popularised the idea that games can be about more than just having fun - they can improve your brain, body and even mental outlook on life.
Fitness games are only recently becoming a genre in their own right. Previously, rhythm action games would cover these titles. With the release of the Wii and related peripherals however, a new Exergaming genre is emerging. Games that motivate you to exercise by making it entertaining, and tracking your progress, are usually intended to supplement existing exercise routines rather than replace them.
Educational titles combine the fun of play with the self improvement of education. As recent research and educational approach in schools shows, these two bedfellows work very well together. Titles usually consist of a series of mini-tasks around a particular subject. Some games in this genre simply use the topic as a theme for its games, whilst others are more obviously education or coaching based. They all track various stats from the player's performance each day. This enables the game to provide feedback and advice about their progress or lack thereof.
Health games provide both a means to record the health of your lifestyle as well as information on how to improve it. This instant feedback provides motivation to work towards long term health benefits that often seem unobtainable. Add to this the variety of interactive exercises and play experiences around the health theme and you have a package that is not trivial in the healthy living scene.
Colors 3D and Flipnote studio provide two great way to interact with the DS and 3DS beyond only playing games. In this week's FamilyGamerTV, we talk to a gaming family about the ways that they get creative - and even learn - using DS and 3DS software... watch now
After our first battery test, we were asked about all kinds of other handhelds' performance. So, this week, we put an ever bigger range of handhelds to a real-world test and filmed the results on a time-lapse camera. We'd have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those pesky kids!.. watch now
Playing games could be good for you. All work and no play makes Jack forget what it was he went to the supermarket for. And it makes him a bit unsociable, clumsy, and like a Monday morning, but all the time. .. read now
Zumba Fitness is like a Latin-American-flavoured aerobics. The Zumba website tells me it is "an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow... calorie-burning dance fitness-party... that's moving millions of people toward joy and health"... read now
Kinect Me looks like it will bring a Windows Phone 7 rendering of your social world to the Xbox 360. It's a presentation popular on the iPad's Flipboard application and enables users to view their social content in a newspaper presentation. Add in hands-free controls and this looks rather interesting... read now
Sesame Street: Ready Set Grover may sound like a franchise led game, but in fact promises to be another nugget of imaginative genius from Double Fine. The combination of their theatrical storytelling with Kinect-led gameplay is just as significant as the Sesame Street branding... read now
Activity Log comes pre-installed on the 3DS as a taste of fitness and exercise games on the new console. Battery life and physical footprint may need to be overcome, but the exercise tracking possibilities of the cameras and motion sensors more than compensate for this... read now
uDraw Tablet brings the DS's tactile interface to the Wii. A clutch of initial games prove the concept, but the real test is how well the peripheral will be supported with more creative uses... read now
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
What sort of gamer are you?
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: