Even if you’ve never played video games on a Nintendo or Xbox, you’ve probably seen people playing Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Fit, or Wii Sports. These games represent a different kind of gaming – one in which the motion of the body is captured and placed into play. These games aren’t just for thumbs on a controller, but rather for the full body set in motion. But their origins were a little less famous.
The origins of exergaming, among dozens of other significant gaming movements, are shared in a new book published this week: 100 Greatest Video Game Franchises, edited by Robert Meija, Jamie Banks, and Aubrie Adams. John A. McArthur, Associate Professor in the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, explores the early days of motion capture in a chapter on Bandai’s Family Trainer series and Nintendo’s PowerPad:
As a video game franchise, Bandai’s Family Trainer—and its association with Nintendo’s Power Pad—was widely considered a flop. However, as a stepping-stone toward personal use of motion capture devices, Family Trainer nourished a generation of thought surrounding the performance of bodily motion and its role in video games (p. 62).
The Family Trainer franchise included 11 games released between 1986 and 1989 in conjunction with the PowerPad floor mat controller. World Class Track Meet (bundled for NES with Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt) led the franchise into the US Market.
To read more about motion capture, exergaming, health, and the role of video games in our culture, pick up a copy of the book on Amazon or your favorite local bookseller.
McArthur, J.A. (2017). Family Trainer. In R. Meija, J. Banks, & A. Adams (Eds.). 100 Greatest Video Game Franchises (pp. 61-62). New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.