Cultivating Engagement and Enjoyment in Exergames Using Feedback, Challenge, and Rewards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Objective: This article reviews theoretical and empirical evidence related to three mechanisms for encouraging enjoyment during exergame play: Feedback, challenge, and rewards. Materials and Methods: A literature search and narrative review were conducted. Results: Feedback is found in nearly all exergames, and richer, more in-depth feedback is associated with increased activity. Challenge is a vital component of any videogame, and exergames include physical as well as cognitive challenges. Flow states have traditionally been conceptualized as occurring when an optimal match between player skills and game challenge occurs. However, failure and retrial are necessary for feelings of overall satisfaction and fun, despite not necessarily being ideally fun or satisfying themselves. Rewards are a more complicated issue, with significant theoretical and empirical evidence suggesting positive and negative effects of reward systems. How rewards are integrated into the mechanics and storyline of the game likely impacts how they are perceived and, thus, their effectiveness. Finally, integration of these mechanisms into exergames requires specific attention to both cognitive and physical implementations. Movements that are not themselves enjoyable or engaging may lead to cheating and lower energy expenditure. Conclusions: Feedback, challenge, and rewards are promising mechanisms by which exergames could become more enjoyable. How these concepts are operationalized can affect physical and psychological reactions to exergames. Attention to these concepts in future exergame development and implementation would benefit theory, research, and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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