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Video Games can Improve Performance in
Sports – An Empirical Study with WiiTM Sports
Andreas Siemon, Rene Wegener, Florian Bader, Thomas Hieber, and Ute
Faculty Information Systems and Applied Computer Science
Otto-Friedrich University Bamberg
96045 Bamberg, Germany
Abstract. According to studies from the medical domain it can be as-
sumed that the training of sensomotor abilities by the use of video game
consoles positively aﬀects performance in real life situations. With this in
mind we investigated the assumption that – at least for bowling novices
– training of bowling games with the Nintendo Wii can have positive
eﬀects on their performance on a real bowling alley. So we conducted
an empirical study with students from the University of Bamberg. One
group of participants took part in a video game training session while
the other group received no special training. After that participants of
both groups played on the bowling alley. Results showed a signiﬁcant
positive eﬀect of console training on the mean scores in bowling.
By this time video and computer games have become a part of modern western
culture. As Privewaterhouse Coopers announced the sales of video games indus-
try exceeded the sales of the music industry in Germany in 2007 for the very
ﬁrst time. For this reason the diverse discussions about the inﬂuences of video
games on consumers’ psychological, social and motor abilities are highly relevant
(Kershner, 1995; Griﬃths, 2007). This study addresses itself to the last aspect,
the coordinative and motor abilities.
Several other studies exist concerning this topic. Some years ago there already
seemed to be evidence that video gamers were better trained in concentrating on
several tasks at a time (Satyen & Ohtsuka, 2002). The reason therefore can be
0The reported empirical study was realised as practice part of a course Human Com-
puter Interaction in the winter term 2007/2008. The authors are students who par-
ticipated in this course.
found in the demands of games to perceive several diﬀerent objects on screen and
transform the perception into the right motor commands. Even more concrete
results are delivered by Rosenberg, Landsittel, and Averch (2005) who could
show that the ability to control a video game correlates with the ability to solve
laporoscoptic tasks. In other words, test persons that achieved better results in
video games in the mean also acted more successfully in real life tasks which
demanded a good eye-hand-coordination. In a further study (James C. Rosser
et al., 2007) it was revealed that surgeons that spent their time regularly on video
games made about one third mistakes less in laparoscopic surgeries (procedures
with the help of very small cameras) in average.
So there must be a connection between motor abilities in a game and in
reality. But there remains one question unanswered: Is the consume of video
games the reason of a better eye-hand-coordination or is there another reason
for the correlation? In other words, the question is whether speciﬁc training at
a video game console is really appropriate for improving motor abilities. Within
this study the question is substantiated by training on a Wii console of the
The video game console Wii from Nintendo is part of a new generation of
interactive gaming. In contrast to common consoles like the Sony Playstation the
Wii is not created for absolutely realistic graphics and games but is specialized
on what Nintendo likes to call “Gameaction” (Nintendo, 2008). Bundled with
the Wii Nintendo released “Wii Sports” which consists of the games baseball,
bowling, boxing, golf and tennis. It won the Game Developers Award for inno-
vation and game design in 2007. The most important innovation of the Wii is
its new kind of controller, the Wii Remote. It is a wireless controller that reacts
to players’ movements. According to the manufacturer this allows an absolutely
intuitive and natural kind of gaming (Nintendo, 2008). The remote contains an
acceleration sensor that recognizes movements and rotations of the controller
and sends them to the console via bluetooth. With this it is possible to rotate
the bowling ball or to make a serve in tennis or a weak put in golf.
According to H. M¨uller, B. Schumacher, K. Blischke and R. Daugs (1990,
p.37) the training of techniques in top-class sport aims at error minimisation
which means a reduction of target-performance discrepancy. This demands an
analysis of the athlete’s movements who receives a feedback on how to improve
his technique further. One very apt way of analysis is to employ video systems
which enable professional coaches and athlete to view speciﬁc phases of the
athlete’s movements. As already explained, the Wii Remote contains a set of
sensors to recognize movements in three dimensions. By doing so real movements
like in tennis or bowling can be adapted. Through enabling the transfer of a
player’s movements (at least partially) into the game it might be possible of
the console taking the part of a coach in some simple manner. Although the
player’s technique isn’t analysed in a professional way he still receives some kind
of feedback through the graphics on screen (e. g., a throw on the bowling alley).
Especially novices should have a very high potential of improvements in their
technique so that training on a Wii could improve their movements and timing
in sports. This might show that virtual training with the right input device could
achieve real life advancements.
So we conducted an empirical study in which the Wii Sports bowling simula-
tion was evaluated. We wanted to test the assumption that a beneﬁt of training
would be measurable with inexperienced test persons. This beneﬁt should be-
come visible by better bowling scores of the Wii trained subjects in comparison
to a control group. The following part of this work will introduce the empir-
ical study. The dependent and independent variable and the procedure of the
study and also the sample are explained. After that the results are presented
and discussed. A prospect on possible further studies completes this work.
2 Empirical Study
The study was carried out in Dezember 2007 at the Otto-Friedrich-University
and at the bowling alley MainFranken Bowling in Bamberg. Altogether the group
of participants consisted of 32 university students (25 male, 7 female), predomi-
nantly from the social and economical programs. The students were assigned to
one of two groups: a group of 15 persons who received training with the help
of the game console, and a second group of 17 persons who would start at the
bowling alley without speciﬁc training.
The Nintendo-Wii was chosen to provide the platform for the bowling training
one of the groups was to receive. The possibility to adapt the game to right/left-
handed subjects increased the usage of the software for this study. By employing
an introductory questionnaire demographic data was collected from the test
persons as well as information concerning previous knowledge or self-assessment
concerning sports in general and bowling in particular. Key questions on the
–bowling expertise (frequency of play, scores),
–self-assesment (rating as novice or expert on a 5-step scale),
–experience in other ball sports, and
–experience with Wii and other game consoles.
After the study was ﬁnished, a ﬁnal questionnaire was handed to the test
persons in order to gather information about:
–self-assessment on the performance in the bowling game (as above, same,
below the subject’s usual level),
–rating of the fun the subject experienced while playing bowling, and
–self-assessment on the eﬀects of the training on the subject’s performance
in the real game (only for members of the training-group) on a 5-step scale
from negative over no eﬀect to positive.
2.3 Design and Variables
The participants were assigned to two groups, the training-group (15 persons)
and the non-training-group (17 persons). In order to have a suﬃcient number of
test persons available, group membership was not determined randomly. Instead
participants were able to choose whether they would like to receive treatment
before playing at the bowling alley.
The bowling scores from the participants at the bowling alley were the main
dependent variable. For the training group, the scores from the training sessions
with the game console were recorded separately.
The study was carried out in two phases - training and the testing. All the
participants receiving training ﬁlled out the questionnaires before the session
was started. For the training itself the test persons were split up in groups
of three or four, playing two games of ten frames after the control had been
explained and some practice shots were taken. At the end of each session, the
scores of the players were written down on their questionnaires. To ensure the
participants’ anonymity, the questionnaires do not contain the subjects’ names.
The lag between training and testing on the bowling alley was 1-2 days.
When the testing started, the subjects were allowed some practice shots without
pins, giving everyone as much time as 15 minutes to have as many shots as they
felt necessary to take. Again the test persons were split up into groups of four
to eight players per lane. The only distinct feature which had to be taken into
account building the groups was whether the participant had received training
beforehand. The persons which had not been in the training sessions ﬁlled out
the introductory questionnaire before the actual game began. Finally, after the
testing on the bowling alley had been ﬁnished, all the participants ﬁlled out the
The scores of the training group diﬀer positively from those of the non-training
group. As expected, the recipients of video game training performed considerably
better then the not-trained test persons. This becomes evident contrasting the
average score of the training-group with ¯x= 105.41 (sd = 25.88) with the non-
training-group where ¯x= 85.47 (sd = 18.35). The signiﬁcance of this diﬀerence
becomes evident by performing a t-test with T=−2,48, df = 30, p = 0.017.
After the evaluation of the questionnaires, there is no evidence for potentially
biased group consistency concerning the level of expertise. It seems that both
inexperienced and experienced (in our case expert) participants were aﬀected by
the training received (see Figure 1).
Fig. 1. Bowling-Scores
The results of this study are quite straight-forward. From previous studies we
already knew that training with video games can aﬀect strategic thinking pro-
cesses. This studies’ aim was to take it one step further focussing on the aspect
of sensomotor coordination. The fact that the Wii allows for the player to use a
style of control which enables them to carry out a motion much like in the real
bowling game put us in the position to employ it as a means of coordinative
training. Since the groups’ average scores diﬀer considerably, the study provides
evidence that the training on the video console had had a substantial inﬂuence
on the performance on the bowling alley for this sample.
In order to conﬁrm these results, the next step would be to enlarge the
scenario by introducing an initial game of bowling before the actual training
takes place. This way the increase in performance can be detected more reliably
since a number of games on diﬀerent days could balance out good or bad days of
the test persons. The training sessions could be more intense and goal-oriented
in order to tailor the treatment to the participants’ needs.
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