Busy Earning: How Gaming Could be Pivotal in Getting Kids Active 🏃♂️
Move-to-Earn initiatives offer a unique opportunity for both societal and commercial ambitions to align, helping our children to live healthier lives, writes George Gardner
Not yet a subscriber? Join 1000+ sports business leaders, from the PFL to the Premier League, that read Sports Pundit every week to get impactful industry insights.
Introducing Sports Pundit MBA; a fortnightly series of content in partnership with the MBA Sport Business Alliance.
MBA SBA is comprised of current MBA students and alumni from 10 premier business schools across the United States.
Through this content partnership, I’m working directly with them to provide you with high-quality sports business content from a variety of sharp, next-gen perspectives.
This week’s member is George Gardner, an MBA Candidate at The University of Texas at Austin and who most recently interned with Spurs Sports & Entertainment. Prior to starting at Texas McCombs School of Business, George spent over 5 years with the US Army as both an Operations Manager and Logistics Manager.
By George Gardner
The way that kids entertain themselves today is completely different than it used to be.
While it may be easier for parents to keep their kids quiet by putting an iPad in front of their face, there are valid concerns that this is not good for a child’s mental or physical health.
It is a common sentiment that youth today are less active than they used to be. While this is potentially difficult to prove, what is undoubtedly true is that kids today still aren’t as active as they should be.
According to a 2016 global study on trends in physical activity among adolescents, 81% of students aged 11-17 were insufficiently physically active (defined as being active for less than 60 min per day, 5 days per week). A newer 2022 study in the Journal of Adolescence conducted by the University of Georgia found that 75% of teens aren’t getting the recommended amount of daily exercise.
So, what’s the cause of this problem?
The commonsense answer is the so-called electronic revolution, described here by children’s health researcher Mark Tremblay:
“The electronic revolution has fundamentally transformed people's movement patterns by changing where and how they live, learn, work, play, and travel, progressively isolating them indoors, most often in chairs. People sleep less, sit more, walk less frequently, drive more regularly, and do less physical activity than they used to.”
Just because this is the commonsense answer doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Typical solutions to this are geared towards getting children away from screens as much as possible, like setting up parental controls on screen time or companies investing in youth sports. Though this is not a bad thing, health-conscious parents negatively reinforcing screen time and forcing their kids to go outside or play sports can cause the development of a negative relationship with physical activity.
Instead, there is an incredible opportunity for companies to take advantage of this electronic revolution to help get kids more physically active, leveraging their preference for screens to get them moving.
While many popular video games have traditionally required the user to just sit in front of a TV and not move anything except their thumbs, gaming and tech companies are starting to respond to this criticism by creating exergames - digital games that require bodily movements to play, stimulating an active gaming experience to function as a form of physical activity (Think: Wii/VR headsets).
Currently, this is a small category of gaming, and it hasn’t done much to dissuade kids’ preference for traditional console-based video games. While companies will undoubtedly get better at making captivating VR/AR games, it’s unlikely to provide much of the answer for making kids more active.
Move-To-Earn games are those in which users earn rewards for moving around and doing exercise in the physical world, using GPS, blockchain, and NFTs to track movements and grant rewards.
The concept is simple, but the execution has been largely focused on adults earning cryptocurrencies, discounts, and store rewards for hitting step goals. This has been applied to credit card companies like Ness Rewards and Paceline, as well as apps like SweatCoin, StepN, and W3: Ride.
The emergence of this category perhaps provides the best solution yet as to how gaming companies could get young people moving.
Behavioral psychology tells us that one of the best ways to change behavior is through incentives. In fact, a study conducted by Milkman et al. (2021) found the top performing intervention for participants to return to the gym after a missed workout was through micro-rewards.
It’s not always easy to see the long-term incentives associated with improving overall health, so providing short-term incentives that participants want better drives the desired outcome (i.e. going to the gym/being active).
While this could be cryptocurrency, it could also be things like in-game unlockables, power-ups, and bonus points that they can earn through exercise.
A fun, recent example of this is Pokémon’s new game, which is focused entirely on promoting sleep. Whether you’re dozing, snoozing, or slumbering – you attract different kinds of Pokémon creatures.
Think about it, if a kid can collect Pikachu or Charizard by prioritizing their sleep, that’s much more likely to win them over than any conversation about the long-term benefits of going to bed on time.
There are so many other ways this could be done, too. The key is teaching children that making health, fitness, or sport a daily habit is important for their physical and mental wellbeing and performance.
Focusing on the positives of the exercise rather than forcing it or having someone else tell them what to do helps them realize the feel-good effects of working out. Kids don’t want to feel pressured—they want to feel in control of their exercise choices. And the earlier a person starts to be physically active, the more they’ll develop a positive relationship with a healthy, active lifestyle.
Admittedly, there are challenges with this approach – particularly as fitness tracking devices, whether via a phone or an external device, need an easy way to interface with external video games, which might require the formation of some strategic partnerships between video game, fitness, and blockchain companies so that everyone has an invested interest in this cause.
The incentive here is perhaps greatest for those tied closest to the sports industry.
For instance, if no one is playing football, then over time, that is going to reduce the demand for EA Sports’ football-centric game. This helps to explain why the company recently launched FC Futures, a plan to build football pitches in the UK and invest in community participation in football, helping kids who don’t normally have access to equipment and training.
Similarly, Nike, through their Made to Play initiative, has partnered with grassroots organizations worldwide to help kids to understand that exercise can be fun – it’s much harder to sell activewear to sedentary youth.
This is a fairly unique opportunity for both societal and commercial ambitions to align, and to help our children to live healthier lives.
Not yet a subscriber? Join 1000+ sports business leaders, from the PFL to Premier League, that read Sports Pundit every week to get impactful industry insights.
Commercial Partnerships Manager (Tennis) - IMG Arena (London, UK)
Associate Manager, Business Analytics - Dream11 (Mumbai, India)
General Manager, Player Development & Wellbeing - Australian Cricketers’ Association (Melbourne, Australia)
Tour & Operations (Events) Manager - Professional Bull Riders (Queensland, Australia)
Global Sports Marketing Coordinator - Nike (Beaverton, US)
Associate, Partner Solutions - Legends (Chicago, US)
Director of Athlete Marketing - Professional Fighters League (New York, US)
Do you have a job you’d like to promote to the amazing readers of this newsletter? Drop me a note at email@example.com
More on the MBA Sports Business Alliance…
MBA SBA is a mission-driven non-profit that is building an extensive pipeline of MBA talent within the sports industry from premier business schools, including;
Notre Dame Mendoza
MBA SBA is guided by the core values of “Connect. Educate. Lead.” and prepares its members to become future sports business leaders by providing them access to best in class recruiting resources, educational events, and professional development opportunities.