I have a serious beef with Wii Fit. You see ladies and gents, in days gone by, when people wanted to get back in shape after a few years of excess, they went to the gym. There I was, pumping the guns, benching twice my own body weight, and ready to impress the hordes of insecure women who came piling through those automatic doors looking to tone up.
When the Wii Fit was unleashed, it meant the Wii Fit girl and all her Wii Fit friends exercised at home. Meanwhile, the only people who still go to the gym are the Arnie wannabes. So now, while I am at the gym, I have a lot of time to think, and I was wondering, do game consoles have the potential to make people healthier?
The long existing negative stereotype of gamers can be found in the South Park episode “Make Love, Not Warcraft”. Video games were something that were played in the dark whilst sitting down. Also, during long game play sessions, it was common to find soft drinks and snack foods nearby. Parents tried to encourage children to put down their controllers and go outside to get some exercise. Video games were supposed to make you unhealthy.
Then the Wii arrived, and all of a sudden, playing a game involved moving something other than your thumbs and fingers. People were standing up to do something other than changing a disc. It was a shocking turn of events, and one that many tried to resist, calling the Wii nothing but a gimmick.
A game which has now sold somewhere in the region of 20 million units. A game solely dedicated to exercise with around 40 activities to try out. What’s more, it tells you you’re fat. This was the game that stole the pretty girls from the gym.
Yet at the moment, I do not think using Wii Fit is as effective as joining a gym. The current activities you can perform seem too limited. Of course if you are truly dedicated to a Wii fitness regime, there are bound to be results, but the question is, is it just a gimmick? Is this just a fad that the world is going through, or are video games finally going to become something more than just entertainment?
It looks increasingly like the answer to the first two questions is no, and the answer to the last question is yes. EA has released their own version of Wii Fit with EA Sports Active. Nintendo is releasing the Wii vitality monitor, a peripheral that will monitor your heart rate. We have been told Wii Fit 2 is coming, and Sony and Microsoft have announced new motion sensing technology that will undoubtedly allow some sort of fitness games to appear on their platforms.
The more money invested in these fitness games; the more likely we will see scientific developments. Also, there will be more studies to see how much weight people are able to lose, and how much healthier someone’s heart can be after playing half an hour a day. It is possible that someone will realize fitness games can play a part in physiotherapy; maybe in a few years Nintendo will be making equipment and software for use in hospitals. Who is to say the health care industry won’t attempt to take advantage of the Wii’s popularity, or Nintendo won’t look to tap into the vast amounts of money involved with health care?
With wireless technology so abundant and peripherals getting more advanced, it’s plausible that a future fitness game might even be able to take people out of their homes and into the sunlight. “Walk with me!” for the DS is already doing this, albeit in an extremely simple fashion. If something like this appears on the iPhone, which also has personal organizing functions combined with route finding applications, people might be able to have their jogging routes set for them as well as having an alarm go off to tell them when it’s time to go and exercise. There would be no excuse for laziness. Also, it would have a new dimension over something like Wii Fit, which can be ignored/forgotten if you switch it off.
Of course a lot of this is conjecture, and for the meantime, I’m fairly certain that going to the gym is still my best bet for keeping fit. But while I’m still mad at Wii Fit, I’m intrigued at what developments might eventually arise following the success of a video game. This doesn’t seem to fit into the stereotype of what people imagined a video game to be.