Fitter, happier?

Nintendo offers its new workout plan
By MADDY MYERS  |  May 27, 2008
2.5 2.5 Stars

HOT TIP If you jump on the board by accident, you’ll have to start your workout over again.

Nintendo’s newest runaway sensation is, of all things, an exercise game. Wii Fit presents a series of mini games that take advantage of the Nintendo Wii’s motion-sensing capabilities by employing the Wii-mote, the nunchuck, and a scale that comes with the package. The act of playing constitutes all four types of physical exercise: yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance. Wii Fit takes virtual fitness a step farther than Wii Sports did by recording how much you’ve played and allowing you to track your weight and goals through a calendar system.

Wii Fit tries to make exercising as addictive as World of Warcraft. It wants you to get competitive with your friends and family in an effort to lower your stats. As soon as you get the scale synched up, the game will both tell you your BMI and exhort you to lower it. The numbers can cause some insecurity — the Internet is already littered with stories of traumatized children this game has called fat — but Wii Fit aims to capitalize on that sentiment in an effort to get you to keep playing. Although it admitted that my BMI was “normal,” the game still suggested that I knock it down a few notches.

Instead of a more realistic rendering of your body, you get to use your Mii — the cartoon version of yourself that you make when you first get a Wii. If you choose, say, jogging in the aerobics section, you’ll be watching your Mii jog along with you on a simply rendered scenic route. In reality, you’ll be jogging in place on your living-room floor (not even on the scale). Other aerobic games, like hula-hooping and skiing, incorporate the scale and are more entertaining, but they’re still nowhere near as addictive as they’d need to be to affect your weight. There’s also something incredibly depressing about running in place while watching your Mii “run” through fake scenery as opposed to going outside. Is that what Nintendo thinks gamers prefer? Should I feel ashamed?

I was far happier with the yoga, balance, and strength-training sections, but they too weren’t addictive enough to sustain the patience of your average gamer, or even your average person. Watching my cute female physical trainer bend this way and that certainly helped me understand the moves, but the soothing soundtrack and subpar graphics did not leave me hungering to play again and again. There is nothing inherently interesting about doing push-ups, and Wii Fit did nothing to make that activity more appealing than it would’ve been without my spending $90.

I’m not sure who this game is meant to engage. If Wii Fit is intended for gamers, as Nintendo’s promotional language implies, then why doesn’t it have the roaring soundtracks and flashing colors of Dance Dance Revolution, the first game that invited players to lower their weight through an aerobic workout? This one seems to be aimed at mothers whose children already own Wiis and who don’t have the time for a gym membership. The thing is, most gamers I know could benefit from Wii Fit. Too bad Nintendo wasn’t aiming at them.

In short, Wii Fit is fun, but not fun enough: it requires the same level of willpower you would need in the gym. The mini games aren’t motivational on their own. Wii Fit’s very existence indicates a positive trend toward getting gamers’ asses up off the couch, but Nintendo has a long way to go if it wants to make exercise into a fun routine.

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  Topics: Videogames , Culture and Lifestyle, Health and Fitness, Exercise and Fitness,  More more >
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