For decades, videogames have been lambasted by mothers who blame stationary “thumb aerobics” for turning their children into pudgy lethargic couch potatoes. Kids who “gamed” were unjustly classified non-athletic while mothers who dare not get caught spying a videogame enjoyed a double standard regardless of their own personal physical fitness.
Turnabout is fair play thanks to Nintendo’s new Wii Fit and Balance Board peripheral. Nintendo founding father and legend Shigeru Miyamoto has cleverly designed the electronic dynamic duo to inform those same mothers that they’re the ones who are overweight and ironically need to play this videogame to get back into shape. Once these moms get into Wii Fit, their kids will wonder if mom will ever cough up control of the TV again because of their obsession with the exercise video and glorified weight scale masquerading as a videogame.
Wii Fit’s premise is strikingly similar to how an exercise video pushes its viewer to reach a goal, only Wii Fit adds interaction and personalization to the experience. Using a combination of the Balance Board to determine weight and manually entering height, Wii Fit will calculate a player’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and assign the player into one of four categories ranging from healthy to obese. My BMI was calculated at 25.99, putting me into the slightly overweight category which is laughable given my slender frame. There will be many complaints from kids and adults alike claiming Wii Fit labeled them “fat” when their weight could come from solid muscle.
The goal of Wii Fit is to lower BMI over a customized length of time by playing a number of workout “games” designed to improve balance and posture, and burn calories, all while having fun. It’s hard to have fun when Wii Fit assigns a high BMI or calculates your Wii Fit age a baker’s dozen more than your actual age, even if you performed reasonably well on the balance tests used to determine the age. It’s as if Nintendo wants you, or more specifically moms, to feel old and fat so there’s incentive to return for additional “workouts” on a regular basis.
The telltale sign Wii Fit was built with moms in mind are the abundant number of Yoga and stretching/strength exercises most men wouldn’t be caught dead performing in their homes. I watched my wife spend multiple hours going through the yoga workouts so she could accumulate enough minutes spent exercising to unlock new exercises. She complained about where to put the Wii Remote while doing yoga since you have to use it to navigate the menus, a valid concern. Meanwhile I did each Yoga workout once and promptly shifted to wondering how much I could raise my BMI in a 24-hour period. Gamers want to have fun, after all, and being graded on staying still while performing yoga isn’t the most engaging videogame opportunity around.
Men are more likely to gravitate into the balance games that are just that, “games.” Heading a soccer ball, skiing down a slope and rolling balls into holes offer zero fitness value, but are the lone link in Wii Fit to traditional gaming. As expected, my wife had zero interest in the balance games while they’re the only ones I wanted to return to and master.
Whether Wii Fit will actually help people get into shape over the long haul remains to be seen. Most of the challenges are geared towards being aware of your body’s strengths and weaknesses as revealed by balance and flexibility tests. Running in place by holding the Wii Remote in your hand or in your packet will burn the most calories, but you really don’t need Wii Fit or a Balance Board to do that, right?
Men will find Wii Fit and the Balance Board has a high WAF (wife acceptance factor) and may even get their wives and girlfriends interested in videogames. But it’s the countless moms out there who will make Wii Fit and the Balance Board as difficult to find in stores as the Wii console itself for months to come. If sales are the determining factor to a game’s success, then Wii Fit and the Balance Board will be one of the most successful “videogames” released this year ” much to the chagrin of true “gamers.”
– Dan Bradley