It feels strange to be doing push-ups in front a video game console while my avatar mimics my movements, but I’m learning to deal with it. After all, I’m trying out a new type of video game that’s designed to turn lazy gamers into active gamers.
It’s called Wii Fit (for the motion-sensitive Nintendo Wii, available in North America since May 21), and it allows users to practise aerobics, strength training, balance and yoga exercises.
A game to get you active? Nintendo is banking on the let’s-get-fit trend to propel its new game into the sold-out hall of game fame alongside Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV. But where those games are all about killing aliens and carjacking, Wii Fit offers the Balance Board, a pressure-sensitive scale-type device that can sense any shift in your weight, balance or posture.
This is the kind of game that will skyrocket to sellout status or flop horribly. Nintendo must be asking itself several questions: Will kids want to exercise for fun when they could be grinding with prostitutes in GTA IV? Will this truly become a family-oriented game, with Mom and Dad trying to beat their son’s high score in Ski Jump? Can the Balance Board withstand the abuse it will surely suffer at the hands of excitable obese North Americans?
Nintendo wants us to think of video games not just as a way to relax after a stressful day, but also as a way to shed pounds and get those endorphins pumping.
On the menu are more than 40 exercises ranging from marathon running to lunges to half-moon yoga poses. The Board’s sensor knows when you’re off by a fraction of a centimetre, and your character onscreen will let you know how to get a pose or activity on the right track. Even before you begin, in fact, Wii Fit calculates your body-mass index and lets you set weight loss goals.
It also pairs you with a personal trainer (who happens to be extremely good-looking, in a video-game kinda way) to offer tips and push you to achieve your goals.
If this sounds less fun and more strenuous than you expect from a video game, you’re right. Wii Fit takes a decidedly adult approach even if its Toronto promo day featured a family of Mom, Dad and two kids. In order to lure the young ‘uns, Nintendo has added snowboarding, skiing and soccer mini-games that force the player to sway hips and keep moving.
When I tried snowboarding, it was extremely difficult to negotiate the flags on the slalom, but it was a lot more fun than half the games in Wii Play.
Costing $90, Wii Fit is already winning rave reviews online and in print. The New York Times reviewer wrote, “In its sheer variety of activities you can always find something to do.”
And that’s where its strength lies: you might not like yoga, so you can move to strength training; one day you’ll want to enjoy the two-step class with Nintendo’s cheesy soundtrack; then you can get retro and play the hula-hoop game. If you get bored easily, Wii Fit is your salvation.
Even if Wii Fit fails to capture gamers’ attention, it deserves kudos for attempting to get button-mashers off their couches. It’s always refreshing to see technology used for the betterment of our health instead of vice versa, and it’ll say a lot about our entertainment culture if Wii Fit doesn’t soar to the top of the gaming charts.