North Wind And Sun

Fun, Pain, and Wii Fit – Some Impressions

Though Wii Fit launched last week (to much fanfare) I just received my copy of it yesterday afternoon, despite the fact that I pre-ordered it through Circuit City.com a full two weeks before its release. Word to the wise: You get what you pay for. When Circuit City touts that it will ship any purchase over the price of $50 for free, they are neglecting to mention the fact that free shipping is horribly slow and that no amount of Fedex tracking-page refreshing will make it go any faster.

Anyway, on to impressions.

The Board

The Wii Balance Board is an amazing piece of technology. It’s sturdy and durable, yet elegant and sensitive. It’s obvious that a lot of work went into its design, and the effort shows. Its potential is pretty exciting, and a number of companies are taking advantage of it.

On the other hand, some minor snags also made themselves known in my own playthrough, though few of them are inherent design flaws. For one, the board, being nonporous, is prone to accumulating moisture from the various hands and feet that are set upon it. Moreover, if you happen to live in an especially dusty home, as I seem to, you will surely experience the horribly disgusting sight of your dirty footprints implanted on the board. Of course, all of these issues seem to be nullified by simply wearing socks…or cleaning your home. (Miyamoto, if you are reading this: I’m sure you could make a pretty damn profitable game out of home cleaning, so make it happen.)

Space is also an issue. The are in my home used to play Wii Fit is a six-foot span from my desk to my television. That’s really not a lot of room for negotiation, especially when doing activities that required me to be on the ground.

Design

Wii Fit is the most recent reflection of Nintendo’s new-found elegance. Soft greens predominate in the aesthetically pleasing palate of colors that Nintendo has chosen to use in Wii Fit. According to About.com writer Kendra Van Wagner, the color green has a number of important associations in Western culture. “Green is a cool color that symbolizes nature and the natural world,” she writes.”Green also represents tranquility, good luck, health, and jealousy.” With Wii Fit, it seems that Nintendo sought to appeal to the association of green with health and vitality.

The Software

After setting the board up, creating my profile, finding out I was four pounds overweight (187), and duly crying inside, I was harassed by my two sisters, who repeatedly implored that they be given the chance to “play.” I let them of course, but not after I tried my hand at a few balance games. I have terrible balance, it would seem, and the numerous soccer balls that I missed in the Soccer Heading game attested to that. The other balance games were a complete disaster as well. But it was all good fun, and after been forced to the side of the room by my eager sisters, I was more than eager myself to step back on the board and attempt some of the other activities.

It became obvious to me at that point that Wii Fit is the most fun that I’ve had watching someone else play a video game, short of, say, this guy. (Note: Strong language in that video.) It is effectively “single-player multiplayer,” gaming in which consists of one person playing, but everyone in the room having just as much fun. It’s what the Wii has become known for, gaming that is inherently social. As I gyrated my hips in ways that they have never been gyrated before (Hula Hoop) and ran in place with exaggerated motions, I was met with various giggles and sarcastic underhanded insults from my sisters, who, when they had their chances to play, faced the same reactions from me.

The Concept

Why are so many Americans overweight? Our lifestyles, which revolve around unhealthy, processed foods and sedentary living make situations where we eat fattening foods and do nothing to rid ourselves of the fat that we consume. Every year many people, realizing that having their expanding stomachs and waistlines are making for rather miserable, low self-esteem fraught existences, seek to lose weight and get in shape. Exercise machine manufacturers, self-help book writers, and other such crafty entrepreneurs are usually more than willing to help in those endeavors. Money is exchanged, and the process beings, with most feeling the initial typical enthusiasm of newly-begun exercise programs. The pain of exercise and the inconvenience of doing so everyday soon set in, however, and Americans, with their new years resolutions and lighter wallets soon let their treadmills and AbCoasters accumulate dust and dirty looks in the corners of their living rooms. Busy lifestyles, impatience, and low attention spans make the weight loss process nearly impossible for many Americans.

This, I believe, is where Wii Fit comes in. Wii Fit addresses many of the issues surrounding failed exercise programs. For one, the Wii Balance Board can sit right in one’s home, alleviating the need to venture out to the gym everyday. A major reason for exercise programs crashing and burning is a lack of commitment, which invariably results from inconvenience. Once it becomes convenient to exercise, it becomes easier, and one has fewer excuses to neglect exercise.

Of course that same logic can be applied to treadmills and home gym. Wii Fit has a few advantages there as well. For one, it’s more affordable than the typical exercise machine, costing in total, approximately $350 for the Wii console and Wii Fit software. Compare that to the typical treadmill, which costs almost two-thousand bucks.

For most people, the most important quality of Wii Fit that, unlike exercise, Wii Fit is fun. The software creates a environment where exercise is a game, and, being that games are invariably fun, the monotony and begrudging obligation of things like the daily jog fade away. Exercise becomes fun, weight is lost, and one realizes that the most effective way to lose weight is to stay committed to a program.

That said, Wii Fit is not magic. It doesn’t do anything itself that couldn’t be done without it. Any of the exercises featured in the game can just as effectively- and more cheaply – done outside of it. The Wii Balance Board is instead a tool that serves as a daily reminder of what can be accomplished by any person with the desire to lose weight. The Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit software don’t magically make one fit, but you would be hard-pressed to find a solution that’s anywhere near as fun.

For some examples of what Wii Fit has helped people do, check out these links:

4ColorRebellion’s Viink
GameCritics.com’s Chi Kong Lui
N-Sider’s Dean Bergmann
A crazy guy named Trix’s reaction
GlobeandMail.com’s Chad Sapieha

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