I make this claim not about individual people, but about our society as a whole. Americans, as a rule, are overweight and growing, primarily the younger generations, and ‘exercise’ seems as foreign a word as Backpfeifengesicht (no joke, a German word roughly meaning ‘a face badly in need of a fist’. Gotta love the Germans).
But no group needs, or at least is stereotyped as needing, a jog or twelve around the block as bad as the Gamers. The people who obsess over getting their WoW character that extra level, who spend countless hours running around in the grass trying to find that rare pokemon, or (God help us all) who insist that their Second Life is more real than their actual life, are the same people you see crowding the tables at a McDonalds, shoveling fries hand over fist into their greedy mouths.
Of course, this is a very broad generalization, but in my experience, it is often true.
Because of this negative image, more and more game developers are designing games to try and get their greasy, obese consumers to occasionally break a sweat, and maybe even burn off a calorie or two. Leading the way in this endeavor is the gaming giant Nintendo.
With the introduction of the Wii and its motion control system, the chance arose for Nintendo to take advantage of its novel control scheme to introduce physical fitness to gaming.
This was not, however, Nintendo’s first leap into what I call ‘self-improvement gaming’. One of the early titles out for Nintendo’s hand-held system the Nintendo DS, was a game called Brain Age. The game focused on improving brain function over time, using a series of tests and mental exercises carried out daily. The game did well and spawned several sequels, so it was obvious that people were willing to spend money on self-improvement through video games.
The popularity of basic games on the Wii, such as Wii Sports, which was included free with the Wii and consisted of several simple games based on swinging the Wii Remote, showed again that people were willing to pay good money for a game that would motivate them to do what they could do without a fancy video game system, and Nintendo has since cashed in on this fact.
Over the years, the Wii has leaned further and further towards the fit side of the force. Games and new peripherals such as the Balance Board, resistance bands, heart-rate monitors, and even weights now clutter many families’ living rooms, even when the actual ability of the games to help you lose weight is disputed. And now, the next stage of video game fitness is upon us.
Nintendo recently announced that a pedometer will be included with copies of the Pokémon games Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Called the “Pokémeter”, the device will count how many steps you take while wearing it and, when hooked up to the game, will unlock new areas and give the player special rewards.
The ‘fit’ games are now being forced into regular video games, and onto people who have no interest in combining physical activity and their hours long Pokémon binges.
Along with this, rumors abound concerning a new peripheral that Nintendo has acquired a patent for, the CyberBike, which is a fully-fledged exercise bike that promises to be the largest gaming peripheral yet.
Will we see an entire Nintendo Gym? Perhaps competitive Wii sporting events? Wii steroids?
Whether these become options or not, we can always resort to going out to get some good, old-fashioned exercise.