The ‘Fit’ Trend At Nintendo

Let’s face it, we’re fat.

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 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 McDonald’s, 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 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 a family’s living rooms, even when the actual ability of the games to help you lose weight is disputed. And now, then next stage of video game fitness is upon us.

Nintendo recently announced that a pedometer will be included with copies of the Pokemon games Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Called the “Pokemeter”, 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 Pokemon binges.

Now I will admit we all could use a bit of exercise, but now Nintendo is forcing us to exercise in regular games?

This displeases me.

If I really want to subject myself to the horror of a video game exercise system, I’ll go and buy one. If I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was, to catch them is my real test, to train them is my cause, I’ll play a Pokemon game. And never the twain shall meet. How long before we see a Super Smash Bros. where we have to complete a biathlon to execute a smash attack? How about a Mario game requiring you to raise your heart rate, or a Zelda game asking you to lower your blood pressure?

Now get out there and exercise, you gelatinous tub of lard.

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  • Doug DeJulio

    Don’t worry about the pedometer thing. You won’t need to actually walk to use it. Just duct tape it to one of those bobbing sippy bird things, right? Then leave it “jogging” overnight.

  • I agree with you that fitness gadgets should be left to the fitness games. I’m personally going to EASports Active right now and don’t see the need to try to incorporate fitness into titles such as Pokemon.
    I can tell you what’s going to happen, though. Some kid will be walking down the street while playing Pokemon, walk out into the street, and get hit by a car. Or kidnapped by some pedophile. It will make the news, and parents will just stop buying that particular Pokemon.

  • David Macphail

    Perhaps i should make it clear as some of you seem to be unaware – you don’t NEED to use the Pokemeter to play the HG/SS games. The Pokemeter is used in special “Courses” outside of the main adventure that contain unique Pokemon and items, however it has nothing to do with the main game itself.

    You can quite happily play through the main game from start to finish whilst sitting on your sofa, theese Pokecourses are similar to side quests. It’s not like you have to go for a marathon in the real world to get to the next Town in the game or something……..

    BTW – on a side note, Pokemon HG/SS have sold more than 3.5 million copies in Japan already, so this Pokemeter incorporation doesn’t seem to have a negative influence on the game in the eyes of Japanese gamers.