Wii Fit Experiment - The Conclusion
As announced here in the magazine two months ago, we started an experiment to put the exercising game Wii Fit for the Wii console to the test. Since then, I've been using the game to work out three times per week, following a work-out plan made specifically for this purpose. The aim of this little experiment was to find out if such games actually do your body any good, or if the developers have managed to create the hype around the game style without it really being as good as it sounds.
A sceptic start
I must admit that I was a bit sceptic at first. I mean, if you think about it, how can it be healthy to play a videogame? We often associate videogames with health issues. Add to this that the special thing about Wii Fit, unlike other games where you have to move your body (like Dance Dance Revolution, for example), is that it actually claims to do you good. Have fun and get fit. To me, this has always appeared an odd combination regarding videogames, but perhaps that's the beauty of the game.
In any case, hopefully this experiment has revealed the truth...
But before we get to an actual conclusion, let's have a deeper look at the game itself. It's clear from the start that Wii Fit in fact does take its self-proclaimed task seriously, or at least it's presented as if it does. With height and weight settings and the calculation of ones Body Mass Index (BMI), the game appears very scientific. However, once you spend enough time with it, you'll come to realise that aspects such as your "Wii Fit Age", an amusing feature in the game which uses your actual age and your result in a series of balance tests to calculate how fit you are, perhaps aren't that significant or well created. All it takes is some time to learn what the exercises are all about, and from there you'll likely to drop from 50 to 15 in only a day.
Similarly, it's easy to get fooled by the general look of the game. With the training equipment in the background, a well-presented personal "trainer" and the generally clean menus, you really do get the feeling of a serious gym-like place. "Welcome, we'll take good care of you and make you slim in no time at all." In reality, this is only a great but unrevealing façade.
But what about the actual exercises in the game? Many have frowned at the fact that some of the exercises are downright useless. This is especially true for the balance games. They do add a lot of fun and are, in my experience, the best ones to play with the family or a group of friends, but they do little for your body as a whole. On the positive side, though, some are very challenging, making Wii Fit an excellent solitaire game where you attempt to get further each time.
But at the same time, some exercises are taken more seriously than others. Both the yoga and muscle exercises are very well carried out. Here the "personal trainer" - a visualization of an actual human, who will show you how the exercises are done - enters the picture, and he or she does a great job guiding you through everything. Once you're used to the exercises, you'll be building up muscles in no time at all.
But, and this is a serious but, on one significant point the game fails: weight loss. I think it's reasonable to assume that many would think a game like Wii Fit is all about losing weight. No, sorry to disappoint you. Since the serious exercises - the ones that actually work - focus on gaining muscle and improving your posture, the potentially weight-losing ones don't really work as well. If you really want to lose some pounds, go for a real jog rather than jogging in one place in front of your TV.
However, even though not everything is as good as it first seems, and even if the "scientific" part of the game is nearly non-existent, Wii Fit does do something right: it motivates you. There are plenty of things that will keep you going; little details that make you cheer with joy whenever you do something good. A few examples include a short sound and visual effect whenever you reach 30 minutes of exercising in a day, stamps that you get to put in a calendar whenever you do the so called "body test" (that's when you get to know your previously mentioned "Wii Fit Age"), and generally positive comments from the on-screen version of the Wii Balance Board (yes, the little fellow is there to guide you and give you hints and tips).
In the long run, however, many of these things fade. On a later stage, you'll find joy in such things as reaching milestones (for example 10 hours of total training time) or combining exercises as suggested by the game (whenever you complete a certain exercise, the game may suggest a different exercise to combine it with). But all the previously mentioned "motivational aspects" soon become tiresome and repetitive.
When you play the game over an extended period of time, making your exercising with the game a routine, you'll come to find that some things are missing. I've already mentioned that things can become rather repetitive, and often you'll have to do a lot of button pressing between exercises. Personally, I feel as though the game has been developed for casual play rather than serious work-outs, something which of course puts the whole "get fit" deal on the edge.
To give an example of what exactly it is that I miss, it would be great with a way to select exercises and just run them through automatically. This would remove all the excess time you spend in between exercises and make the process much more enjoyable.
Additionally, it annoys me a bit that the Balance Board, the most central unit of the game, isn't used at all for some of the exercises unlocked as you gradually advance. From an exercising point of view, this is actually a good thing (finally you can do the exercises without limitation), but having paid for it, and for the sake of comparing scores, it's a piece of equipment I'd like to see used throughout the entire game.
So what is the verdict on this whole experiment? Does the game really make you get more fit? Surprisingly, at least for me, it actually does. Two months might not be an enormous amount of time, and it certainly isn't enough to make you a hunk, though I have discovered muscles I didn't even know I had. I feel that my balance has improved (though probably due to the yoga exercises rather than the balance games) and my posture, that thing my "yoga trainer" keeps talking about, has in fact improved. I feel as though my body is slightly stronger than it was when I first started.
Regarding the actual game, it does leave a bit to wish for. However, despite my numerous complaints, it is a good game. It has a high visual and sound quality, it carries things out nicely, and it supports and motivates you in many ways. It's not what you should go for if you're serious about exercising, but if currently you're not exercising at all (I assume most of us hardly ever go to the gym) it definitely can help. Before Wii Fit, I hadn't even tried yoga in my life. Now I like to practice my yoga poses even without actually using the game, so apparently it has done something to me.
Last but not least, I've come to realise that Wii Fit serves one great purpose which makes all of its flaws as well as qualities appear insignificant: it raises the subject of fitness in general. During these past two months, I've started eating healthier. Health and fitness has become a frequent subject in the household, and in general I've become more aware of the state of my body. I'm walking an extra bus stop, taking the stairs instead of the escalator and I say no to that extra piece of candy. So does it work? It absolutely does.