Tuesday, June 17, 2008

From KabariNews.com: Wii Fit, We Like

Do you remember the Dance Revolution craze that a lot of Asian kids really hyped up at the end of the 20th century? A friend of mine, Jackie Oei, recently wrote an article about the latest trends in physical fitness in one of the magazines I represent, KabariNews.com (see pages 42 and 43 of the May 2008 issue), a print and digital publication.

I am reprinting Jackie's article here because Wii Fit is a 21st century pop culture innovation that motivates people "to get physical!" in a most entertaining, relaxing way.

Here are some videos for us to explore.

The Wii Fit Commercial

Wii For All

Wii Fit -- full trailer from E307

A Wii Fit Demonstration By Nintendo Before a Live Audience

Wii Fit, We Like

By Jackie Oei
Reprinted with permission from Kabari

I applaud anyone and everyone who exercise regularly. I, for one, will need to exclude myself from this health-conscious and energetic group of people. My personal attempt at any form of workout is often short-lived and inconsistent. Maybe it’s the hefty price tag of gym memberships or the unpredictable San Francisco weather. Whatever the reason, fitness training is something I know I should do yet I seem to avoid it all costs. Luckily, the geniuses at Nintendo have created a game that is well-suited for people like me.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Wii Fit!

Scheduled to make its debut in the United States on May 19, 2008, the Wii Fit has received enthusiastic reviews from both fans and skeptics in Japan, Europe, and Australia.

Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku.com commented, “Let's get this out of the way: Wii Fit does work. Why wouldn't it? It's based on time-tried exercises. Stuff like doing sit-ups, push-ups and jogging. Well, jogging in place.”

A complement to Nintendo’s Wii Game Console, Wii Fit is a gaming bundle that includes a game disc and Nintendo’s first ever Wii Balance Board. It is priced at $89.99 for the United States, somewhat costly, but it seems reasonable for the quality of both the software and the board.

The company’s Senior Managing Director, Shigeru Miyamoto, created the initial concept of a game focused on exercise and checking one’s weight on a scale-like device. Balance became the essential ingredient needed to pull Wii Fit through a grueling process of research, development, and numerous test runs. The idea came from observing sumo wrestlers needing two scales laid side by side to weigh themselves. After two years of preparations, the new balance board became a wireless, rectangular foot panel with four sensors to detect the slightest shift in weight.

What may seem like a simple idea is actually ingenious because it takes video gaming to a whole new level. When Nintendo introduced their Wii console back in 2005, it broke conventional game standards by using wireless motion sensors in its controllers so game characters can mimic a player’s movements. Now with the Wii Balance Board, attention will be focused on the players’ hands and feet.

“I don’t think Wii Fit’s purpose is to make you fit,” Miyamoto explained. “What it’s actually aiming to do is make you aware of your body. That’s why we wanted people to talk with their families about Wii Fit, and become aware of these things together as a group. If you’re standing still, and it tells you 'Your body is swaying', you can see on the training results screen that your body has been shaking. But I think you’d never realize that your body is shaking in day-to-day life. I think becoming aware of things like this about yourself is quite interesting.”

Here is how Nintendo describes the Wii Fit:

- Learn to block soccer balls, swivel hips to power hoop twirls or balance to hold the perfect yoga pose. As users stand on the Wii Balance Board, included with Wii Fit, their body's overall balance is tied to the game in a way they've never experienced before.

- Wii Fit also uses the Wii Balance Board for daily tests. These evaluate two key measures that a household can track via progress charts:

- Body Mass Index (BMI): A weight evaluation based on a ratio of weight to height.

- Wii Fit Age: The Wii Fit Age is measured by factoring the user's BMI reading, testing the user's center of gravity and conducting quick balance tests.

- Wii Fit includes more than 40 types of training activities designed to appeal to all members of a household. Training falls into four fitness categories:

• Aerobic Exercise: 10-minute exercises that are designed to get the heart pumping.
• Muscle Conditioning: Controlled motions using arms, legs and other body parts.
• Yoga Poses: Classic poses that focus on balance and stretching.
• Balance Games: Fun activities, such as ski jumping and heading soccer balls, that challenge the player's overall body balance.

Wii Fit is an amazing piece of equipment, but not everyone is impressed. Devoted gamers have expressed concern that the program detracts from true, traditional gaming with analog controllers and virtually-advanced graphics. Miyamoto has responded by encouraging all gamers to try something new. Wii Fit opens the market to casual and hardcore gamers alike, even to those who have never played a video game before.

“I think we'd gotten to a point where video games were something that everyone could no longer enjoy. As a designer, I'm always focusing on what is fun -- ideas that people can enjoy. For me, I'm trying to entertain as many people as I can, creating games that the widest number of people can enjoy.” Miyamoto said.

People may also get a bit embarrassed if they are spotted swinging their hips or jogging in place within their own living room. Just be sure to close the blinds, if that is the case. Initially, the idea of weighing yourself in front of the television sounds absurd, but those who have tested the component realize that it does make one aware of their own bodies and how they are living their lives. It is more than a DVD work-out program because the game tracks one’s progress, thus acting like a personal trainer.

Overall, Wii Fit and the Wii console are living up to their “Revolution” strategy to challenge mainstream perceptions about what video gaming looks like. Who knew that exercise and Nintendo could work so well together? They are, indeed.

© May 2008, KabariNews.com

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