Exercise, Physical Activity and Video Games
The notion of mixing more physical activity with video games is not such a new thought. Even dating back to the early days of Super Nintendo there were products developed to try to incorporate physical activity into the video game system. Early attempts at this were not very successful, but more recently titles like Dance Dance Revolution have been markedly more appealing to the masses. DDR is quite possibly the most successful game to incorporate physical fitness into a game, even though there are video games made specifically for fitness.
The one problem with all of these games and attempts at blending video games and exercise is that they either lack a truly massive audience, or they are targeting only people that are consciously looking to beef up their exercise regimen with video games in mind. This is where the Nintendo Wii has made what I consider the biggest leap in video game history with their Wii Remote, otherwise known as the Wiimote. Stepping away from the more standardized game pad-like controllers that are shipping with other current and next generation consoles like the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii Remote utilizes motion sensing at a level we have never seen before. In addition, the Wiimote's design, which looks more like a small TV remote controller, has enticed more casual gamers to purchase the console and join in on the fun.
The Wii console uses a sensor bar which is placed either above or below the television, this sensor tracks the movements of the controller while the gamer plays the game. The combination of the Wiimote and the sensor bar allow games to be much more interactive, and add a more physical element to the video game experience. This can be seen in Wii Sports, the title that comes with the Wii console, which offers five different sports games. In these games the player uses motions to control the action on the screen, literally using the controller as a baseball bat is how you take a swing in the baseball version of the game. Bowling, tennis, baseball, golf, and boxing are the games offered on the disc. While they aren't perfect, and the graphics aren't pretty, they are fun. In addition, many of the newer Wii titles are beginning to utilize the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii in more and more creative and effective ways.
The key here is that the Nintendo Wii is making an impact on today's gamer. I don't have any numbers or statistics to throw at you, we all know its far too early to see the impact of the Nintendo Wii at this point, but the important thing is that gamers are becoming more physically active without even knowing it. There is a title in the works with a goal of helping families exercise together, the "Health Pack" is the name of the working title. Unfortunately I don't see this working on a large scale, because only people inclined to want to exercise will buy it. What will work is video game developers continuing to use the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii to make games that people want to play, games that are fun, games that get the action going without advanced acceptance on the gamer's part to commit to exercise.
It has not been proven that people who play video games are any less healthy than people that do not play video games, simple logic however would suggest that they may be in a situation to become less healthy due to decreased physical activity. The Nintendo Wii may be changing the way we play games, the way we look at gamers, and the way gamers look. This is a good thing! What do you think? Post a comment about this article and let your voice be heard.