Wii Fit promotes fitness--to a fault?
Tue May 20 2008
I finally lugged home my Wii Fit, rallied the troupes (otherwise known as my sister and my boyfriend) and tried out the exercise system's various training games. I wasn't quite sure what to expect. On the one hand, I understood that this was designed as a substitute for my (infrequent) trips to Crunch, an adults-only gym. But I also knew that every commercial I've seen for Wii Fit has featured slim children head butting soccer balls. I wondered: Would this be an extension of Wii sports or a substitute for Abs of Steel?
As I discovered last night, Wii Fit is both. It's filled with motion-sensitive games that simulate fun-filled, outdoor activities—like downhill skiing, hula-hooping and walking a tight rope. These diversions were so much fun that three of us found actually argued about who's turn it was (usually it was mine). But Wii Fit also features a required fit test, in which each player's BMI (Body Mass Index) is measured and a goal for weight loss is set. It also includes traditional aerobic and strength training exercises, like push-ups and sit-ups. As you continue to play, the Wii Fit starts to ask questions about your weight. "Is your tummy looking flatter?" it chirped at me. I was startled. If I were ten years old, would it ask me the same question?
Perhaps I'm overly sensitive, but in an age when eating disorders are an epidemic, it seems dangerous to bring the idea of weight-loss into a realm where kids have never had to feel body conscious. The saving grace of video games is that they put each player on equal footing. You can be an overweight and uncoordinated kid and still manage to obliterate your skinny, star-athlete friend in any competition. In playing Wii Fit, however, children are forced back into their own bodies, and have to face their own capabilities and weaknesses. If you're a parent considering getting the game, I'd suggest setting it up for your child before each round of play so that he can forego the goal-setting/weight measuring introduction—and consequently lose weight without suffering a loss of confidence. After all, it's GREAT that kids are getting off the couch. I just don't want them getting off the couch and getting themselves into an emotional funk.
The other slight problem with Wii Fit is that while the balance games are fun, they're also a bit, well, difficult. They measure very subtle shifts in weight, which means mastering a game could be a challenge for tykes who are used to running around freely. The Wii doesn't instruct you in how to shift your weight either--it just tells you to do it. If your little one can't figure it out, he's never going to win the game.
Though Wii Fit may not be the ideal gift for your kid, it is perfect for busy parents who can't get to the gym without hiring a babysitter. I'm definitely going to keep using mine.
Wii Fit, $90, available at the Nintendo World Store, 10 Rockefeller Plaza between Fifth and Sixth Aves (nintendoworldstore.com). Subway: B, D, F, V to 50th St–Rockefeller Ctr.