No Wii can't

By David Chester

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 40% of Americans say exercise is “not fun.” This apparently gives them all the reason they need to keep their ample duffs planted on their sofas. Perhaps anticipating the heart attacks to come, last month the AHA and Nintendo joined hands “to help Americans establish healthier lifestyles” by using the video game console phenomenon known as the Wii, and more specifically the game Wii Fit.

Personally, I find this news disturbing, if not alarming. Weren’t we born into this world to… experience it? Aren’t we supposed to embrace nature and people? Shouldn’t we be out there, breathing in the air (fresh or foul), jostling up against others, breaking into a sweat? Aren’t we supposed to be doing certain things… naturally?

Well, some of us are. But not the “Wii people.” Wii people, as Nintendo would have us believe, need never leave their homes to experience the “magic” of the universe. Over the years, that magic has included “playing instruments,” “rescuing dinosaurs” and more recently “doing exercise.”

Apparently, the philosophy behind these Wii exercise games is that staying indoors to participate in a fun-filled activity such as tennis is somehow preferable to doing so outside — where, I don’t know, maybe the sun might be shining. But in the Wii universe, the sun, air, other elements — and, more importantly, other people — aren’t necessary. No, all you need to master your domain is a Wii wand and the ability to shake, rattle and jerk it to get your screen avatar to do all the fun things that you could do, too — if you just opened the damn door and walked out of your apartment.

Early ads for Wii exercise games in Japan featured teams of older and younger Japanese celebs waving wands, sharing smiles and jumping for joy. The message, I guess, was that the cross-generational thrills of the Wii world could bring all of us together in ways heretofore unimagined.

The Wii also tapped into the single female market with an advert focusing on a youthful woman dressed in her unitard, balancing on one foot in her darkened six-mat room while she parroted the movements of her onscreen Wii guide. While she wasn’t convulsed with the fake smiles and laughter of earlier ads, the woman showed how easy it was to tighten her hamstrings or fall flat on her face — without having to endure the judgmental stares from fellow yoga club members.

It was this shift in advertising strategy that started to make me uncomfortable. Wii Fit and its popular cousin, Wii Sports Resort, have sold millions of units worldwide. While the Nintendo wizards may have initially hoped to bring us together, I think they have helped to isolate us even more. The fact that the Wii was created in Japan is the clue: many young otaku here seem perfectly content to hole up in their hutches, keeping any contact with living, breathing creatures to an absolute minimum. The Wii, in its many forms, gives them endless opportunities to do just this.

But I’d like to tell them something that the Wii doesn’t want them to know: unless you are a special needs student participating in a “virtual PE class,” an invalid, or down for the final count, it’s actually not necessary to stay inside and play games in dark, hellish little cubicles. You see, we have something called “outside.” When you go outside, you can see other people. Interact with them. Walk and run with them. Maybe even… fall in love with them.

With the Wii, what you might learn is: the more you stay “inside,” the more you’ll want to. Continue to play Wii games long enough, and you might believe you’ve gained “control” over your life. Except you don’t really have a life: only the Wii does.

David Chester is a professional songwriter, voiceover actor, screenwriter and short filmmaker based in Tokyo.

This commentary originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (

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This is garbage. Sometimes it's raining outside, or it's night. Besides that, the author didn't consider that in the real world you could both own a Wii AND enjoy exercise and sports outside.

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For those of us averse to "real" exercise for one reason or another, the Wii can be a good starting point. Thanks to the Wii Fit board and software, I've been getting 20-30 minutes of perfectly legitimate exercise every morning, more than I ever got before (I work at home), and lost almost 50 lbs. as a result. Now that I've lost some weight, I'm more motivated to get out and walk around, even swim at the municipal pool, and I give credit to the Wii for much of that progress.

And my living room is big, bright, and airy--hardly the dark, hellish cubicle of Mr. Chester's imagination.

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What a completely ignorant article. Just another "video games are bad" point of view without actually looking at the majority of people who play these games, Wii Fit included. We are NOT all sacks of lard who are permanently attached to our couches 24 hours a day, afraid of sunlight and unable to function in daily life. Good grief.

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Yes I can go for a walk every day - and do. But I can't go water-skiing every day, or save the world from a horde of Zombies, or be james Bond every day.

It's not an either/or question, Mr. Chester. It is possible to have a full and varied social life, take part in athletic activities and have a muck-about on the Wii as well.

I'd love to see this bloke going away on holiday. "But I can't go to the beach - I'm driving a car".

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also lets not forget, the people who live in cities where going outside is a life risk, just to take a walk. anything that helps people get fit is good. if this was not true explain gyms. even gyms are risky and not so much fun.

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So ... gyms are more legitimate than the Wii because gyms have people in them? I wouldn't go to a gym to socialize. I'd go to exercise. The fact that there are other people there is unavoidable, but certainly not a draw.

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Weren’t we born into this world to… experience it?

I suppose Senor Chester enjoys walking to work everyday, like my grandparents did, and pounding his clothes on rocks in the river every Saturday, like my great-grandmother did, and hoisting massive stones into pyramidal piles like the ancient Egyptians did - this new fangled horseless-carriage thing is for the lazy, right?

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Yes I can go for a walk every day - and do. But I can't go water-skiing >every day, or save the world from a horde of Zombies, or be james Bond >every day.

Well said! At New Year's we have a family Wii bowling tournament, it's quite a lot of fun, and even 84-year-old MIL can participate. And, we all have hobbies outside the house, imagine! I lift weights, son does kendo, Hubby golfs, my brother runs and my SIL goes to yoga classes among other things. It's not 'either/or' in all cases...

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I exercise regularly. I do strength and powerlifting training. I also do it INDOORS in a dark room (gym). If anyone is even at the gym I tune them out with music and ignore them. How is this really any different than the Wii. I suppose I had to drive there. But that's not really going outdoors. I mean... I see people and interact with them everyday. I am a teacher like many of us. My best friend lives in America (me in japan) and we try to hang out every weekend. How. By getting online and playing games together. We can talk and have fun. Video games actually bring together with people. If it wasn't for video games I would never hang out with my best friend as much as I do. Do you know how we become best friends back in college. He came over one day when I was playing Halo (videogame) We had so much fun playing together that we became best friends all because of video games. (of course we have other similar interests but video games was the catalyst). Hmmm. actually video games were the catalyst in many of my friendships even one girlfriend. Yeah... I am not really sure what this guy is hinting at. I guess the Wii isn't going to change the world, but I bet you its probably making an overall positive difference.

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First of all, Wii Fit is not like the typical videogame where little energy is expended. And Wii certainly does not isolate people, in fact it is an excuse to bring people together and have fun and laugh while getting some exercise. Whenever my guy and girl friends get together, we pop out the Wii for pure entertainment to boost up the energy levels. It allows people who otherwise can't play the real sport at a decent level to experience it, and may actually encourage them to get outside to play the real thing. Wii is not some virtual reality game where you get addicted or get so attached that you can differentiate between reality and the gaming world. If someone does not get out of the house to play sports is that person's determination and will, not because Nintendo Wii games are brainwashing them not to.

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During a New Years get-together I wanted to play Unbalance and Twister; my niece and my nephew wanted to play Wii. Wii was played. Sarge was bored to death.

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Face it: Wii Fit is only a simulation. The author does have a point: staying indoors all the time alone and play pretend with a screen is... not the ideal situation. ALONE is the keyword here. Read the article again.

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ALONE is the keyword here.

Alone is an assumptive key word and not always a bad thing;

Knowing a few people who have been morbidly obese; simple arm/leg movements are all that is necessary to start a person on weight loss path(something Wii provides), going outside is not necessarily something they can do physically/mentally(range of motion/judgmental eyes). Alone is not always the case either, when we have guest over for dinner(night time), cards and board games are only so fun, tv watching is more of a solitaire active, playing the Wii is a lot of fun and some that normally enjoyed by both the guys and girls.

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Not sure what about Wii Fit is a simulation. If you're doing yoga in Wii Fit, you're doing real yoga. If you're doing pushups in Wii Fit, you're doing real pushups.

While Wii Fit is surely a solitary exercise, the other game mentioned in the article, Wii Sports is known as a great party game. It's silly to complain and moan about people playing the game alone, when no one even wants to play it alone. The article is just too far removed from reality.

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As someone once said, don't assume because it makes an ass out of u and me. That's exactly what the "author" does in this worthless article. My wife and I enjoy walks around the neighborhood, but Wii is fun when it's raining outside or when you're playing it with friends / family. I play it once a week and rarely by myself. I also hit the gym once a week. It's just another way to relax.

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The article assumes that Wii is played alone, which in my experience is not, and even if it was, Wii Fit and Sport is real exercise and when you get tired, you turn it off.

Azrael, you have obviously never done Wii nor do you have played with friends. Your loss.

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I am a very active person, but my 2 serious sports are seasonal and there are breaks in between. Also, both are confined to weekends (or days I take off work for my sports). One is outdoor and weather-dependent.

A rotation of WiiFit workouts in the morning before work, blending in yoga, stength building, and aerobics, along with some good old fashioned fun (this morning that was a snowball fight), gives me a chance to keep in all-round, year-round better shape.

And anyone saying "oooh, but it's just a simulation", can tell that to my aching abs today! Come give it a go and see how simulated a workout it can be.

Sorry, David, but you are WAY off base and this one of the most ridiculous articles I've yet seen here on JT. It has prompted a good response, though, so I thank you for that.

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I should also mention, the Wii has been a great excuse to invite friends over and for friends to invite themselves over. It can be just as social as a deck of cards or a board game.

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My son wants us to get a Wii, but tahn we alrady got a PS3(moi), DS-L(his) and a Nintendo Gamecube with Gameboy Adv, Adapter(his).

Wii Fit looks interesting but I would like a software that would help me with my Tai-Kyoku-Ken(Tai Chi).

Said that if they would do such a Software it would be most likely the PRC or Yang Health-orientated Training/Forms and not the MA geared Forms & training I do.

Will have to see how the finances work out.

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Strange world we live in. All we come up with to battle problems is to consume or consume more.

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According to the American Heart Association, approximately 40% of Americans say exercise is “not fun.”

I'm less woried about the people who found it 'not fun' and more concerened with the sanity of those who thought it was. Makes me think that 60% of the population consists of 'that guy' at the gym who is always there, like he has nothing better to do than to work out and make other men feel awkward in the locker room with his unbridled enthusiasm for all things physical in nature...I hate him so much.

Personally, I find this news disturbing, if not alarming. Weren’t we born into this world to… experience it?

I've been to more places than I care to remember and experienced a number of seldom known cultural artifacts I'd rather forget in my years and the two overriding constents I've noticed are that people suck and meat of questionable origin on a stick is often safer than that nations prepared delicacies.

Aren’t we supposed to embrace nature and people?

Shouldn’t we be out there, breathing in the air (fresh or foul), jostling up against others, breaking into a sweat?

You've never lived next to a steel factory in Detroit have you? Thankfully my sense of smell died out decades ago so I really couldn't tell you whether or not the air was foul...or if there was a propane leak in my house. Guess thems the brakes.

Aren’t we supposed to be doing certain things… naturally?

Dr Ruth agrees.

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Zenny, if it helps your decision, the Wii can still use your son's Gamecube games and even the Gamecube controllers.

I have a Wii, a balance board, Wii Fit AND Wii Fit Plus (WFP). If this is just a simulation, then why am I covered in sweat after 30 minutes of "simulated" Rhythm Kung-Fu, Boxing, and hula-hooping? With the addition of WFP, the program is no longer solitary as it adds the ability to compete against others in the games, albiet not head-to-head. One person goes, then the other(s) do. WFP also allows more customization of your workout routine and saves it. The original Wii Fit left it up to you to remember your routine.

The author repeatedly asks what's wrong with exercising outside and the answer is "Nothing: as long as the weather is suitable (ever try going for a jog in a monsoon or blizzard? How about when heat and air quality advisories are in effect?); you're not self-conscious about how you look while working up a sweat; and you have convenient access to facilities that support the activity.

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Thanks that helps.

I tend to practice daily, usual at the park for Forms. Much of my MA training I can do indoors as they don't require much space, like silk-reeling, push-hands, standing meditation, etc.

I see the Wii more as an interactive motivator to get people into exercising, not a replacement though.

I hate stretching, cardio-work so an additional motivator might be good. ;)

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I'm not sure how much of tai-chi could be monitored on the balance board. From what I know of tai-chi (which is admittedly not much), the small "footprint" of the balance board would make its usefullness questionable. The remote could evaluate hand movements, I guess, but if you're holding a Wii remote then you're not really using proper hand forms, right?

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Yes, the Wii board would not be good for Forms,etc.

But could monitor weight shifts during silk-reeling exercises, push-hands, standing meditation(we do move during those), etc. Hand-movements are not that important as the forms are simply a training tool, different from actual usage. Example: A move can be done as a punch, push, grip & tear, throw, etc.

For beginners could be used to learn simple moves, etc.

The Wii could also be used for record keeping, etc as many Softs already, do.

Will need to head to the Ol' Yo to have a look again.

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Forgot the hand-controls would be good for Weapons(Swords, Spear, Staff, etc) training though.

Even nicer would be controllers you could strap to your wrists or ankles.

Back on Topic.

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Here you go:

now all Wii need is to get it to interface with the Wii. (and write the Tai-Chi software... and produce it... and market it... and price it where the average person can afford the suit)

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GEt up in the morning, brisk walk to the newsagents to buy your tobacco and paper. Brisk walkong also when one needs to go to the pub, poe and mash shop or football and bob`s your ungle, exercise completed. No need for this new fangled Japanese games thngy with a rude sounding name. Get some fresh atr breath it in and meet real people.

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Best answer to make exercise fun and effortless, play sports. It takes quite a bit of discipline to get to the gym and pump iron and run on the treadmill, so get off the treadmill and expend energy towards something meaningful

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(Sports are something meaningful?) A sport is a game. Games are entertainment or recreation. Jim Fixx, the author of "The Complete Book of Running", died at age 52 of a fulminant heart attack after his daily run. His recreation killed him (with the help of the artherosclerosis in his clogged arteries).

Most sports don't allow you to "work up" to a level that lets you compete. You're either competitive from the beginning or losing a lot. The same discipline required to work out in a gym would be required to keep at a sport long enough to become competitive.

What the Wii does is allow those who have been sedentary to begin to get back into the active life, but at a level low enough that they normally don't have to worry about joining Jim Fixx on the autopsy table. Sure, a couple of rounds of tennis may be great for your heart, but I wouldn't want to see someone overweight out there risking a coronary or tearing up their knees.

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Keep in mind, there are also folks that suffer from extreme social anxiety or other mental or physical disorders that might keep them from venturing outside to be able to be active like a normal-functioning person might. If the Wii can be a motivation for them to keep active, that's fantastic. There's also the chance that that experience on the Wii might be an encouraging factor to boost that person's self esteem and maybe a somewhat theraputic option for them until they're able to learn to better cope with their anxiety or whatever the situation and feel they're ready to go out into public.

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and you can meet interesting people and maybe pop in for a pint.

So we should go outside so we can go inside? ;-) I'd comment on burning 60 calories in the walk only to replace them with 250 calories in an English pint of beer, but that's a diet issue, not an exercise issue.

There's nothing wrong with going outside to exercise and if you can do it, great! I officiate American football in the Fall so I get lots of outdoor exercise every year. But I still like to fire up the Wii Fit and work on increasing my scores.

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I have been thinking a bit more about the Wii lark. Don`t buy one for the missus, i ahve a better idea that is better for the house. If your wife needs to lose a few Pounds increase her chores. Daily dusting of every room, scub the kitchen floor and the door step like the old days and use a mangle ro dry the washing. Better for environment and saves a few bob.

If the woman starts looking better then maybe if she asks nicely she can have a new outfit from the tally man.Strewth, we didn`t need contraptions to stay in shape in my day, good old fashioned hard work kept us is shape, except the bone idle of course.

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A Wii is a replacement for outdoor activity? No, just in the mind of writers who like to stir up paranoia. I took a two hour stroll in the sweltering heat of Okinawa today. And when I got home to my air-conditioned apartment, I enjoyed playing on my Wii for a bit. What did I not do? Sit and watch TV. TV is a thousand times worse than any video game, and games shouldn't be considered a replacement for the real world, but an improvement on the time spent in front of the idiot box vapidly watching stuff.

Articles like this piss me off to no end, since they promote ignorance, particularly among people who don't get games. Good job :P

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