Wii Fit: I’m aching all over!

So Wii Fit has launched worldwide and stirred a plethora of reactions. The thing appears to be selling like pancakes, altough as usual, here in Mexico it’s so damn expensive that most of the stores have piles of Wii Fit boxes awaiting their turn.

Also it has received some pretty harsh reviews. The one that struck me the most was the gamespot review , from a site I usually trust for their quality reviews, which punished the game with a mere 7.0 score and some strange criticism. And general opinion is mixed, altough a good amount of reviews focus on how it’s easy to cheat, how the excercises aren’t all that good, how the game is limited and shallow, and how you should just buy a set of dumbbells or running shoes and get doing some real sports.

These people are missing the point, and misunderstanding Wii Fit’s target demographic. Despite the images of fit, athletic people in Wii Fit’s box, the game is really not aimed at them. Wii Fit’s audience is the at-large population of couch potatoes, of people who need two things in order to move even a finger: someone or something to tell them what to do and how to do it, and a large amount of motivation. These people would indeed rather spend their free time playing games than exercising.

So for these people Wii Fit is a great tool to get moving. The game is so cute and cheery, you can’t help but follow the exercises to your best. The game is encouraging without being patronizing, and it rarely feels like it’s punishing you for not working hard enough. I can see plenty of positive reinforcement here, and it really makes a difference in users wanting to keep up with the exercises.

Another complaint was that the exercises are too simple and with too few repetitions, and tougher workouts need to be “unlocked”. I can see this complaint coming from someone who is already somewhat fit and wants to go straight into doing 100 jacknives or run in-place for 45 minutes. However, again, Wii Fit aims to hold the user’s hand from the beginning, and it does this by not overwhelming the user with too many activities, or giving the choice for a too-difficult workout. I’d be discouraged if I was given the choice of 5,20,50 and 100 repetitions and I could only complete 5. By unlocking the harder choices as I make progress, Wii Fit rewards my improvement by opening up more choices. It’s not about limitation, it’s about motivation and taking it easy.

Analysis about the shallowness of Wii Fit’s balance games and aeerobic activities totally misses the mark. Wii Fit’s point is moving, not engaging in a lengthy videogame. And indeed, most activities are short, a few minutes at most. This keeps you changing pace and by chopping the workout into smaller pieces, gives you short-term goals to work towards. Indeed, I see a lot of behavior shaping here, and it really helps you working towards your goal which is, surprise, not completing an involved videogame, but rather to exercise for 30 minutes daily.

Also, some people complain that the game makes it easy to cheat. I pity the fools. In this case you would be cheating nobody but yourself. After all, the only tools the game has to monitor you are the wii remote and the balance board. So if you want to cheat by wiggling the remote through the running sequence or stand on the board when you should be doing pushups, then go ahead. But it’s just like being an alcoholic: you bought the thing because you wanted to be helped. If you’re not going to take the help, then there’s nothing Wii Fit, or anybody else for that matter, can do for you.

However once you make a determination to follow through with exercising, Wii Fit proves to be a fun, encouraging and rather helpful tool. After your first session, when you feel sore in muscles you didn’t even know you had, you’ll realize that, while Wii Fit won’t turn you into Charles Atlas, it will indeed help you be at least a bit fitter.

I think Wii Fit’s largest merit is its motivational strength, followed by its low entry barrier. An exercise video will show you how to do the exercises, but it lacks all the tracking tools and has absolutely no interactivity. Tougher exercises like mountain biking or trail running reward you with gorgeous scenery and tons of adrenaline, but are beyond most couch potatos’ reach. And gym work is so boring! Wii Fit is accessible to just about everyone and helps you through your first baby steps in order to get you moving. And the one thing we liked the most about Wii Fit is that it’s loads of fun, even if you’re just watching 🙂