This Machine Kills Fattists

Ed note: This article originally appeared in the pages of PTD Magazine

“That’s obese!” the voice happily chirps.

The voice, belonging to an anthropomorphized bathroom scale, is my nemesis. It is Wii Fit, and every day it tells me I am overweight (or, after a night spent drinking too many margaritas, obese).

The Wii Fit has been received by the mainstream media as a novelty fitness device. And I guess it is that, but only time will tell if it proves effective as a way of promoting exercise. What we can say now, however is that it’s a cleverly designed set of games that, in my opinion, are a ton of fun. The snowboarding balance game alone is worth $50.

The fascinating thing to me is that hardcore gamers have, incredibly, ignored the device. The number one selling item on Amazon? Not a word. Perhaps it’s just because they’re hard to find. But I would never choose the simple answer when a complicated conspiracy theory is available. The Wii Fit, I think, falls outside of their comfort zone. It’s approachable, it’s not punishing, there’s no penalty for failure (other than the crushing despair of watching your filthy, lard-filled, corpulent belly grow ever larger, like Tetsuo in the final scene of Akira).

Wii Fit has four areas: Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance Games. The former two areas are led by two animated, impossibly toned fitness instructors who I immediately despised. The latter two areas star the cute, pudgy little Miis from your Mii channel. Guess where I spend most of my time? Jogging around Wii Fit Island, with my cats looking at me as if I am a madman.

The aerobic activities include the hula hoop, step-aerobics, jogging, and the surprisingly addictive “rhythmic boxing.” The balance games include a soccer heading contest, a number of winter sports (including skiing, snow boarding, and the ski-jump), as well as a number of more abstract balance games similar to Super Monkey Ball. All of them are approachable, and all of them are fun, with the possible exception of the goofy “zen meditation” game, which no one needs to play more than once.

Like its kissing cousin Brain Age, Wii Fit invites you to register family and friends, and encourages subtle competition and interaction between those who are registered. Whether this enhances or detracts from the game probably depends on the player and how grumpy they are on any given morning.

Anyone who ignores Wii Fit because it “isn’t a game” is, in addition to being wrong, a fool. This is a thoughtfully designed, engaging package of clever technology and polished software. If you can find one, buy it. It’s that simple. In a world where Microsoft and Sony are spending billions of dollars of fragile hardware platforms to push a few extra pixels, only Nintendo seems to have remembered that video games are about games.