So, you finally buy yourself a Wii. And because you’ve been so good and so patient, you wind up with the Wii Plus. And you play. And you play some more. And you visit, virtually, every part of the virtual island. You fly, you bowl, you do it all. And great fun is had by all, precisely as promised. You are not disappointed. Even after you’ve acclimated yourself to the many Wii wonders – the controller that responds so responsively, that vibrates and even sings to you; the realistic, fully-rendered, 3-dimensional-looking ocean paradise (is that a whale? thar she blows!), populated by everyone you’ve played with and a cast of hundreds, who wave at you when you pass, and sometimes even cheer, while all the time accompanied by a richly detailed soundscape that further engages your senses: touch, sound, vision, humor.
And then you say to yourself, I think I’ll by me a Wii Fit Plus. Why? Because I want to, as the song says, put my whole self in.
So you buy it, even though it costs half as much as the Wii console, because you have dreams of the Wii taking you to places you’ve never played before.
Now, somewhere in the back of your copious intellect, you know that the Wii Fit Plus has something to do with fitness. And even though you just want to play, you silly person you, fitness is something that people take seriously, and the Wii Fit Plus is, of necessity, just as serious about helping you do precisely that. So you unpack it and set it up and find yourself sufficiently mollified by the intuitive ease of it all. And then you step up, as it were, on the Wii Balance Board, as instructed. And you continue to do as instructed, registering yourself, so to speak, informing the Wii Ones of your birthdate, your height, and other rather personally, but fortunately password-protectable details, and get informed of your BMI, and your balance (it is called a “Balance Board” don’t you know) and your body age. Your body age! Arggh! And, at last, unavoidably confronted by your precision-determined state of decrepitude, you meet your personal trainer.
All of which is to say that yes, if your goal is to become more fit, you can now, thanks to your purchase of the Wii Fit Plus, pursue that goal with ultimate seriousness.
On the other hand, you can also have fun. Actually, lots of fun. Fun that is so much fun you almost don’t realize how much actual exercise you’re having. Of course, the Wii Plus people take great pains to inform you of your progress in sometimes painful detail, and they use words like “failed” and “unbalanced” to make sure you know just where you stand, or didn’t. But, ultimately, it’s the fun that makes the whole thing worth our collective interest, and the fun is plentiful and varied.
The majority of the new and improved Wii Fit games are in their own section called “Training Games.” (Again, in order to keep with the seriousness of it all, they had to use the word “training.” Fact is, this is where the fun is, where, according to my playful way of viewing the world, the Wii Fit Plus becomes something very much like a paradigm for the whole fun-fitness connection.) There are 16 games in this section (others can be found in sections devoted to “strength,” “aerobics,” and “balance”).
Of those 16, Island Cycling is probably the best place to start. It demonstrates how the system can engage your whole body (you “steer” with your Wii controller and “pedal” by marching in place on the Balance Board), it’s relatively easy to master, and, most significantly, there’s no time pressure. So you can bike around the virtual island, both hither and yon, knocking flags down or not. Of course, the less time it takes you to find and knock down all the flags (a handy interactive map helps guide you), the higher your potential score. But if your goal is to get comfortable with the system whilst engaging your considerable self in a leisurely tour of the virtual environs, you will find Island Cycling fun and pleasant, even though you just happen to burn some calories in the process. And your pre-schooler will want to play it as much as you’ll let her.
Then there’s Bird’s-Eye Bull’s-Eye, which is clearly silly, and most obviously fun. Silly? First of all, you’re a chicken. And I mean that in the best possible way. You look like a chicken. You fly like a chicken if a chicken could fly. Second, you fly by flapping your arms. So yes, there you are, standing on your Wii Fit Plus Balance Board, actually flapping your personal arms. And there you also are (as faithfully rendered by your Mii avatar), on your TV, looking like a chicken. Lean left, right, forward or back to navigate. Don’t flap too hard or you fly too high. Find a target. Land on it. Get more points (time). Find the next. Try to land dead center for the most points.
As funny as it all is, it’s not a little kids game, by any measure. The controls, though intuitive, are engagingly complex. Keeping your body properly positioned while your arms are flapping at just the right speed requires a very fine-tuned sense of balance.
Here’s what I mean:
(one of many excellent instructional videos from WiiFolderJosh)
Major Fun-wise, the games included with Wii Fit Plus are worth the price, even worth suffering through the sometimes insufferable humorlessness of the whole “fitness” concept, because they so beautifully exemplify the fun-fitness connection.
Though the games may look childish, Wii Fit Plus is not just for children. Children already know how much fun it is to use their bodies, to test their physical limits, expand their abilities, engage themselves fully, physically, emotionally, mentally, and unconditionally in the world they are growing into. But for adolescents, adults and seniors, for the differently-abled and the significantly-abled, the games of Wii Fit Plus demonstrate, over and over again, the sheer joy of exercising our many abilities, all at the same time. Whether you’re cycling around the island, flying like a chicken, throwing and dodging snowballs, driving your Segway into beachballs, being a drum-major, keeping time, leading the throngs, skateboarding, doing Kung Fu, navigating your bubble through a maze of waterways, running an obstacle course, or balancing on top of a ball while juggling – you will have so much fun you could almost (if only they didn’t constantly remind you) forget that you were exercising.
On the other hand, maybe all the reminders will help you remember that fun is, after all, the best exercise you can get.