The sports games that come packaged with the Nintendo Wii
video console are rather innocuous - there are no aliens to fry, no circuitous,
rain-slicked racetracks to maneuver on, no virtual Shaq or Kobe to beat to the
But playing the "Wii Sports" version of bowling for a half hour raises
Mickey DeLorenzo's blood pressure, hikes his heart rate, and leaves him sweaty
It's not exactly Pong.
The $250 Wii, which arrived in stores in November, at about the same time
as Sony's much-heralded PlayStation 3, came with a novel bit of technology that
separated it from the rest of the pack: motion-sensitive play that requires
gamers to act out their character's on-screen movements in real time, wielding
the Wii's remote controller like a sword, swinging it like a tennis racket or
... well, rolling it like a bowling ball.
From the start, video-game addicts realized there were more benefits to
these actions than simply making you hungry for more chips: Game play beefed
up the biceps, flattened abs, improved cardio fitness. And, in some cases,
doubled as a diet aid.
"I just love the idea of this, and I never really liked video games. I
can't even play Super Mario," admitted Rebecca Longo, a 26-year-old
intensive-care nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell in Manhattan.
Longo's game is kickboxing, played before a big-screen flat-panel TV in the
Irving Place flat she shares with her husband, Kevin.
Why go to the gym?
"Playing kickboxing on Wii is like an aerobic workout for 15 or 20
minutes," she said. "It's so nice to do this at home, without having to go to a
gym. There's a terrific potential here if they make new programs."
For DeLorenzo, 26, who lives in Philadelphia, the Wii payoff went beyond
burning a few calories: He lost nine pounds in six weeks.
DeLorenzo got hold of a Wii before it was officially released, to review it
for an online publication. "While I was writing, I got this idea and dubbed it
the Wii Sports Experiment, and that's how it was born."
For six weeks, from December through mid-January, DeLorenzo maintained a
strict program, 30 minutes a day at home with Wii and the sports games. "After
12 minutes, I was sweating, after 30 minutes I was sweating and tired," he
said. He used all the games on the program - tennis, bowling ("If you play
fairly quickly, step twice and roll, it's a good warmup and cooldown"), boxing
and baseball - but skipped the golf.
At the end of his self-appointed time, DeLorenzo had lost poundage. "I
didn't change my diet, didn't do any additional exercise and, don't forget, I
had to get through the fattening holiday season, too," he said.
Of course, DeLorenzo charted his progress online (wiinintendo.net) and
attracted a national following. He's since dispensed advice to dozens of people
who have e-mailed him for encouragement. "I get letters from families saying
they're all having Wii nights," he said. "Even my fiancee, a complete
non-gamer, plays Wii Sport on a daily basis."
The buzz about Wii has created a whole culture of un-couch potatoes. In Los
Angeles, parent Linda Perry has become an aggressive Wii advocate and helped
attract a crowd to a "come out and play" night for Wii Sports at the posh
Chateau Marmont. And more than a thousand fitness addicts have signed up for an
informal Wii exercise group on a Web-based exercise site called Traineo.com,
where they discuss the benefits of the game.
Dancing into our hearts
DeLorenzo says he's heard Nintendo is preparing to market a game similar to
"DDR" - the high-flying Dance Dance Revolution game currently offered for
Sony's PlayStation 2 - as well as a "health pack. Not many details, except that
it will include yoga and Pilates." That information couldn't be confirmed by
Nintendo spokesman Dan Mazie in New York, however.
Nintendo estimates it will ship 6million Wii consoles to retailers
worldwide by the end of this month. Nintendo itself has low-keyed the exercise
benefits of Wii, focusing instead on game-play. Meanwhile, some Wii fans have
complained about soreness or stiffness caused by playing the games. (In some
instances, Wii-ers bowling or smashing tennis balls have reportedly let go of
the controller in a moment of passion, flinging it at the TV screen or at
Concerns about repetitive stress
Some medical experts have voiced concern that the interactive physical
exertion required for Wii Sports may cause repetitive stress injuries or other
types of discomfort. Dr. Mark Klion, a sports physician and orthopedic surgeon
at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, recommends that Wii newbies
start with short workouts and build up. He warns that for a person not used to
physical exercise, a full-throttle Wii workout "is enough to cause injury to
the soft tissues, whether it's the muscles, tendons or ligaments. I can't
imagine people suffered these injuries from playing too much Pac-Man."
On the other hand, David Young, a Nintendo consumer service supervisor,
told the Los Angeles Times that Wii Sports has proved a boon for people who
can't exercise in conventional ways.
He cited cases of a young girl with cerebral palsy playing the games from a
wheelchair, a 44-year-old man with degenerative disc problems who can bowl and
golf with Wii, and a teenage boy who uses the device to rehabilitate his right
arm, which was impaired by a stroke.
These five games let you hook, jab, slice . . .
Wii Sports was bundled into Nintendo's long-awaited game console system when it
was launched in November, a collection of five simple-to-learn sports
simulations designed to demonstrate the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii
Remote to new players.
The five games are
- A three-inning game, where one player bats, another pitches.
Batters grip and swing the controller like a bat, trying to time their swings
correctly. Pitchers use the remote's buttons to choose screwball, curveball,
splitter or fastball.
- The controller is used to jab and punch; moving it side to side or
back and forth causes the fighter to lean, weave and duck.
- The faster the swing, the longer the ball will travel. Swing too
fast, and the ball will slice or hook. Putting requires a delicate touch.
- Forehands and backhands are controlled by flicking the remote.
Body English can put some topspin on the ball. Takes some practice to get it
- The controller becomes an extension of the arm, as one swings it
backward then forward to release the ball. Awkward motions can hook the ball
into the gutter or even into the neighboring lane. How embarrassing.