Casual Friday: Wii Fitness and Gaming Rehab

Welcome back to PC World's weekly effort to celebrate sloth. Today, we're shaking things up a little bit by exploring a serious topic (albeit in a barely serious way): your health. So are you ready to get your lazy duff off the sofa and onto something a little less comfortable?

Kicking the Habit

Right now, according to the Surgeon General, 12.5 million overweight American kids lead sedentary lives of quiet inhalation of Slushies (if someone else is going to Seven-Eleven anyway...) and Cheetos. Mmmm, Cheetos. No doubt, video games are on notice for inducing indolence, encouraging antisocial behavior, and breeding killing machines. Or so I'm told. That's right, games provide all sorts of bad influences--and they have for ages, but you may not have noticed the signs.

Pac-Man: A guy chased by his own personal demons runs around town eating everything that isn't nailed down. If that isn't a cry for help, I don't know what is. If I tried hard enough, I'm sure I could link this quarter-muncher to the Japanese kid who sucks down more hot dogs than the starting defensive line of the 1986 Chicago Bears. If you need some tasty evidence, check out this online tribute. (Play the game.)

Mario: Let me get this straight. A guy eats a mushroom and suddenly he grows 20 feet tall, becomes invincible, runs through pipes, and spits fireballs. Oh yeah, that's normal. Someone needs to examine the subliminal messages this game imparted to a generation of video-game wastoids. Maybe you need a refresher on his trippy ways. In fact, check out this online version, which allows you to create your own levels. (Play the game.)

Niko Bellic (GTA IV): Niko, you need an intervention! MADD can--and already has--gotten bent out of shape over the fact that Niko Bellic in GTA IV has the option of driving while under the influence. Did any of them actually TRY to play it that way? It's no fun--in fact, it's a major pain. You can't control the car, and you may black out. If anything, the game teaches players to do what I did: call a cab. And maybe stop for some munchies before getting home.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Everyone got suckered in by his spiky hair, fresh Pumas, and "extreme" attitude, but this hopped-up video-game star was more like some speedy, digitized John Belushi. He may have mellowed out a little in the past couple of years, but he isn't fooling anyone. Try playing this online tribute with four different playable characters. (Play the game.)

Duke Nukem was juicing long before Barry Bonds... Max Payne hooked people on painkillers... You get the gist. But enough of this nonsense. It's time to talk about Wii Fit.

The Wii Workout

Yep, the big news this week is Wii Fit. Good luck finding it in a store, though. Apparently, people finally want to use video games to get healthy. Seems a little ironic, doesn't it: A game machine--the supposed reason for all society's ills--is whipping my posterior back into shape.

Well, it's launched, we've tested it, and I've publicly embarrassed myself in video form.

Thank God my PC World partner in crime, Danny Allen, didn't take me up on that offer for a Biggest Loser: PC World Edition.

All right, so a week in--how am I doing? Maintaining the same eating (and drinking) routine while playing--er, I mean working out--for about an hour a day, I've lost maybe 2 pounds. Nothing crazy and hardly a gym replacement, but a good start. It's already lasting longer than some of my older gaming workout gear did: That DDR dance mat is more like a welcome mat now. I quickly let my membership to PlayStation 2's EyeToy: Kinetic virtual gym lapse. And if this new workout routine doesn't work out, at least I'll have myself a damn fine TV dinner tray.

Wii Gets Sportier

You thought that Wii Sports gave you a good workout while playing a game? Well, Wii Fit and some other games are taking advantage of the balance board to give you more of a workout.

EA's upcoming game, Skate It, lets you grind rails with the balance board. The early version I checked worked well enough, but it feels a little...off. Though I'm currently under an NDA gag order, another upcoming title will sell the illusion of snowboarding on Nintendo's nice, new peripheral.

In the meantime, I did find one other game already on the market that takes full advantage of the balance board--We Ski. Check this: The Wii remote and Nunchuck work as poles while the balance board become your skis. Then, it's up to you to carve up a whole virtual mountain. It isn't the best game on the planet, but it's good enough to rent and get an idea of where developers may take the new controller (like, for example, on hectic digital slaloms). All right, time's up. I need to hit the showers.

Until next week...

Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.

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