Reviews

Wii Fit

L.B. Jeffries offers his experiences with eight weeks of Wii Fit training.


Publisher: Nintendo
Price: $89.99
Multimedia: Wii Fit
Platforms: Wii
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Early Childhood
Developer: Nintendo
US release date: 2008-05-19
Website
Amazon
Developer website

The Wii Fit has generated a lot of discussion since its release several months ago. Does a video game that uses real world objectives still get to be called a video game? Has it become something entirely new? Instead of beating a final boss, the obstacle the game relies upon is a real one: your own physical status. You play out the exercises while the game is constantly gauging your progress, offering suggestions, and continuing to challenge you to reach a goal that exists only in the real world. Yet it still rewards your exercises with the typical prizes of improved looks for your avatar, digital money, and unlocking content.

Essentially, Wii Fit uses video game rewards to coerce real world accomplishments. As one of the first mainstream games to attempt combining reality with the virtual one, Wii Fit bears the mistakes inherent with being a pioneer and the respect that such a pioneer deserves as well.

Due to the nature of the device, I decided subjectivity was inevitable since so much of my play experience is going to boil down to me. I am going to engage in one of the saddest of journalistic endeavors: the before-and-after piece. The three sets of photos in this review show my progress with the Wii Fit over an 8 week period. I'm 25 years old, 6 foot 3 inches, and have practiced yoga, spin classes, and lifted weights heavily in the past. One month before taking the Week 1 photo I discontinued my gym membership and went on a month-long 'sit on my ass and pretend it's justified' binge. I don't eat fast food, I avoid desserts and potato chips, and I would say the main source of my calories is large portions and beer. Otherwise, I didn't really diet except when following the Wii's advice. I drink a cup of green tea in the morning, keep a pitcher of it chilled in the fridge, and drink plenty of other teas at night. Before starting this article I'd kept my weight at about 210 for the past year, exercising and falling off the wagon as the situations go.

Week 1: 208 lbs.

The exercises themselves are...mixed in terms of quality. There are about 8 really good yoga poses, 6 good physical exercises, and two cardio games that are worth the physical pay-off. This evaluation will vary from player to player, so take that for what it's worth. I only used the hula-hoop game for cardio, as a skiing injury ended my jogging days years ago. The balance games do exist and could be fun if you're into them, but I never got much out of it. The device begins a new person with a limited set of exercises. You have to keep using and trying out exercises at their lowest setting before you can increase it to the maximum number of reps and options.

For example, you start off only being able to do 10 sit-ups, then after several sessions you can do 20, and then 30. It keeps you from hurting yourself and lets you slowly adapt to all the exercises, but it's an imperfect process. Because it's a video game reward structure you inherently do more reps as soon as the game will let you. I ended up hurting my right shoulder because I mindlessly assumed I should keep increasing the number of 'push-up and side plank' reps as the healthiest option for me. It's awesome that I immediately pushed myself to the limit, but the game doesn't really have a way to adjust your reps rate beyond an arbitrary 'more = better' method.

Week 4: 207 lbs.

The game employs two methods of making sure you're doing the exercises and generating commentary. One is the weight distribution on the Wii board, which is constantly detecting the shifts and cluing you in on the best pose. It also helps you sync up with the exercises that involve a lot of movement. Rather than just tell you to do a leg lift, it rings a bell, detects your shifted weight, then rings a confirmation bell. It's a good system and it really seizes on the Wii Fit's mixture of reality and video game: your body is the method of input and gauge of success. The second gauge is a posture test that detects where your weight is centered. A small red dot represents you while a yellow sphere represents the acceptable area for the dot to be located. You then challenge yourself to keep the dot still.

As nearly as I can tell, the entire game mechanic was introduced to give someone who isn't already overweight something to do while playing. The average person isn't accustomed to watching their posture this closely and will be able to work on this for the first few weeks of playing. It also makes many of the exercises mind-numbingly tricky despite the fact that I'm enjoying their real world benefits. Take the yoga stretches. I'm still doing the stretch, but I'm getting a low score because my body is shifting around while I wave my arms or stretch. I appreciate the desire to improve my posture, but the game should put more emphasis on me doing the actual exercise.

This leads us to what may be the Wii Fit's most potent advantage over an exercise video or a private instructor: video games will make you work your ass off.

Week 8: 205 lbs.

When I first stepped on that board, I knew it wasn't going to be pretty. My little Mii inflated to a disgusting size and the game woefully informed me that I'd need to lose twenty pounds before the little guy would be skinny again. Having the game be completely honest about my weight was both unpleasant and also motivating. I want that little Mii to be thin again, very badly. This also brings us to the game's greatest flaw: it doesn't really help you lose weight. My stomach muscles are doing great, my shoulders are tone, and I really enjoy stretching every morning. But my weight loss has been negligible over this period.

The best way to fix this would be to cut out the constant clicking of the Wii-mote to get through exercises and to stream it into one well-paced work-out. It also might do well to add a Diet Diary to keep track of eating. The game suggested I cut back on my portion size and stop eating after 9 p.m., which has worked fine, but it could do a lot more. The Hula-Hooping game is brilliant, and the jogging exercise seems productive, but ten minutes of cardio is hardly enough. The other exercises are paced and equally dull physically. I ended up taking hour-long walks or riding my bike to supplement this deficit just to keep from gaining weight.

The game has a few other quirks as well. For some reason, it insisted I use the male instructor on random days because the female one was busy that day. Even now, I really don't know what to make of that quirk. It also recommended I switch to a heavier weight for the tricep bends but didn't offer any advice on how to hold the Wiimote and a weight at the same time. But these are minor complaints for a game that, as the first of its kind, has left me in better shape than before I started exercising with it. I used the Wii Fit every morning, 6 a.m., Monday to Friday, for 8 weeks straight. I averaged 50 'game' minutes per work-out. The fact that it won't lie and say that I'm thin even though it has been 8 weeks...is perhaps only fair. There have still been rewards: I've started eating smaller portions, toned my body, and cut back on my beer drinking. And it's all thanks to that fat little version of myself cheerily encouraging me to keep at it.

Whether or not using real world benefits in a video game is valid game design may be beside the point; when I finally whittle my Mii down to size it will still be one of the greatest rewards a game has ever given me.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less
Features

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
3
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image