Wednesday, March 14, 2007
My very adult addiction
When my husband first told me he was going to buy a Wii video game console, I humored him, but I couldn't help thinking I was indulging his juvenile inclinations. I had stopped playing video games when my Atari console went obsolete in middle school. But early one icy morning last month, he waited in line for four hours in front of the Nintendo store in hopes of snagging one of the hard-to-find sets, and came home triumphant, his arms wrapped around his fancy new Wii.
Good for you, I said.
Fast forward to two Saturdays later, when I woke up with a sore arm. The night before had been a Wii marathon. Friends had come over to play, and the living room heated up as we duked it out in boxing matches and bowling rounds. After they left, I continued to practice the tennis game against the computer, serving and backhanding, until I had reached "pro" status. I paid the price all that Saturday, barely able to move my arm, but satisfied at my performance. I was addicted.
That's why I wasn't surprised to learn that some people have started to use the Wii as a weight-loss tool. A Los Angeles Times article cites one man whose only exercise was to play his Wii for 30 minutes a day, and he lost nine pounds over six weeks. Online Wii fitness communities have started to sprout up too. Another article talks about the potential benefit for physically challenged or elderly people to have some physical activity while in the comfort of their living rooms.
It's not the first video game that's been hailed for its fitness benefits. We did a story a while back about John Polchowski, a teenager who played Dance Dance Revolution every day for one or two hours and shed 70 pounds in a year. A Mayo Clinic researcher did a study showing kids who play active video games such as DDR and the Sony EyeToy expend roughly double the energy of kids playing sedentary video games.
And then there are the brain fitness games, like the Nintendo Brain Age, which is supposed to challenge your mind with various activities including quick math calculations. Your score reflects how "old" your brain is. Proponents have touted its ability to keep minds sharp and even to potentially stave off Alzheimer's disease.
Video games have clearly evolved. So should we accept that they are a part of our lives and can even be good for our kids, or should we always push children away from the TV set and make them do other stuff? Is there a reasonable compromise?
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