You Fit, I Fit, Wii Fit

Sinc e I just got my Wii Fit yesterday, and I haven’t done a blog post in a few weeks, I thought I’d take a moment to blog about my initial impressions of the Wii Fit.

Setup

Setup was very easy. Pop the batteries in, put in the CD and synch the Wii Fit to the Wii console. My Wii needed system updates that took a few minutes, so while killing time, I flipped through the instruction manual. My pet peeves with instruction manuals are manuals that use techy jargon and manuals where someone wrote the steps from memory and clearly didn’t go back and verify, because steps are missing. I always tell my ISDs that instructions should be written in such a way that my grandmother could read them and understand them perfectly.

I’m happy to say that the Wii Fit manual was clearly written with very little jargon. They even referenced users to other pages of the manual for more information on certain topics- a rarity in instruction manuals.

Creating a Profile

When the software loads, it asks you to create a Wii Fit profile. You choose your Mii and go through a series of tests that record height, weight, age, and sense of balance.  This all culminates with them giving you your BMI and Wii Fit age.

The system did a good job walking me through creating a profile. The only point of confusion for me was I wasn’t clear on how to do the balance test, but they give you a couple of practice tries and my husband caught on quicker than I did and explained.

While I was creating the profile, I paid attention to what I liked and didn’t like from a design standpoint. The first thing I noticed was that when telling you to step on or off the Fit board, the system used a voice that sounded like a child’s voice combined with a computerized voice. It was a cute voice and one I liked- in fact I liked it better than the “adult” voices of the trainers later on. However, I wonder how others would react to it. My husband and I both commented on how we liked it but we both come from a tradition of both gaming and anime, so this didn’t strike us an oddity but I wonder whether others without that background would find it too cutesy. I think the Wii’s image as geared to kids helps make it more palatable in that respect though.

And that’s the other thing that I noticed. The whole style of the software (I can’t bring myself to call it a game) fit very well with the overall image of the Wii as geared to kids and family; and an image of fun and whimsy.

Another aspect that caught my attention was how the software integrated moments outside the actual game mechanics to create a sense of fun. This struck me the most when the software gave me my Wii Fit age, at the end of all the measurements and tests. The profile process is narrated by an animated Fit board (trust me, it’s not as weird as it sounds) and when I got to the end, the board says it’s time to announce your Wii Fit age. The screen zoomed in to my Mii, who was put into a spotlight, and my Mii fidgeted and did some nervous hand-wringing waiting for the results, as if it was a competition. It was a cute touch. It was unnecessary and wouldn’t have been noticed if it weren’t there; the system could have just posted the info on screen without the extra drama. It didn’t add to the mechanics of the game. However, it did contribute to the overall sense that this is supposed to be fun. And I think that’s an important thing to remember when designing software. It’s not just about what contributes to the mechanics of reaching the goal. It’s also about what contributes to the overall atmosphere of the software, which will contribute to the affective aspect of the experience for the user.

The major downside of the profile system is that it bases BMI purely on weight and height. A true BMI is a bit more complicated. The calculations used were adequate for my needs, so it doesn’t personally bother me, but for anyone who isn’t aware of how to actually calculate a BMI, the results are a bit misleading. The other odd thing is that the whole premise seems to be that if I can only achieve perfect balance, I will become physically fit. I don’t buy this, and think other things play a bigger role, but I assume this is the Japanese take on exercise, just as Americans have their own take that aerobics is the main factor in fitness.

The last stage of the Profile is setting a goal. The system asked me to choose how much weight I wanted to lose, and by what date. This was set up so changing the weight amount showed me what my goal BMI would be, and changing the goal date showed me how many pounds I would have to lose every 2 weeks. I think this was a great way to set up the goal state. Not only do you set an intention, but you see how changing one variable affects the others. This is something one doesn’t really account for in real life, but more information helps in setting an appropriate goal.

Training

Once I progressed to the training mode, I could choose from Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics, and Balance. I got home late last night so it was very late by the time everything was set up so I only tried a couple of things.

When I started, the system recognized that it was late and asked me whether I was going to bed, and also noted that my husband had created a profile. Again, not necessary, but cute touches that made the experience a bit more personalized. Then I chose a trainer and could begin.

I started with the Yoga. I practiced yoga for about 4 years, and though I haven’t been a practitioner for about a year and a half, I felt I could do pretty well. About 6 poses were available to me. I chose “tree pose,” which is my favorite yoga pose. The trainer explained the steps and how to breathe, which as a former yogini, I know this is very important and I appreciate that they took the time to explain how to breathe, position your arms and legs, and position your spine.

I was surprised how hard it was. The system showed a yellow circle around my middle, around my sacrum, and a red dot that I had to keep in the yellow circle. This made the pose much harder. It was difficult to concentrate on the red dot and on the other aspects of the pose at the same time. I didn’t do as well as I expected but think that I will improve with practice. Though it’s really hard to know how well I did. The score is point-based, based on how well I kept the red dot in line, and I’m given a ranking out of 4 stars, but I don’t know how close I am to reaching the next star.

Next I tried a couple of balance games. I did the soccer challenge where you have to lean left and right to hit soccer balls out of the way with your head while avoiding other objects. I did this twice. I was terrible the first time but improved quite a bit the second time. I also did the slalom. I was not great at this either and will need practice. Though watching my husband do both the ski and soccer games, I noticed it takes very little actual movement to create a lot of movement on the screen. I may have been moving too much. I look forward to trying that tonight to see if I can figure out the system.

I can’t really speak too much yet to how much I like the Wii Fit or how well it works. It was so late by the time I got to the training that I didn’t have much time to explore. However, I’m already looking forward to trying it out more tonight, so that’s a good sign. And I think the overall feel of the software is very well done. The personalized touches I mentioned earlier were visible throughout the game. I look forward to exploring more of the mechanics in the training mode. Perhaps I’ll even write a follow-up post.

 

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