Gamers get up and get moving

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The stereotypical gamer is a middle aged man sitting in his basement fighting orcs, aliens and other fantasy creatures as his hairline recedes and midsection expands. However, new gaming systems are striving to change this preconception, adapting video gaming from a sedentary pastime into an activity that gets people moving and promotes a healthier lifestyle.

The Wii, a gaming system made by Nintendo that hit the market several years ago, incited such excitement that several people were trampled in their quest to purchase one. This system combines the regular gaming experience, producing games such as Call of Duty and Mario Kart, with wireless remotes that have embedded sensors capable of registering the movement of the controller. This technology allows games such as fencing, tennis and bowling to be played with relatively realistic movements.

“I really like Wii Fit, because it gets you off of the couch so you’re not a couch potato,” junior Rebecca Hoehn said. “Yoga is definitely my favorite activity to do with it.”

The Wii Fit program uses a special balance board that measures the pressure applied to it and uses the shifts in the user’s center of balance in games such as hula-hooping, skiing and even walking a tightrope.

According to the Wii Fit‘s website, the program is designed to work towards “better health and fitness,” prompting many people to use its personalized workouts as a way to lose weight and increase stamina and flexibility. “I play Wii about five times per week, so just about half an hour to an hour every day,” said Hoehn. “But I do not use it to lose weight or anything, so I would not say that it really helps.”

Another game, called Active , is specifically designed to bring its users an intense workout. The game comes with a leg strap for the nunchuk controller and a resistance band, allowing the game to track player’s movements and strengthen their workouts.

The game takes the user through a variety of different activities, such as bicep curls, track running and squats. The computerized personal trainers keep the user to a fairly rigorous tempo, ideal for getting toned.

“I have Active, and I kind of use it to work out, but I play sports so it is not something I really need to do,” said junior Jenna Balicki. “If you played it regularly I think it would really help.”

Another activity that forces users to get up and move is a dancing video game called Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR. For this game, which can be found in arcades and private homes, one needs a DDR dance mat. The player then steps to the beat, matching his movements to arrows that float up the screen and is judged by both his timing and accuracy.

“I love DDR,” said freshman Jenny Jessen. “It’s a lot of fun, especially when you play with other people because you get to laugh at yourself.”

Most versions of the game have three levels of difficulty: light, standard and heavy. “A heavy song is definitely a workout, because you are jumping around all over the place,” said Jessen.

Dance Dance Revolution has become so renowned for its ability to help people get fit that it has even been used in many schools and gyms. Versions are even available online, such as the one here.

In a nation where 64 percent of the population is either overweight or obese, it is no wonder that the gaming industry has decided to sink its teeth into this market, flooding consumers with a wealth of different programs designed to help them lose weight, get fit and defy the stereotype that has defined gamers for so long.