With the recent release of Pokemon Go there has been a surge of increased activity of gamers. Not sequestered inside our homes sitting in front of a television or computer screen. Rather we’re outside roaming the streets of neighborhood staring down at the screen of our mobile phones.
Pokemon Go isn’t Nintendo’s first work that called for physical activity. They’ve had other attempts that even if not focused on promoting fitness at least gave the option for it.
The first would be their handheld market. These were not so much about promoting fitness, but you did at least have the option to take them on the go. I remember many times sitting in the back of the car on long road trips playing on my Gameboy Advance. Unfortunately, back in those days, getting a screen you could see became more challenging with no back-light option. Anyone else sitting in the back of the car during the night waiting for street light to make a move in-game.
Then came the Nintendo DS. Besides the upgrades to screens, there was the addition of Street Pass. Street Pass was a more direct encouragement to at least take your DS with you as much as possible. But from my own experience, getting Street Passes in my daily life was a rare experience. But if you’re going to a convention for gaming, anime, or comics, it tends to provide a flood of Street Passes that would be worthwhile.
But in terms of fitness, the system fell short. Even with Street Pass and a built-in pedometer, the system itself is still cumbersome to carry in a pocket like I would my phone. These features also weren’t so important as to motivate me to actually cart it about with me everywhere in my usual routine.
The big jump into to motion sense technology in gaming. Rest in peace, all the televisions that got destroyed in the process. Nintendo was the first to make this leap. In their footsteps PlayStation and Xbox would follow with their own versions: PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect. The Wii was advertised as not just a gaming console, but as a console that would get players up and moving.
This marketing system might be the big reason my parents were willing to get it so soon after the release. Add that to the price being low in comparison to PlayStation and Xbox systems, it sold over 100 million units worldwide.
As for the success in fitness, it certainly made attempts, including its own fitness games that I’ll discuss that more later. As for the rest of its games, I played none that required much movement. Games like Monster Hunter Tri and Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn didn’t require any real exertion.
All of this isn’t to say that there were not games that gave players a workout. Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was one I remember needing to take breaks from because my arm had become sore from the rapid battle movements.
On to Nintendo games directed at fitness.Some may be surprised to hear that there was more than one version of Wii Fit; there was Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus for the Wii, then Wii Fit U for the Wii U. These games were all about fitness. To play these games, a Wii Fit Balance Board was needed to play. I use the term “play” loosely as these games were about fitness, making them less fun than the other offerings.
Each time I did play, however, it prompted me into being motivated to workout. I would regularly go through the different types of workouts and try to push myself into doing longer or harder workouts. The game also does what it can to also teach about fitness and nutrition and gives a way for people to set goals of how much weight they want to lose, followed by a daily goal for calories to burn.
A problem with this game is that it almost shames you for not using it. Even if you’re active and go for a walk to burn off the number of calories it set for you, on the goal because it wasn’t with the game it barely counts it. While the time spent will go towards your time of being active, it will not count to the calories burned. And the Pedometer that was released with Wii Fit U helped in mending that issue some.
In the end, this games falls flat in keeping players motivated. My use of the game usually came down to when the next big Wii or Wii U game released.When that happened, the hassle of switching back and forth between two games was irritating.
There was one other pedometer that I remember, the Poke Walker. Released in conjunction with Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver. There were earlier versions as well, like Pokemon Pikachu and Pokemon Pikachu 2 GS. Those versions played more like Tomodachi and limited to just Pikachu. It was tested to be one of the most accurate pedometers of the time of its release.
The Poke’Walker would sync with the 3DS and allow you to carry around one of your Pokemon from Heart Gold or Soul Silver. Depending on how far you walked, different Pokemon and items could be found. From my own experience, I enjoyed it, I attached it to my jeans in the morning before going to school. There was also the ability to catch Pokemon that were not included in the main game.
But once all those Pokemon are caught, where is the motivation to keep playing? There really was not much. It could be used to train Pokemon, but that same experience could be done in a few battles while playing the game, but this venture I feel has a connection to the next and latest in Nintendo’s fitness trend.
This mobile app has spread like wildfire. Despite the number of flaws the game has, it still hasn’t harmed the popularity. Pokemon Go doesn’t activity tell you to go on walks, but it does promote you to “Be the best like no one ever was.” How does that happen? By going outside, walking to nearby stops and finding the Pokémon along the way. I mentioned in a previous article, Pokémon GO: A Salty Gamer, that I went on short walks with little success. It was only in going on three, five and seven-mile walks that ended up finding more Pokemon and stops. Did that make me less salty? Not really, since even going those far distances, I still found about as half as others that go the same length in more crowded areas.
But the point is that people are walking! They’re going outside, even if it is just out to a local Poke’Stop and dropping a lure. With my own increase in activity, my family members who do not even play the game have taken to going on walks with me. Time will tell as to whether or not this game is a success. I do believe that it will be around for a considerable amount of time. As the app hopefully improves by getting stabilized servers and the addition of trading, more players will be able to join in on the action. There should also be more Pokemon arriving, so there’s still plenty of time to get out there and start exploring Pokemon Go if you haven’t already.