Nintendo Wii Fit: Video Game Yoga

Nintendo Wii chaturanga with aweful drishti.

When we posted earlier about Nintendo's Facial Yoga video game, I was guilty of (at least partially) dismissing it as a curious anecdote from the annals of Japanese techno-pop. But I was off. Nintendo is onto a much bigger set of ideas.

Bare with me while I let the Nintendo PR folks describe their basic business problem.

"The video game penetration in households has never risen above 30 percent. We were basically just selling more consoles to the same teenage boys...We are not fighting our competitors, we are fighting apathy...Instead of trying to improve technology for its own sake, we decided to focus on those who weren't even playing games, who weren't on the radar."
Nintendo UK's general manager, David Yarnton
"The results of the survey showed that, at best, games are seen as a waste of time; at worst, an isolated, sad addiction that removes the player from reality...We decided that bringing tennis to homes wasn't enough; we now want to turn the living room into a fitness centre."
Nintendo UK marketing director Dawn Paine

Nintendo Wii Ardha Vrikshasana in a zen-chic and modern human living room.

Nintendo's new Wii console emphasizes body movements to control its games rather than the traditional joysticks or keypads. Now I don't frequent spas and gyms, but I do remember one visit, where I was entranced by a low-fi LED screen describing the terrain through which I was peddling. Nintendo's Wii Fit extends this experience into the living room and fuses it with the continually exploding health and wellness market. And well, yoga (as a fitness sub-genre) fits squarely into that program.

Video games are beginning to morph into experience facilitators, potentially useful adjuncts to our daily life. At least that's what Nintendo hopes. They have one "game" called Flash Focus: Vision Training in Minutes a Day (the UK edition sports a slightly better title, Sight Training: Enjoy Exercising and Relaxing Your Eyes). Suddenly I am reminded of Aldous Huxley's book, The Art of Seeing; and I could imagine rationalizing the purchase of a hand-held game unit if it would encourage me to do my eye exercises.

Okay, so what about yoga? Isn't learning yoga from a fake, programmatic instructor just plain wrong, if not downright evil?

I guess <cringe> that it depends.

Obviously learning yoga from a qualified, trusted teacher is the only way to go. That clearly stated, if a game gets a few people moving their bodies and excited about yoga, then why not? They're certain to pick up some bad habits from the way that Wii senses your movements. And yoga is obviously more than fitness and exercise, but grounding the physical body, using your breath, and developing discipline are helpful in any endeavor... It's a start.

In the "Lesser of Evils" arena, I like the idea of yoga video games over yoga DVD's. For one thing, there's a lot less ego to deal with from a cartoon. And for me, a cartoon can illustrate the key aspects of a pose better than a human. That way we don't get caught up in anything fancy and we don't worry too much about looking exactly like the cartoon... And maybe they'll make a Sumo yoga version with fat guys doing crazy backbends...That'd be cool... but I digress.

Basically, it's all trivial. We don't need any of this crap. Talk about boxing ourselves in. It's mediated mind contraction. We constantly limit our experiences by the way we view the world, and now we're trying to get up inside some imaginary reality box?

Nintendo Wii goes beyond yoga into hula hooping. Fun for the entire fucking family.

That's what's really cool about yoga. Yo don't need any fancy gear. Or even a mat. Just get the job done as simply as possible.

But dag! Maya is some sticky shit.

  • Wii Fit: Link.
  • How the Nintendo Wii will get you emotionally invested in video games: Link.
  • Nintendo's Flash Focus: Vision Training video game: Link.
  • Fitness was not on Nintendo's mind when Wii launched: Link.
  • Nintendo to launch fitness console: Link. Slideshow.
  • Nintendo UK: We are inclusive, not exclusive: Link.

posted by
Spiros Antonopoulos

TAGS — eyes, fitness, Nintendo, training, video games, Wii, yoga, yoga teaching

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Foremost credit goes to my wife Erin for her tireless patience + support of this endeavor. Thanks to Barry Silver for the artwork in the above banner and for his friendship, to Robert Beer for the illustrations. Thanks to Eddie Stern for his ongoing support and for providing inspiration. Thanks to my fellow farmers at One Digital Farm for help growing this.

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