EA Sports President Peter Moore made
headlines recently when he challenged
President Barack Obama to
take a 30-day challenge on his company’s
new fitness game, EA Sports Active, for 30
days. President Obama had just made comments
about video games to the American
Medical Association similar to the ones
he had made about companies not holding
conferences and conventions in Las Vegas.
“It means going for a run or hitting the
gym, and raising our children to step away
from the video games and spend more time
playing outside,” said Obama.
In the past, you wouldn’t expect the
heads of video-game companies to have
much of a retort. But thanks to a booming
fitness-game business—generating $2
billion in the past 18 months—the timing
was perfect. “I’d be willing to bet there
are more consoles getting far more use
in American homes than there is exercise
equipment, so it’s up to us to continue to
use the platform for good,” Moore wrote on
his company’s blog.
While you expect Moore both to defend
his company and take advantage of a lot
of free publicity, it’s hard to argue with his
logic. There have been active games in the
past—Dance Dance Revolution, for example—
but never have there been so many
games developed and marketed purely as
fitness tools. We wrote about the Wii Fit
when it was released, and it continues to be
the No. 1-selling video game in the country.
There have been a whole host of games
released under the Wii Fit banner since
then, and they don’t hide the fact that, in
order to play, you have to get your ass off
the couch—something gamers haven’t done
since Pong blipped onto their screens back
in the BN (before Nintendo) dark ages.
Now, just because something is pitched
as “healthy” doesn’t mean it is (see: Vitamin
Water). The two latest forays into fitness
gaming, however, really do seem to be
worth the time and effort. Released within
a week or so of each other, EA Sports Active
for the Wii and Personal Trainer: Walking
for Nintendo DS are must-haves for those
sucked up in the recent craze.
Moore’s much-bragged-about Active
comes pretty close to his hype. The game is
a mixed bag: The activities are wonderfully
challenging and strenuous, but the controls
leave something to be desired. It comes with
a leg strap to hold a device that records your
movements and a really lame rubber strap
circa 1975 to use during the activities.
The leg strap isn’t very comfortable and
doesn’t always capture movement. But as
long as you’re moving, you’re working out.
Be wary, however, of cheap imitations. I purchased
an extra set of equipment for multiplayer
workouts, but the off-brand was cheap
and flimsy, requiring constant adjustment.
The other title, Personal Trainer, is tough
to review because it isn’t really a game. It consists
of two digital pedometers and a game
cartridge that reads data off the pedometer.
There are some little activities that you can
do, but mainly, it’s a device and a program to
analyze the data off that device.
But I love it anyway. First off, in the past three years, I must have burned through about six pedometers. This is an extremely durable and extremely accurate device that records your steps, when you took them, and plots on a graph when you’re the most active and inactive. It’s amazing to see not only how many steps you take, but also your “life rhythm” (as the game calls it). You start out by registering your pedometer and setting a step target for the day. The game default automatically starts you at 3,000 steps, but 10,000 steps a day—roughly 5 miles—is where you want to aim.
After you walk for a day, you input the
data, get an analysis … and that’s pretty
much it. That’s the game’s best feature: You
actually have to go outside and take the
steps. It’s actually odd even to think of it as
a video game, since it’s a true fitness tool.
But then there’s the cost. EA Sports
Active rings in at about $60—more if you
want an extra set of equipment. While that
price isn’t too hard to swallow, it’s pretty
high for a disc, a strap and a rubber band.
Again, the game content is excellent, but
I’m not so sure about $60.
However, that price is nothing compared
to the $50 cost of Personal Trainer.
That’s right, $50—and it’s not even really
a game. That’s not to say that $50 is a lot
when it comes to good health, but you can’t
help but wonder if the price would be so
high without the fitness-game craze.
Still, it’s hard to fault the game companies
when the general public is willing to
pay the cost. Why are we so willing? Peter
Moore nailed it: More consoles than exercise
equipment. Why go out and take a walk
when you can stay inside and pretend?