Just Playing is a Good Thing

Published January 1, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

I bought a Nintendo Wii a couple of weeks ago.  Took me a while to get it all set up, what with the craziness of Christmas and the stinking hot weather, but now that I’ve got it set up, I’m having a load of fun.  I don’t have many games yet, but I can play Wii tennis for hours, and something tells me that Wii bowling is going to be the next one that becomes an addiction.

Anyone who has seen or played the Wii Fit knows that the game not only measures your BMI (which we all know is a pointless measurement) but chastises you on not only your performance, but your body rating.  And now Microsoft have applied for a patent for an avatar system that shames fat people, limiting their game play and in cases even banning them from playing.

What is with gaming coming down all judgemental on us?  And why the hell are people buying these systems?

Maybe, just maybe, they’d a) sell more of their games and b) we’d play more hours of them if they made them a bit more bloody fun, and a bit less judgemental and moralistic?

The whole point of Wii, and especially Wii Fit, is that it’s a game that requires you to move your body.   A fantastic technology that brings gaming to people who wouldn’t otherwise play (like me).  In moving your body playing these games, you’re having fun, so you want to play more, which in turn causes you to move your body  more.  You’re getting exercise!  But you’re also having lots of fun.

Then along comes this feature that tells you your BMI is too high, that you’re not playing hard enough.  Or if Microsoft market their planned product, cuts you off from playing the game altogether.

What I ask is what’s wrong with just playing for fun?  Why add the moralistic bullshit onto it?  Surely if the game encourages you positively to play more, you will play more, you will move more, and get more exercise?

It seems to me that we’re being pressured to justify our activity so much that we’re not allowing ourselves to play anymore.  Every activity has to be for some kind of purpose or “good”.  Using the game consoles are not for just relaxing and having some fun –  no, they’re for training us to be healthy and fit, by way of fat shaming.

Games manufacturers and marketers need to cut the crap with this stuff.  Remove it or make it opt in if anyone out there really does want it.  Instead of chastising and shaming players, how about making them laugh, cheering them on, encouraging them to have another go to beat their last score.  I know I will play a game that I’m having fun and encouraged to play for many more hours than I would one that tells me that I’m a lard arse and shouldn’t be playing.

Time to get smart Nintendo and Microsoft, and all the other companies too.

12 comments on “Just Playing is a Good Thing

  • hey,

    i think this is one of those, they’re-just-not-satisfying-everyone situations. and it’s market driven, not particularly fat-hate driven. think about every day experience. though for the life of me i can’t understand it, there are people who like to work out with “friends” who will push and chastise and shame them, because they thrive on competitiveness. likewise, in wii-world, there are people who will look at being banned from certain levels of games as a challenge which will spur them on, make them more likely to play, and make the game more rewarding for them.

    and i would suspect that the vast majority of people buying wii fit? they’re doing it to lose weight, they don’t perceive the bmi the same way you do, and they appreciate those trackers, even if the shame-based aspects aren’t universally appreciated. wii appreciated this, made a game with fat avatars.

    anyway, i completely agree that that’s not the sort of thing i want in my game. and i’d appreciate it being a feature you could enable/disable. but i also think it’d be just as wrong to impose some unilateral ban on the feature because we find it distasteful/harmful. there are other people out there. their bodies. their entertainment. their business.

    • I’m going to disagree with you there. Body shame does nobody any good. Opt in/out is fine, though pointless, but both the Wii and this new Microsoft patent don’t give that option, and in the case of the MS patent, actually EXCLUDE fat people from playing the games. In the Wii, it doesn’t ridicule thin people, only those with a high BMI. Tell me that isn’t fat hate and I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      And as I said, there are far more productive ways that the Wii fit could be assisting those that are looking to lose weight (rather than those who just want have more active play – moving the body is fun, it doesn’t have to be for any other reason) that would actually HELP rather than hinder. Shame doesn’t work. If it did, there wouldn’t be any fat people.

    • Just who do these companies think they are to pass judgment on everyone. You’re too fat today you can’t play our game. Go diet or workout at the gym and if you do well enough we will let you play then. They have no right to tell me I can’t use their product (not that I would) because I don’t meet their standards. If you went into a casino and they made you weigh yourself and told you you couldn’t go in and to go diet and come back there would be no end of outrage. Besides positive reinforcement works much better than negative could hope to.

      • It’s because people are fooled into spending money on this crap, thinking that it will help them. We need to make it clear across the board that shaming does not work and that it’s not acceptable, and change everyone’s thinking about body image, weight and judgement.

  • My friends family has the Wii Fit and the only one that wasn’t called fat by the game was Tal, he’s 5 foot 9 inches or so and a twig. He probably doesn’t weigh 150 lbs. And the Wii went nuts when he got on. Yet my friends sister who’s 5 foot 6 or so and maybe 160 or 170 lbs, it called her fat. *facepalm* What kind of moronic system is that. I didn’t try it, didn’t want to.

    I’m not a huge fan of the wii because of the way the system works. I’m all for the getting up and moving thing, but if you aren’t in just the right position the little locator bar that picks up your movements doesn’t pick them up properly. Of course that may have had something to do with me having a bum leg when I played and therefore had to sit on my butt. XD

    • It’s insane how out of whack the whole BMI rating thing is. According to BMI ratings, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is “obese”. WTF? It just doesn’t factor in the wide variations of human bodies. That’s probably why it has read your friends incorrectly.

  • I’m not trying to be pointlessly confrontational here, but I do think you’re being a bit hypocritical. One of the things I love most about the FA movement is the notion of bodily autonomy. The goals I choose for my body, and the means I choose to effect those goals, are, for the most part, nobody’s business but mine.

    I take issue with health care professionals making blanket statements about what’s good for people with my BMI. I am not a fan of employers or society at large feeling like they have the right to come in and say what is good for me or my body.

    But I also don’t want to do it for anyone else. I try to avoid thinking that thin women need to eat a cheeseburger. I try not to impose my views on healthy body image on the rest of the population and assume they’d be better off if I just made all the rules.

    That’s what I think you’re attempting to do when you say that the Nintendo/Microsoft approaches to diet and weight loss can’t be beneficial for anyone. So many great accomplishments come from people who say they were motivated by someone telling them they couldn’t, or that they’d never be good enough. That is not the sort of motivation I want for my body; I take it you don’t want it either. But our saying that it isn’t useful for anyone- that a little taunting computer avatar can’t be someone’s motivation or impetus to do something they wouldn’t have without it- that that can’t be positive for them- how is that any different from the rest of society saying being fat is always unhealthy?

    We are not the rules. We are not even the exceptions. We are just people- so alike, and so different that statements like “everybody” and “nobody” should, I think, be instantly suspect.

    I appreciate your blog, and like I said, am not arguing for arguing’s sake. I just do think it’s important.

    • meghan you’re not even reading what I’ve said.

      a) shaming doesn’t work – even if you put a pretty bow on it and call it “motivation”

      b) the games ONLY make comment on people it reads as “fat”, therefore they’re discriminatory.

      Whether or not you “appreciate my blog” is immaterial, the point I am making is that these game styles are both redundant and discriminatory.

      Keep your accusations of hypocrisy to yourself.

  • As someone new to the Fat Acceptance world, and someone trying to love her body after many years of hating it, the Wii Fit poses a problem. I LOVE doing Wii Fit Yoga, and I especially like that it coaches you to hold your body correctly while doing Yoga. I do not like the eternal focus on BMI, and the fact that even when you choose not to take the Body Test, it will periodically ask you if you know your own weight… I wish, if nothing else you could turn those functions off. After all, we buy the game, give us more control of what we want.

    • You got it Samantha. It would be the wisest move to make it an opt in/opt out feature. That way those people who want to use the stupid thing can, but those of us who want to just have fun and move our bodies without being judged, can just turn it off and do so.

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