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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

If Only Space Invaders was VR...

In an effort to "lighten up" around here, I'm going to link to an interesting story I read on Wizbang earlier this week. They link to a USA Today story about an insurance agency in West Virginia that is conducting a study on the effects of exercise, video games, and child obesity. The video game, the insanely-popular Dance Dance Revolution, was used in the study. Video games being a passion of mine, and many other people my age, I couldn't resist blogging about it.

For the uninitiated, Dance Dance Revolution (or, "DDR") is a game that is played by...dancing. A plastic mat is laid on the floor, plugged into a Playstation 2 console with the game, and the player moves their feet onto the arrows to correspond with the ones on the screen. As you move on to different songs, the beat gets more frenetic and you have to move your feet faster to connect with the arrows, or risk losing the round. The arcade version of the game is a sight to behold, almost as much as the people using it. Competitions, naturally, have formed around the most creative methods of dancing and keeping up with the game. For a Nintendo fan like myself, I was overjoyed to hear that a Nintendo GameCube version of the game was being produced.

Coming back to the story, it goes on to detail how kids have taken to this game in a pretty positive way - they're playing a video game (a plus in almost any kid's book), but they're also exercising (which is a way huge plus in any parent's book). One of the kids in the story lost 20 pounds just by changing his diet and playing the game for a few weeks. This would have provoked a massive "DUH!" by anyone who has played DDR for any length of time - its dancing, an exercise, it doesn't require rocket science. Having played it a little bit myself (and found out how God-awful I am at it), I have to say that it definitely requires you to do more than just move your feet in pattern with the arrows on the screen - it requires you to think, and be able to react much more rapidly later on. It really adds up in terms of exercise.

Which is why Konami, creator of DDR, is capitalizing on it in a big way. They've already introduced an Exercise Mode into DDR, and they crank out new versions with new songs and dances fairly regularly. I imagine it must be difficult to keep the arcade machines in stock, since they're so popular. If they can continue to be successful with these kinds of games, it'd only be a matter of time before other companies try to cash in with their own version of a "guerrilla" exercise game. There's already an exercise bike for riding-oriented video games (like Crazy Taxi, or Smugglers Run). Nintendo, never to be ones without their own gadgets for their consoles, has a bongo controller for Donkey Kong Jungle Beat which is really amazing. Sony has a gadget called the EyeToy, which is a digital camera hooked up to a Playstation 2, allowing the user to move around to music, play sports, swat at enemies, exercise, and generally just freak out.

And who says video games solely promote sedentary lifestyles?