So, the inspiration for the Wii Fit comic is that, after about a week of daily weigh-ins, I started to feel like Garfield in his Sisyphean struggles against the talking bathroom scale. I have a feeling that Nintendo’s designers really weren’t thinking things through when they designed the daily body test component.
The big problem with it stems from that it uses BMI’s ridiculous classification system (which is good for a casual statistical clustering of body types but is not in and of itself a useful diagnostic tool), and that it disregards progress and only tells you how you’re doing based on where you are in the BMI.
I measure in the upper end of the “overweight” category on BMI. I could certainly stand to lose some fat, but I could also stand to gain some muscle. So far my weight has stayed about the same, but even in the past week I’ve definitely built up some muscle. Muscle is of course denser than fat, so even if I were to never lose a single pound I’d be happy if it meant getting much stronger.
Of course, Wii Fit just looks at BMI and knows nothing about my skeleton (and being of Eastern European descent I’ve already got a naturally stocky build, nothing like the lithe Japanese creatures I’m sure Nintendo used as their references). So, okay, at first it was a bit funny how it drew me as a Mario Batali-esque fatass, which seemed like a humorous bit of gentle encouragement, but after a week of this, it gets pretty old.
When I step on the balance board, it actually does go, “Oh!” as if it’s surprised by my mass (sometimes it does say “Great!” if I step on more slowly), and after it weighs me, it actually does say, “That’s overweight!” And, of course, every day, weight fluctuates a bit. I’ve had days where I’ve lost a couple pounds (and it doesn’t congratulate me), and then I’ve had days where some of it has come back (and it demands that I select the reason why I haven’t lost weight that day, with choices like “I eat snacks” and “Not getting enough exercise” — which is particularly funny because it knows exactly how much exercise I am getting!).
I do like the weight-tracking portion of it, but it really needs a way to disable the BMI bullshit, and a way to have it just draw my Mii in a more realistically-proportioned manner.
Positive encouragement is absolutely vital for staying on any sort of diet/exercise plan, and while parts of Wii Fit do give you that encouragement (the minigames are designed pretty well in that regard, and the yoga components are excellent), the primary interface aspects (the daily body test and how you’re displayed in the “Wii Fit Plaza”) are right in your face.
So far, I tolerate the daily body test simply because tracking my weight and balance are important enough to me that I can look past how it continually insults me, but if after only a week of this I’m feeling annoyed enough to rant about it, I’m not sure how I’ll feel in three months when I’ve (hopefully) lost a lot of weight and it’s still insulting me. I do understand, appreciate, and in some ways live by the Japanese ethic of Kaizen (continuous improvement), but this is not Kaizen. The Kaizen approach would be for Wii Fit to say, “Let’s try to lose even more weight.” This feels more like continuous admonishment. How long before I decide to give up and imbibe an entire can of whipped cream?