Wii Fit Exercise and Workout Review – Final Verdict

29 08 2008

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Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Ron Jeremy - Fitness Motivator?

Although the full 30-day test had to cut short due to stress injuries, Mediasapien was still able to put the Wii Fit through its paces, as well as a few other exercise-based game titles.

The validity of videogame-based workouts has been a heated debate since they first emerged as a serious offering a few years back.  To many they represent little more than a silly diversion, while to others the usefulness and potential benefits seem like an obvious step in the continuing development of virtuality as an analogue to reality.  In truth, the current state of the art lies somewhere in between.

For experienced athletes, yoga buffs, and other highly active people, using a videogame to exercise would seem like a step backwards – if you already run 10k marathons, then jogging alongside Mii Ron Jeremy and Homer Simpson would offer little added incentive.  Likewise for a regular gym rat or yoga student – the game may offer a portal into a remarkable simulation, but for those with experience, the analogue wears thins fast.  Add to that Wii Fit’s tendency towards gentleness and safety  (understandable), and the usefulness for pros drops significantly.

All of these qualities are a benefit to most potential users however, who are likely not highly active people.  Whether targeting hardcore gamers, or the emerging casual gamer market, the gentle and easy nature of Wii Fit definitely finds its demographic.  The slow and calm pace, with lots of click-confirms between each move, insure that few people will get too aggressive while playing.  Little surprise that Wii Fit has been such a huge success in physical therapy and retirement communities. 

The decision to mix traditional exercise with a variety fitness-based games insures that people who don’t particularly like exercise, but who do like games will get up and give some of it a try, and maybe encourage them to move more.  This occurred in Mediasapien’s case.  While following the boxing-step class exercise in Wii Fit, I remembered that the original Wii Sports title included a previously untried boxing game.  After playing that game through to it’s limit, I was hooked on the game of boxing 3 round fights against increasingly harder opponents.  I still wanted more – although not particularly interested in hitting people (and more importantly, getting hit), I realize that I may need to find a gym with boxing facilities anyway – or at least a heavy bag, if only to keep the best part of the game-based workout in my routine.

It’s a bit ironic that the best workout, both for strength and cardio, wasn’t technically part of Wii Fit at all, but a forgotten part of the original Wii Sports disc.  And others agree.  A quick Google search confirmed that scientists and fitness experts have tested the Wii boxing game with real scientific rigor, and found it to be nearly as good as a real boxing workout regime.  The calories burned were marginally lower playing the Wii than in RL, but just barely, and the strengthening benefits were the same.  Maybe even better overall, if you consider not getting hit repeatedly in the face as a kind of side bonus.  Unfortunately, the technical shortcomings of the hardware prohibited Mediasapien from Boxing beyond a certain skill level – the Wiimote sensor was simply not up to the task of tracking the boxing motions beyond a certain speed.  The frustration of playing with a non-responsive game was enough to inspire me to start pricing punching bags and stands online.

Recent Nintendo announcements promise a new, highly sensitive Wiimote add-on that will increase the overall accuracy of the sensors by several orders or magnitude.  Hopefully this hardware upgrade, along with upcoming fitness software that has more committed users in mind, will allow the next generation of workout games to fulfill the promise of usefulness that Wii Fit has only hinted at.

To answer the ultimate question – Yes, Wii Fit and its ilk are indeed valid methods to sweat, gain flexibility and increase cardio strength (Sorry Morgan Webb).  The Wii Fit’s variety of games and unique sensor tech gives the game a certain edge over some other titles, but the lackluster customizing options severely limit it’s value as a long-term workout tool.  Its a fun way to get the blood flowing, and may very well inspire you to go out and exercise beyond the screen (a weird idea I know), but ultimately Wii Fit has to be viewed as a kind of gateway drug to a real workout.

If this were X-Play, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  Hey look at that, they did. 

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Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 3

24 08 2008

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Day 15

Nursing a sore back again, so Mediasapien kept it light.  20 minutes of yoga-based stretching and a walk of about 1.5 miles.

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Day 16

Today: 30 minutes of yoga (all Wii Fit poses) and 30 minutes of boxing in Wii Sports.

As week # 3 get under way, Mediasapien is frustrated.  Some chinks in the armor are staring to appear that have me ending my workouts feeling angry and frustrated, not drained and relaxed.  Mostly its because the boxing I’ve been enjoying so much seems to have real limits as I progress through the ranks.  When I first boxed in the game, I was able to feel a reasonable connection between my punches and those of my avatar.  As I faced tougher opponents, I had to improve my game – and it showed.  I was getting stronger and faster with each bout.  But something happened along the way.  I started noticing missed or dropped punches – my avatar was unresponsive to faster punch combo, and missed many uppercut and roundhouse punches all together.  This would leave my avatar exposed too long and slow to recover, and the opponent would seize on this opportunity and pummel my avi to the mat with a quick succession of blows.  

As a test, I tried to shadow box a little to see how responsive it could be and the game failed.  IMHO, if the game misses one out of 10 punches, I could live with it.  But if the game is missing 4 out of ten, then there is little point in playing.  I even went to my local Gamestop and purchased a used copy of another Wii boxing title, Showtime Boxing.  This game was such a complete dog.  I returned it immediately.

Evaluation: The accuracy of the Wiimote had better improve if Nintendo expects people to play these games more than once or twice.  There is some research to indicate that 60% of Wii Fit owners use it once, and then never again.   Granted this research seems to be a quote from a Microsoft exec., but still, no Nintendo spokesperson has stood up to refute the claim.

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Day 17

Funny thing.  While rooting through the Wii Sports menus, I came across a fitness test that predates Wii Fit, and was clearly the inspiration to take the idea further.  It consisted of 3 tests – 2 boxing oriented tasks (hitting the trainer’s mitts and not the trainer, and KO’ing a punching bag), and one agility test based on avoiding balls thrown at you by the trainer.  These were fast and fun, if not particularly useful, and inspired me to do something foolish – break out the Wii Sports boxing and the inevitable frustration that it has come to represent.  Like a prophesy fulfilled, by the 2nd bout, I was getting angrier with each non-responsive “punch.”  I threw the Wiimote so hard that it literally flew down the hall into the next room, and smashed against the far wall, breaking the battery compartment lid.

I blame myself.

I knew this would happen.  It’s the same pattern that has developed in the last week or so while boxing.  It’s a shame because it is clearly the most fun AND the best workout available on the console, but I really must stop playing it.  What good is a workout that ends in rage?  

Since I acted some rashly, and broke my toy, I decided some punishment was in order, so I went through all the strength-building exercises at the maximum-allowable reps.  Fortunately, this took me past the minimum required 30 minutes, and I was able to power down the Wii and walk away.

Evaluation: I seem to be hitting a wall with Wii Fit and it’s cousins.  I am looking deep within the game and options to find a useful and enjoyable workout, but I might be reaching a point where the limits of the game are starting to show. Ironically, it’s the system’s selling point – the Wiimote – which seems to be the weakest link.  With just under 2 weeks remaining in the 30 day test, the outlook is becoming less rosy for the game.

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Day 18

Once again Mediasapien is sidelined by chronic back pain issues.  No Wii Fit today.  Hell, no sitting upright today, for that matter.  I have 18 holes scheduled for tomorrow in Golden Gate Park actual outdoor exercise with people, not Mii’s to keep me company.  I hope I’m up for it.

Mediasapien out.

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Day 19

Well Mediasapien’s back is still sore, but it comes and goes.  So I’m off to the park and some RL disc golf.  I’m going to record my walking distance (and call it a hike) even if I don’t toss the disc.  Either way I will record my outdoor activity for Wii Fit credits and perform a body test later.

…Later. Golf was great.  Here’s the evidence, according to my iPhone and Pathtracker software:

After adding my Wii Fit credits, I took another body test.  My BMI hasn’t really budged much.  I’m still about 8-9 lbs overweight, but my improved center of balance and coordination have brought my Wii Fit age down to 36.  Woo Freakin’ Hoo.

Tomorrow Mediasapien is going to compare Wii Fit with an older Xbox game called Yourself Fitness – Microsoft’s effort at making a fitness title 3 years ago.

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Day 20

Bad new for Mediasapien.  Due to the flair up of old injuries, I can no longer continue my test of Wii FIt and other exercise and fitness games.  As reported several times over the last few weeks, the lower back was intermittently in spasm, and as I fired up the Xbox title Yourself fitness today, my left knee blew out severely.  Mediasapien hasn’t been in this much pain since first ruining my knees as a ballet student, which effectively ending any chance of a professional dance career back in high school and required 3 months of physical therapy.  So no exercise for at least 3-4 days. Period. None.  Even typing hurts my knees.

Too bad, because Yourself Fitness seemed to have potential.  The initial body test seemed more accurate than the Wii’s, even without the motion sensing tech – It evaluated resting and active heart rates, lower, core and upper body strength, weight and flexibility.  It even offered a built-in menu planner for weight loss, as well as the option to use any existing equipment you already have in your workouts.

Since the 30-day evaluation plan was cut short, I will hustle to get the final verdict posted within a day or two.  But for now, Mediasapien has to get off these throbbing knees, sit back and relax.   Maybe I’ll finally get a chance to sign up for Warcraft and see what all the fuss is about.





Wii Fit Avatars, Gold Farming and the Future of Exercise

22 08 2008

Grind. 

What does that word mean to you?  Probably something along the lines of : wake up, shower, commute, work, commute, eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep, repeat.  Even if you have a different routine, chances are it is exactly that – a routine.  Unless you’re professional snowboarder Shawn White, a chill dude who seems like he doesn’t have any routine at all, chances are you have a daily grind.

For many people, that “work” part of the grind entails sitting at a workstation or staring at a laptop for most of the day.  Regardless of the way their job used to be done, now it is done online, or at least on a computer.  It’s hard for many of us to remember, but once every job was done without a computer.  Now, it’s hard to find a job that doesn’t put the computer front and center.  The overwhelming penetration into our work lives by computers and digital technology has created a new grind so rapidly that we are just now getting our collective head wrapped around it. 

There is however one group who seems to understand the new grind.  I refer to gamers in general, and WoW players in particular, who have seized on the notion of grinding in-game as the most basic analogue to “work.”  And in the economy of Warcraft, grinding is a discrete means of creating value.  So much value, in fact, that a whole, RL economy has sprung up around the concept of outsourcing the activity of actually playing the game to low-wage earners in China and even Canada.  For a modest hourly wage, these tech workers will dutifully play your character in WoW, while you sleep or work or whatever, mining virtual gold or slaughtering digital rats, incrementally but steadily advancing your character’s level.

Why would you pay someone else to play your game for you?  The two main reasons are you are lazy or you are greedy. 

For some, the many, many hours needed to raise a character’s level high enough to make playing fun is too much commitment, and so for them paying someone else to slog through endless repetitive task seems like a good deal.  They get to cruise right into an advanced character.  To others the resale value of a high-ranking character is appealing.  A mature character with lots of money, property and rare valuables in the game is worth plenty of RL cash.  To these players, the cost of hiring the digital equivalent of day laborers to literally grind away day and night at a character is minimal compared to the  potential returns.

Look, it's Andy!

Look, it's Andy! Oh, it's just Mediasapien in drag.

But WoW is not the only virtual world with ties to RL economics.  There are dozens of MMO’s and virtual worlds where things of value can be made, found, and most importantly, traded.  Inevitably economies develop by the players, if not planned outright by the developers.  I’m reminded of dancers in Second Life, more specifically, people who are employed within SL to be entertainers at clubs, discos and casinos.  By placing their avatars on specific hotspots, they will begin to dance based on the particular animation loading into that hotspot.  A dancer doesn’t choose his or her moves – they act essentially as a marionette performing whatever animation the club owner installs.   The owner is willing to pay for this service because it makes the club seem more “happening,” so the dancing avatar earns in-world money called Lindens for every minute they remain on the hotspot.  Because lindens can be converted into US currency there is the ability to make RL money dancing in SL.  This might sound like a good deal, until you consider that the converted wage is often just pennies per hour, while you ( the player), are just sitting there, idly watching your avatar cycle through the same moves endlessly.  Compared to playing, exploring, meeting people and seeing new things in SL, the earned value of robotically dancing in a club seems pitifully low, yet there is no shortage of people willing and eager to dance. 

Why is that?  Would these people be willing to do the same activity for the same value in RL?   Probably not.  Yet the most mundane, boring and repetitive tasks, regardless of the equivalent lack of RL value, seem to offer something to players in game. 

With this in mind, what is there to prevent a RL company from setting up sweatshops in virtual worlds as a way to exploit people’s willingness to work digitally for pennies?  An employee-intensive business could just fire the folks who sit at computers in RL all day (eliminating the cost of offices, health care, etc…) and replace them with volunteer avatars who sit at virtual desks in SL.  The work getting done would be the same.  The only difference is that the boring task has now been made enjoyable simply by adding an additional layer of mediation.  Accounts receivable is boring, but virtual accounts receivable is fun.  Updating the corporate database is a drag, but updating a database in a video game is a blast!

Future Cubicle Farm

Future Cubicle Farm

All of this grind-think is because of the commitment I’ve made to spend an entire month evaluating Wii Fit and other video game-based exercise and workout options.  Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of exercise for it’s own sake.  Although not specifically a couch potato, rarely do I go for a run or hit the gym.  I have in the past been extremely fit and active as a bike messenger in NYC, and as a full time ballet student for several years.  But these activities were waaaay back in the 20th century – in recent years I’ve become more sedentary, working at a computer almost all the time.  I may not be cocooned in a matrix-style goo-pod highrise, but some days it feels close. 

But I am a gamer and technology fetishist.  I believe in the power of serious games and entertainment technology to provide new and valid experiences, so I am often willing to experiment and push the boundaries of what can be done with technology.  I’ve never argued one way or the other whether violent games will make kids violent, only that they  make kids better at being violent.

So I posed the basic question to myself of whether the virtual environment has the richness of experience, the allure to provide actual, valid exercise – a real workout to a user who is pretty lazy about such things.  As of this writing, I am just past the halfway mark in my one month test, and I’ve had a lot of time to consider why this interaction with technology has inspired me to remain committed and working out 6 days a week for roughly an hour.  It’s a modest commitment really, not terribly focused or even well defined.  Yet here I am, eager to fire up the Wii, warm up with 40 minutes of yoga, and then hit the ring for a half hour of virtual boxing.  These are not activities that I would normally be excited about, whether I had made a commitment or not.  I’ve had gym and yoga studio memberships in the past and I dragged my ass there with decent regularity, but I always let the membership expire within a few months.  It always became a grind.  The same commute, the same exercises, the same people.  I got bored or distracted. 

Ping.. something or other

Ping.. something or other

But gaming has been a passion of mine since a little white square first started bouncing between two paddles, and rather than growing out of it, I find that I am more committed to these technologies than ever before.  I am the Mediasapien, after all. But being the Mediasapien doesn’t require me to like all games.  In fact I am very picky about games and don’t enjoy most of them.  I’ve never played Diablo or WoW because I hated the notion of grinding.  Boring.  Repetitive. 

Grinding is at the heart of most exercise, and grinding is at the heart of many game activities.  Separately, these two forms of grinding are hard for Mediasapien to take, yet somehow the combination of the two activities creates a new thing altogether, one that seems to overcome the limitations of each while creating a compelling environment for fitness.  The synthesis of the two seems natural and inevitible.  Wii Fit and it’s ilk may be easily distained in some circles today, but the next generation or two of theses technologies have seemingly unlimited potential and won’t be so easily dismissed. The future of exercise, like so many other futures, will be hypermediated through video games and entertainment technology.





Uncanny Valley Update- The Avatars Are Among Us

19 08 2008

From the Times Online.

Image Metrics, a company which makes computer animation for movies and games like GTA 4 has a major new breakthrough in delivering high quality lifelike facial animation. They make realistic animated avatars using a new motion-tracking camera system which is a significant advancement over previous marker-based systems.

Eww, creepy.

Eww, creepy.

The challenge with animation of the human face is how to make it realistic without suffering from the “uncanny valley” effect, in which an image that is so close to realistic, but just shy of completely real, causes a negative reaction in the viewer, similar to the revulsion one experiences viewing a corpse.   This uncanny valley has long been a barrier to completely immersive experience in games and movies.  The wooden rendering of Tom Hanks in The Polar Express is a high-profile example.  His face and voice are widely known, so hearing his voice emerge from an expressionless “ventriloquist’s dummy” had the effect of turning off most viewers of the film.

But now it seems the uncanny valley may start to lose it’s population of zombies, corpses, mannequins and monsters.  As this technology and others like it come online in the next few years, computer renderings of people that are indistinguishable from real people will become commonplace.  and the age of the mediasapien will truly begin.  A complete disruption will occur that replaces all on-camera talent (actors, newscasters, athletes, etc…) with hyper-realistic digital representations, and real-life actors will be reduced to organic input devices.  Can the age of the Mediasapien be far behind?

Read the whole story and see the amazing video HERE.





Grand Theft Auto 4 Law Abider – A GTA 4 Performance Art Project

17 08 2008

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No laws were broken during the making of this video.

The map is not the territory“.  How does that statement resonate in today’s digitally rich context, in which we visit countless simulacra of territory, reference maps that signify maps, and have deeply fulfilling personal experiences in the non-territories of virtual space? Are there any original territories left, or has literally everything become a signifier for something else, an infinite loop of maps leading to maps eventually leading back to the first -but not necessarily the original – map?

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Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 2

17 08 2008

Read all about week 1 here.

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DAY 9

Week 2 begins.  Yesterday Mediasapien rested and recovered a bit from the first complete week of working out, although I still went for a 2 mile walk.  Today, I was back at the Wii Fit.

Todays routine: Start with 6 minutes of hip-swinging hula action to get the blood flowing, followed by all the current yoga poses, which number 12 (out of 15).  This took the workout beyond 30 minutes, which is a minimal daily milestone.  Then it was on to my new favorite activity – boxing in Wii Sports.  

Evaluation: I know, technically Wii Sports boxing is not part of the Wii Fit workout. But the way I see it, this 30 day test is about whether a video game can be part of a fitness regime.  Sure the Wii Fit is the pointy tip of that spear, but ultimately any sweaty cardio can be exercise, so if other video games get me off my ass and moving, they should be counted as well.  Too bad the Wii Fit doesn’t allow me to manually add time spent on other activities.  The boxing is by far the sweatiest 10 minutes, so it would be nice for Wii Fit to factor that in.

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DAY 10

Good news.  While browsing Wii Fit’s menus, I came across the ability to add Wii Fit credits (basically time earned while exercising) while doing activities outside of the game.  This is important because I’ve been finding some of the best parts of my daily routine aren’t in Wii Fit per se, but in other Wii titles – specifically boxing.  Also, as of today all 15 yoga poses are unlocked, so of course I tried them all.  interestingly, the final few poses are done on the floor without the balance board or the Wiimote.  Basically you are following the game without any data collected on your performance.  Surprisingly, the trainer’s comments and encouragement don’t change.  Unless there is a some magical sensor technology at play, I think the game is bullshitting me.  Not the end of the world, but still…  Today’s total time in game is 46 minutes – 16 doing mixed cardio and 30 doing yoga.  Plus another 10 spent boxing.  

Speaking of sensors, I took another body test before working out today.  The game suggests having a test everyday, but that seems too fanatical, even for Mediasapien.  Once or twice a week seems plenty to track progress.  However, one misplaced sneeze during the evaluation can screw the whole thing up, as I discovered.  My Wii Fit age shot up to 46, from the previous milestone of 36 set a few days ago.  So after today’s workout I took the test again.  This time it gaves me a Wii Fit age of 41, but apparently I lost a one and a half pounds while working out.  Hmm…

Evaluation: Today I managed some of the best individual scores on about six yoga poses, based on balance and posture, and I worked out for about one hour, sweating hard for half of that time and stretching for the other half.  Overall I have better energy and stamina, and feel, well, great.

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DAY 11

Today I decided to emphasize cardio more than anything else, so after starting with a vigorous round of hula, I ran the Wii Island loop, for a total of 20 minutes of hard, sweaty movement.  Although the thrill of jogging with famous Mii’s is begining to wain a bit, it was still funny to be passed by Mona Lisa and “Assface”.  The free run mode is now unlocked, so maybe tomorrow, I can explore the island without following the pace-setter provided.

After running, I was going to call it a day, but decided to do the complete yoga circuit – 15 poses, most done on each side.  When finished, the total time today was 52 minutes.  Not bad considering I was ready to quit at 20.

Evaluation: With plenty of activities and exercises still to unlock, Wii Fit continues to keep Mediasapien enthusiastic about working out.

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DAY 12

Today was all about balance games ( and boxing).  I spent a sorta fun but not overtly useful 20 minutes playing through the various activities, including skiing and snowboard slalom, ski jumping, tilt-the-ball-and-maze, and feed the penguin.  Then a 5 minute hula warm up before hitting the ring for 5 or 6 fights.  I lost count and only quit when I was finally beaten.  My ranking in boxing rose from the low 600’s to over 800 (whatever that’s worth).  But the important thing is I killed ’em.

Evaluation:  The balance games are little more than an easy introduction to the mechanics of the balance board.  They are a mild diversion and fun for a while,  but ultimately forgettable compared to the rest of the Wii Fit offerings.

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DAY 13

Free run mode is now unlocked.  I was hoping that it would let me direct my own course across the island, but instead it seems to recognise the inherant boredom of running and suggests I watch TV while jogging.  It has a clever mechanism to allow this.  By utilizing the tiny speaker on the Wiimote, you can actually keep the game running but switch to TV, and still hear the trainer’s voice in your pocket.  This was a nice touch because 10 minutes jogging seems like a lifetime, but 10 minutes jogging while watching Hi Def History Channel just whizzed by.

Some of the more astute readers may have noticed that Mediasapien was avoiding one big part of Wii Fit most of the time.  I’m refering of course to the strength building exercises, you know, push-ups, jackknifes (knives?), leg lifts, etc…  Some of the more loathsome ways to spend a few minutes.  Well today, I avoid these hateful moves no more.  Digging in to all 11 available exercises, I dutifully work my abs, triceps, hips, delts, yadda, yadda.   I kinda hated it, but definitely feel the burn in several places I didn’t even know I HAD places.

Evaluation: Free run mode might just be one of the best elements of Wii Fit.  The strength building must be working, ’cause I freakin’ hate it.

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DAY 13

Skipped it.

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DAY 14

Today saw over an hour of exercise (40 minutes of yoga and 25 minutes boxing in Wii Sports).  The yoga trainer praised my progress on balance, core strength, and control – she actually applauded my efforts 3 or 4 times when my “score” reached 90 and above on various poses.  I realize that this praise is largely random at times, but it still offers an incentive.

On to boxing.  As previously stated, the boxing feels like a honest-to-goodness, full-tilt workout, getting Mediasapien’s whole body shuckin’ & jivin’.  The competition makes for an enthusiastic game, and progressing through the ranks keeps me coming back for more.  But as the competition gets harder to beat, some of the flaws are starting to appear.  The main issue is a lack of responsiveness from the Wiimote and Nunchuck – or more accurately, from the sensor that is reading the controller’s movements.  It just misses too many punches and jabs, leaving my Avatar exposed with no defensive posture.  This allows the competition to string together a rapid fire barrage of hits.   Once or twice is acceptable, but if that is the main reason the competition get the advantage, then Mediasapien gets steamed.  I don’t mind losing, but only because I suck, not because the game is sluggish, I literally threw the controllers across the room (aimed at a soft sofa – I’m not stupid!) in frustration.

Evaluation:  Mediasapien has mixed feelings about Wii and the workout it provides.  On one hand, it has been the best motivator to get me moving and sweating in a long while, provided an hour a day of mixed, and mostly fun activities.  But the best activity so far – the boxing – is starting to show it’s weaknesses.  Perhaps its time to see what other physically-demanding Wii titles are waiting in the used games bin at Gamestop.





Virtual Transgender, Avatar Mortality and More with Marc Owens

15 08 2008
SABRE & MACE Memorial

SABRE & MACE Memorial in SL

From We Make Money, Not Art, a great profile of artist Marc Owens

He makes interesting works that bridge the gap between real and virtual, including the Avatar Machine.  More recently he has created the Virtual Transgender suit, which puts the inclination for virtual cross dressing into  RL by allowing males to replicate the digital aesthetics of the female form by wearing a RL costume.  According to a study cited, apparently more than 1/2 of all gamers choose avatars of the opposite gender.  Hmmm…

More interesting to Mediasapien is Owen’s collaboration with Tony Mullin, called SABRE & MACE.  It’s is basically a mortality service for Second Life avatars, offering a complete package of death-related virtual needs.  Their service offers users more than just a way to delete old avatars and alts.  They are providing a channel for sentimentality and relevance towards digital identities.  This is done through a somewhat chilling orientation, in which users are given a chance to write a last will and testament, shown the “storage chamber” and told to expect a “tap on the shoulder” one day soon by a rep, who will guide them through the final process.  Once the account is “deleted, ” all that remains is a golden statue of the avatar on a massive, somewhat Mayan monument.

Read the whole story here.