Ron Jeremy – The Avatar Builder Tool Experiment (part 1)

9 09 2008

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Our Model Our Model

There are so many options for crafting avatars that Mediasapien decided to kick the tires and road test some of them.  Using a decidedly unscientific protocol, each will be put to the test using a single person as the model.  Since many of these apps are geared towards kids and tweens, there are plenty of options for making slender, emo-ish, Jonas Brothers and Miley inspired avi’s.   So in order to make the test challenging, we’ll pick a person who is generally familiar looking but definitely not a typical user of avatar-based games and entertainment – someone older, rounder, less willowy.  Naturally I’m talking about the Hedgehog himself, Ron Jeremy.   Ron is a beautiful Adonis of a man, with an amorous appetite to match.  The years may have tried their best to curse him, but he defies the ravages of time – mostly.  His hairline may be receding a bit and his ‘stashe peppered with grey, his belly may be a few inches larger than in his glory days, but he still retains all the charm and charisma for which he is known – his 9 3/4” dick (unverified).  

So RJ is the perfect model for our test.  Some of the apps will handle the Hedgehog with ease, while many others simply don’t offer wide enough options.  Few if any will include his “charm”.  Here are some of my results:

Ron JereMii

Ron JereMii

 

Nintendo Mii

Technically I used an online flash game that reproduces the Mii-building experience almost exactly, so the results are the same.  The deceptively simple tool palette masks an outrageously deep creation tool, capable of reproducing almost any face, from RJ to Obama to Darth Vader.  It can even be used to make illustrations and abstract graphics, turning Mii’s into walking postmodern artworks.  Dozens of these celebrity and character Mii’s are available for download via the Mii channel on the Wii.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RJ visits Springfield

Simpsons

The Simpsons online avi maker uses a fairly extensive palette of facial features, body parts and props, all of which are instantly recognizable from the long running series.  You can choose Milhouse’s glasses and Sideshow Mel’s bone-in hairdo among the hundreds of choices.  One aspect of this app is the distinct  Simpson’s visual style, which makes avi’s that are more about ‘type’ than specific individuals.  All of RJ’s ingredients are present, but if you didn’t know it was the Hedgehog, you might never guess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Park

Like the Simpsons app, the South Park online avatar maker offers a wide range of body parts and features that are instantly familiar to viewers of the show.  Like the Simpsons app, this one is also highly stylized.  The resulting avatar is funny, if not immediately recognizable.

 

 

 

 

 

Meez, WeeWorld, etc..,

There are so many avatar-centric websites and social spaces for the kiddies that I’m limiting myself to just a few of them for this experiment.  The tools provided are so simple that frequently RJ is reduced to a skinny-looking kid with a fake mustache.  One or two of these may be slightly amusing but ultimately these apps are too limited to offer much playability.

 

If RJ was Picasso...

If RJ was Picasso...

 

 

Mr. Picasso Head

This was definitely one of the most fun Flash games that mediasapien came across while researching this story.  Using only elements found within Picasso’s actual artworks, a surprisingly wide range of people can be created.   The added bonus of adding any signature in the artist’s hand is a nice touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mediasapien came across a few oddities during this exhaustive search…  Talk about odd vanity brands… How about RJ Mobile?  A short-lived start up that sold cellular service, ringtones, video clips and games all branded with a cute, ironically harmless looking Ron Jeremy avatar.  Nothing says quality cell service like a washed-up porn star with a mobile phone shoved in his thong.

Would you buy Cel services from this man?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the current election season, the following image seems like an obvious call to action.  Could it be time for a write-in vote campaign for the next president?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally…   Apparently the best example of a Ron Jeremy avatar has been right under our noses for nearly 25 years, first appearing way back in 1983.  Known to just about every gamer ever, he is more commonly referred to as “Mario” and may very well represent the earliest example of a famous person or celebrity to be enshrined in the glow of game pixels.  Ron Jeremy – The original Mediasapien!

The results of this test are a mixed bag, but it’s far from finished.  There will be plenty more to come, including Ron Jeremys built in Second Life, Tiger Woods, and more.  And if you have any RJ Avi’s that you want to show off, send mediasapien a link and we’ll post it.

[Part 2 is HERE]

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Wii Fit Workout 30 Day Exercise Challenge – Week 1

8 08 2008
Attica!  Attica!    Attica! Attica!

After months of fruitless efforts, MediaSapien finally got a Wii Fit.  I think the clerk at my local Game Stop was impressed by my impression of Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon.  After getting everyone on Mission St. to chant “Attica! Attica!”, they knew I wasn’t leaving without the game in my (apparently) chubby hands.

Turns out Wii Fit is an exercise and fitness game, and not, as I previously thought, a nose simulator (I was pronoucing” Wii Fit” as “Whiff It”, so I was WAY off base).  That’s ok.   I could use some exercise.  Even MediaSapiens have to manage the meat. 

According to the game’s initial evaluation, I was not in the best shape in RL.  It pegged me as overweight and scored my fitness age at 50!  That’s a five, followed by a zero.  Oy!  Not good.  As a former full-time ballet student and NYC bike messenger, I was expecting the game to recognise my potential.  Instead it painted me as a fat Cryptkeeper.  Time to put the avatar to work.

I decided to give myself a one month challenge.  Lose the spare tire (about 9 lbs.), and regain my former strength and flexibility.  Now I know that this can be accomplished with traditional diet and exercise, but I really want to see for myself if the Wii Fit can be a part of a fitness plan.  So I’ve decided not to change anything else about my lifestyle – just the Wii Fit, used every day.  I will log my progress here, so check this post regularly.

Recently Morgan Webb of X-Play chimed in with her thoughts on the Wii Fit, and decided it was NOT exercise, although she admitted it may be a useful tool for the elderly or sick.  After one day with the game, I can say unequivocally that she is wrong.  While it may lack some of the accuracy and in-your-face motivation that a personal trainer, or even the peer pressure at the gym provides, it does offer some remarkable data that helps the MediaSapien exercise better.  It can also be weirdly inaccurate too, so it’s not perfect.

Not MediaSapien

NOT MediaSapien

DAY 1

I let the game evaluate me before I began working out.  It took a few moments to get the hang of using the wireless balance board, but after a few missteps, it calculated my current weight and fitness age.  It  suggested that I was old and overweight, but once I began the exercises, it seemed to be convinced that I was in great shape depending on the current activity.  My balance wasn’t so great, but my strength was at the top of the scale (Personally I would have guessed the reverse ).  

I was then asked to choose my workout goals. Basically I want to lose the extra weight ( about 9 lbs.), figuring the rest will sort itself out if I am successful.  Since it was the first day, the options were limited, as regular workouts are needed to unlock more challenging exercises and games.  There seems to be a lot to do, with over 40 activities, but for now I stuck with some basic yoga and strength routines.  I will continue to expand the daily workout, and explore some of the games along the way.

Evaluation:  Too soon to say about my progress, but the game rates about a B- so far.  I was impressed by the style and approach, but other times it’s accuracy was way off.  Also, it had a tendency to contradict itself a lot.  In one breath, it chides me for being weak, and within the same activity suggests that I am in great shape.  Maybe it just needs to get to know me better.
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DAY 2

Not surprisingly, MediaSapien woke up a little sore this morning.  The relatively easy start yesterday must have had some impact on the meat.  Luckily, Wii Fit has another easy workout for me today, although the unlocking of new exercises and higher rep counts means that tomorrow some real work begins.  I continue to follow the game’s lead, as many of the exercises are still locked up, but it would be nice if it allowed me to customize a little more.  I can’t argue with Nintendo’s logic of keeping it safe and slow off the bat, but for those who have experience with Yoga and strength routines, adding a few more reps or sun salutations would provide a better, more complete workout in these early stages.

If Morgan Webb played with the game this much and then wrote her review, I can understand her suggestion that Wii Fit isn’t exercise.  But clearly a dedicated workout regimen with Wii Fit will have the same potential as other exercise programs.  While it can only guess about some aspects of your exercise, it’s visual feedback regarding balance is nothing short of amazing.  It has been 100% accurate when identifying the differences in strength and balance between my right and left sides.

Evaluation: The first day was a short and sweet introduction to the game, less than 20 minutes of exercise.  Day 2 is a little more serious, peaking at just under 30 minutes.  With the inclusion of a few more exercises and more reps tomorrow, expect the time to extent another 5-10 minutes.  So far, it is not as challenging as a RL Yoga class, but it seems to be heading towards a fuller, more robust workout.

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DAY 3

The meat bites back.  Due to a flair up of lower back pain and stiffness, it’s been recommended to MediaSapien to skip the Wii Fit today.  So instead I’ll be taking a moderate hike and stretching a bit. Back to it tomorrow.

Evaluation:  It hurts like I’ve been exercising.  Does that mean I have been?

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DAY 4

Today the workout kicks in a little more.  With the lower back pain still there, but less pronounced, Mediasapien gets right back in the saddle and pushes through the pain.  Avoiding the strain of strength training, today I took a look at the Wii Fit cardio activities and exercises.  I stated with a little hula hoop action, a very basic hip-swinging activity designed to do little more than increase the blood flow.  You also get to score the number of times the hoop goes around.  I killed it.

Next I tried some simple running in place.  With the Wiimote in pocket, the game adjusts the pace to keep a healthy stride.  Since this was my first run, the game limits the distance to a short (about 4 minutes) jaunt around a cute island.  It’s hardly enough to burn any serious calories, but the most I’ve burned in a while.  Normally Mediasapien avoids jogging due to knee strain, but the Wii Fit jogging game has a few things going for it.  Most notably, all the Mii’s on your system appear as other joggers or spectators.  I’m not sure what to think about getting pwned by Ice Cube, the Burger King, and Zoidberg on the track, but I was encouraged by the sideline cheering of Obama, Chuck Norris, and one Mii called simply “assface”.

I played some more balance games, like ski jumping and tightrope walking.  I also took a shot at a step class.  Again, too basic but clearly there is some potential there as well.  I wrapped up with some yoga, including a few new unlocked poses, and then I took another jog around the island.  This time I was beaten by Bono, Ron Jeremy, and Napoleon Dynamite.

Evaluation: Although I still want more freedom to customize the interface and routines, the workout is getting more satisfying.  With 32 minutes total time spent exercising today, the game finally feel like it is having an affect.  The fear of boredom is mitigated by the fast switch-up of activities, and the diverse selection is enough to cover a wide range of exercise needs while keeping it fresh.

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DAY 5

Wii Fit continues to impress the MediaSapien.  Today’s workout introduced a few new items, as well as increased the challenge presented by some of the other activities.  Yesterday I commented that the hula hoop exercise was a bit light.  It does seem help with the stiff hip and thigh quite a bit so today I hula’ed for both the warm up and cool down period.  Then I was off to jog again – this time for a slightly longer time period.  This time I was bested by Snoop Dog, Oprah, and Homer Simpson.  If MediaSapien ever needed an incentive to sweat, it’s watching as those big butts leave me in their dust.  Incidentally, today was the first in which I actually broke into a real sweat – not just a glistening, but actual drops rolling down my chest and flinging across my room.

Another new activity available today is boxing.  It uses the nunchuck attached to the Wiimote and functions a lot like the boxing game in the original Wii Sports disc. The big difference is that you follow a set pattern much like a step class with punching.  SInce it was the first time, the game was detuned as usual, but it was a fun whole-body activity that I look forward to playing again tomorrow.

Evaluation:  The game keeps getting better and better. The length and challenge of the workout keeps increasing, with lots of fun activities to augment the less interesting exercises.  The biggest complain is the constant need to hit the “A” button on the Wiimote 2 or 3 times between each activity to acknowledge the trainer’s pointers and tips. I would like the option to segue seamlessly between yoga poses without all the commentary and interruptions.

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DAY 6

Wow.  Feel the burn.  Today, MediaSapien pushed through the pain and went for the gold.  After starting with a 6 minute run and a record shattering hula hoop session, it was on to boxing, which as I noted earlier, is more like a step class with punches.  Tomorrow I am going to box for real (!) with the original Wii Sports disc instead.  Then it was on to a round of yoga, which now includes 8 out of 15 exercises unlocked.  Since Wii Fit doesn’t allow for a custom routine to be programmed in, I make sure to go through each exercise at least once, sometimes twice.  

Yoga is becoming a favorite activity of mine in Wii Fit, but it definitely helps to have some yoga experience going into the game.  Even though the game keeps track of your balance, knowing subtle things about posture and breathing help make the poses more useful.

One funny note, the game will often ask you, in a childlike voice that only Mario could love, to step on the balance board before an exercise begins.  As soon as you do, it lets out a little “Ohh…!” as if it immediately regretted the suggestion and it’s having trouble breathing.  It’s just a little thing, really.  But it is a constant low-level underminer of MediaSapien’s self confidence.

Today wrapped up with a big run, about 19 minutes long.

Evaluation:  With the duration of the workout exceeding 45 minutes (almost 1/2 of that running), and a wider range of activities opening up every day, MediaSapien is unlikely to get bored before the 30 day test runs out – maybe.

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DAY 7  

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

HedgeHog, not Mediasapien

It’s official.  Mediasapien has been working out for a whole week.  Just a few quick notes here, as I am preparing a “first week” summary which I will post later today.  In the RL where meatsapien lives, it’s hot outside for the first time in weeks.  I was pleasently surprised when the Wii Fit trainer avatar commented on the heat.  It’s shouldn’t be a shock, really.  The Wii is always connected via WiFi and has a dedicated weather channel already, so porting that data into the game is no biggie.  But still, a nice touch.

 

One other quick note:  The jogging activity is oddly compelling.  To someone who hates jogging and frequently suffers knee pain, avoiding it altogether in Wii Fit should be easy.  But the inventive use of the Mii’s, especially the imported ones, makes jogging in the game surprisingly fun and challenging.  It’s one thing to be passed on the running trail by Chuck Norris or Darth Vader in Mii form.  But it is entirely unacceptable to be beaten by Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy.  After all, to anyone who’s seen him naked (and lets face it, who hasn’t), the idea that he could run AT ALL, let alone run faster than me just doesn’t jive.  It definitely inspires me to run faster.

See week #1 summary HERE.
See week #2 HERE.