A column about videogames

Regular readers of this column will no doubt have built up a mental picture of me that differs significantly from the caricature that the editors like to include alongside my work. You will no envisage me as dashing, debonair and handsome, and impossibly suave and svelte. Well, that’s true. Except, perhaps, that if I’m brutally honest, it would be fair to say that the svelteness thing has somewhat eluded me recently. Well, for a long time. Try about 15 years. And while the ever so slight thickening around my waist has certainly not damaged the considerable regard in which I’m held by ladies everywhere, let’s just say that there’s a little room to improve.

Like many guys, I’d like to get into shape, but only if it’s easy, fun, and leaves me with washboard abs. This is an annual New Year’s resolution for me, which I also annually abandoned on around January 4. Of course, I don’t actually intend to go out and punish myself in the gym – there are lifestyle considerations to think of. But if someone invented a way of allowing me to exercise without straying far from the couch, or even realising I was working out, then sure, I’d be up for it.

Which is why I was intrigued by the news that you can lose weight while playing video games. Now, playing video games is something I rather like. I’m rarely found kicking a ball around a park these days, but if it’s just thumb-twiddling that’s required, I’m quite the sporting hero. Perhaps this, then, was the answer I’d long been seeking for maximum fitness with minimum effort? Perhaps the cruel logic of no pain, no gain had finally been broken?

My research led me to the unfortunately-named the Nintendo Wii. Which I assumed referred to the need to supply urine samples after losing so many kilos so quickly, but apparently is supposed to mean ‘we’. It has a wireless controller that looks quite like a television remote, and do anything in the games, you have to move it around. Every system comes with a game called Wii Sports, which allows you to play tennis by moving around and swinging the remote as if it were a tennis racquet. It’s great fun, if you can somehow quell the lingering suspicion that you look ridiculous.

One of my cousins had proven quite the sensation on Christmas day with one of these machines. Apparently my grandmother tried her hand at boxing, and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to get a system of her own. I was mightily impressed. If this Wii thingy could convinced no less than my grandmother to get active – and, what’s more, throw punches probably for the first time in her life – then there could be no doubt that it would transform me into a vision of smoking hotness.

So I procured one of these magical weight-loss devices – no easy task, given that they were sold out everywhere, but The Glebe name always opens a few doors. And I set to work on the New Me. Or Mii, as the system regrettably terms it. Soon my electronic doppelganger had bested many opponents. I’d spent many happy hours pretending I was on centre court at Wimbledon, like Lleyton Hewitt during that brief period when he was any good. The kilos, I assumed, were surely dropping off. So I headed to the scales to check my progress, and discovered a major flaw in the system.

The guy who had conducted the experiment had a highly controlled diet, and played virtual tennis for half an hour a day. I had played tennis occasionally, but spent dozens of hours sitting down to play other games, snacking regularly all the while. So unfortunately the scales showed that I’d actually gained weight. Still, imagine how much more I would have stacked on if I hadn’t been playing tennis.

Video games are wonderful things, and I really enjoy playing them. So watch this space for another column about the remarkable fitness benefits of the soon-to-be-released Playstation 3.

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