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Part II of Gaming My Way to Fitness

by Debbie Ginsberg

Gaming My Way to Fitness, Part II: The Kinetic Experience

My neighbors must wonder what the hell Im doing, flailing around in front of my TV at 9:30 pm. Well, they probably wonder what the hell Im doing in general, considering that I tend to keep the blinds closed. But, if they could see me late at night, glued to the big screen, shaking my arms about and executing the worlds most ineffectual kicks, theyd probably think Id lost my mind. But Im totally OK, I could tell them, Im just exercising!

Am I following some deranged workout video? Trying to dance to whatever MTV now plays in lieu of music? Nope. Im actually playing a video game: EyeToy Kinetic for the PlayStation 2. Instead of using a standard controller, Kinetic uses the image projected from the EyeToy to control my movements. Its a fun way to exercise, much more amusing than the treadmill. Last article, I briefly described the game this time Ill review it with a little more depth.

Im now about eight weeks into Kinetics 12-week training program. Each time I use the program, the on screen personal trainer walks me though a set of exercises. We start with a warm up, move on to the days routines, and finally finish with a stretch. Players can choose a male or a female trainer. Im using the female trainer because she has a soothing English accent, even though Ill never have a stomach as flat as hers no matter how many sit-ups I do. For those keeping track, her proportions, while much more fit than mine, are actually relatively realistic.

Since I am a typical American couch potato, I started off with two routines (or games) a session; by the end of the 12 weeks, Ill be completing up to 5 per workout! These games are chosen from one of three zones. Cardio Zone games incorporate a lot of dance movements. When working through these routines, I may have to touch blue disks in time to the music (avoiding red ones) or follow blue triangles as they appear across the screen. Combat Zone games are much faster. They encourage a lot of kicking and punching. Conversely, the games in the Mind and Body Zone require slow, controlled movements.

Normally, I find keeping to any exercise routine nearly impossible. I either get frustrated or bored and therefore abandon it completely. This time, Ive been able to stick with this program for two months. The exercises change each time, which keeps me from getting bored. And the personal trainer works to keep me on task. While I know she doesnt really exist, I hate to disappoint her, so I find myself turning on the PlayStation pretty much whenever I have a routine scheduled. Once Im into the games, I work as hard as I can to get all the moves right. And the program is starting to pay off: Im getting better at most of the games and I have much more stamina.

However, Kinetic is not without plenty of frustrations, almost enough to send me into the Frustration Zone of Once Again Abandoning an Exercise Plan. First, I dont like the way Kinetic schedules sessions. Sometimes I can choose which day to work out, but not always. I would much prefer to set each weeks schedule myself so I dont have to miss a session when I have to work in the evening or if I am away from the city all day.

More frustrating is the EyeToy itself. The controller works well for the broad movements used in the Cardio and Combat Zones. However, it doesnt work as well for the fine movements used in the Mind and Body Zone. Sometimes the controller fails to register a correct movement, but more annoying is when it wrongly thinks I have made a misstep, especially since most games deduct points for mistakes. I have found some work arounds to help, such as removing background clutter and wearing light clothing. Even so, two of the games in this zone are pretty much unplayable.

Finally, there are the parts of the Kinetic sessions which verge on the Boring Zone of Once Again Abandoning an Exercise Plan. The games themselves (when they work) are engaging and fun. But I really wish that the program included at least one more warm-up routine and stretching regimen. These are important parts of any exercise program, but offering no variety other than being able to select from one of four background images and one of two songs quickly wears thin.

In a little more than four weeks, Ill have finished the 12-week program, just in time for part three of this article! Will I figure out how to get these games to work? Will I finally develop some body/eye coordination? Will I be able to run a complete marathon (well, not so much)? Are games like these a perfect gateway to bring other women to the console market? These questions and more will be answered in Part III, Wiiiiii!

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