There was a time when it seemed like video games were going to fulfill even more of people’s needs. Most titles are great at providing entertainment, and edutainment titles have been around since games like Basic Math for the Atari 2600. The Xbox 360 and Wii years really introduced and revolutionized the idea of games as a workout device. But as time goes on, it seems like the idea of using our systems to help maintain our physical fitness is waning. Perhaps it is time to start considering them a healthy alternative again.
We are reaching a point where three elements could having gaming get us moving again. The wide-scale adoption of Nintendo’s Switch, Sony’s PlayStation VR, and VR devices in general could all be critical in getting us more active. Each one has options that may encourage movement in a way that we don’t realize how much work we are actually doing as we enjoy our games.
The Switch is finding its ways into a lot of homes. When that happens, companies get inventive about ideas for games. While we are not quite in that Wii phase that brought us things like Wii Fit and the Game Rider Exercise Game Bike, we are at a point where some of Nintendo’s top games have motion controls. I’m talking about titles where actions can get pretty intense. ARMS is totally playable with standard control schemes, but is at its best when you use motion controls. That means actually punching your way through what could basically be considered a boxing workout. Mario Tennis Aces offers the option for its tennis matches, which is great. You can even go with Just Dance in a pinch.
The same can be said for the PlayStation VR, but the reason why its acceptance is good for fitness is twofold. While the Switch isn’t at “game with an exercise bike” peripheral levels yet, the PlayStation 4 is! It has VirZOOM, which makes stationary bikes controllers for the VR game. Rec Room has Charades, Dodgeball, and Frisbee Golf, all of which force you to move. Knockout League is the PlayStation VR equivalent of ARMS. Even something goofy like Fruit Ninja VR helps. Though, I will admit, I did hope the sudden shift of PlayStation Move controllers heading into more households would mean more non-VR games using them.
Actual VR is probably the best way for making strides, though it is too expensive for the ordinary gamer to make the best use of it as a fitness device. Again, games like Rec Room or Beat Saber will make you move well enough on your own. But it is expensive extras like the Omni Treadmill, an actual circular treadmill that lets you run and walk in place while playing games, that offer the best fitness options right now. If such companies could push forward a bit further and offer more adaptable options at lower prices, home VR headsets could be integrated into workout routines.
Fitness games may not be for everyone, but we need more of those options again. A $50 game with some $20 accessories is a hell of a lot cheaper than actual workout equipment, not to mention easier to store or resell. They can make exercising less stressful or annoying, since they gamify the process. Plus, it's something we can do quickly and easily. We need more of that.