Pokemon and the future of fitness
I’ve had the Pokemon HeartGold game for DS for a few days now, and one thing I want to make clear for casual gamers like me: this is a serious gamer-type game. Unlike Walk It Out or Just Dance, where the jolly avatars don’t even have names, much less strengths, weaknesses, super powers, emotions and biographies, with Pokemon you have to worry about ALL that stuff and the Pokewalker pedometer is just icing. You can’t even use the Pokewalker straight out of the box; you have to play the game long enough to have a Pokemon that you caught with your Pokeball that you bought with your Pokemoney that you won from fighting and traveling and networking your way to being a Master of the Pokeuniverse. I have enough of that in carbon-based life, thanks, so I let my daughter do the virtual Pokelegwork on the DS while I do the real legwork with the Pokewalker. (I wish it was possible to get multiple Pokewalkers synced up to one game.)
One thing Pokemon has that most fitness games don’t, is an online community. There are multiple ways to play with others, both on and off line: you can use the wi-fi capability of the DS to play, trade or chat with other players within the game, or play against someone in the same room using the DS’s capability to communicate with other DS consoles within range. Even the Pokewalker itself can communicate with other Pokewalkers, so if you see someone else in public sporting the bright red-and-white disc, you can exchange gifts or do battle.
I keep thinking how awesome it would be to have a fitness game with similar features. I also thought of Pokemon when I saw the Future of Fitness White Paper, a report published by Les Mills, a company that has had tremendous success franchising gym classes like Body Pump. The report discusses how today’s trainers and gym owners can stay in business by keeping up with technology and giving clients what they need (physical health, emotional health) by giving them what they want (fun, personalization, a social experience). It mentions how exergames are drawing users by offering those things:
Technology is likely to empower consumers to choose from a range of fitness options to supplement (or perhaps replace) social and club-based options. For example, a ‘virtual personal trainer’ might lead your workout while you’re at home alone; you might be able to link from home to your gym’s group-fitness experience; you might get your exercise while appearing in a virtual ‘game show’ with your friends; or maybe you’ll go walking in the park and experience it as a virtual science-fiction battle.
Sounds like the future of fitness is already here, in the hands of an army of little Pokemon trainers.