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Booo! No Pokewalker for Pokemon Black or White

No walking for watts in Pokemon Black or White

I could’ve sworn I read sometime last year that the two new Pokemon games for Nintendo DS, Black and White, would be packaged with special Pokewalker pedometers like the HeartGold and SoulSilver games.  Well, I must have dreamt it.  Black and White are now out, and not only don’t they come with Pokewalkers, the device is not even used in the games at all.  So that’s the last time I’ll be writing about them.  Hmph!  I guess too many kids were cheating their way to collecting Pikachu.

At least the upcoming 3DS console will be its own “pedometer”, so we can look forward to active games made especially to take advantage of that.

Nintendo’s taking the 3DS a step further with a built-in pedometer

There’s a lot of excitement in the gaming world about the upcoming successor to the handheld Nintendo DS, the 3DS (named for its glasses-less 3-D screen).  Now exergamers have reason to be excited also:  according to Kotaku, the new device will have an on-board pedometer, and as you walk around with it, you’ll earn virtual coins that will help you power up games that support it, such as fueling your Pokemon with watts, buying Mario a snazzy flying raccoon tail, etc.

This means you won’t need a separate device like the pedometers that come with Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver, Personal Trainer Walking, or My Weight Loss Coach.

One more giant leap to keeping gamers active and fit!  I just wish the 3DS was as compact as a pedometer – it’s supposed to be the same size as the current DS Lite – but you can be sure they will come out with holsters, belts or even deep-pocketed walking shorts for it.

Heart-healthy gaming isn’t just for Wii

When Nintendo and the American Heart Association announced they would make an announcement yesterday, many gamers thought it would be the debut of the Vitality Sensor, a heart-rate-monitoring add-on for Wii which they showed a prototype of last year.  But the big news turned out to be more of a marketing-backscratching deal:  the AHA will put its seal of approval on the Wii console and specific games Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort (the latter is now included with purchase of every new Wii console, along with Wii Sports).  In return, Nintendo gave the AHA a donation and will work with them in projects such as this new web site, activeplaynow.com.

Nothing ever occurs in the video game world without controversy, and a mainstream-media hubbub ensued over money and influence and whether video games really are exercise and whether we Americans should be approving of foreign products and so on.  I think it’s fantastic when exergaming gets mainstream attention, but it’s too bad that the AHA seal will be reserved only for certain games, because there are lots of other great cardio games, and not all are on Wii.

Many people don’t realize that not all Wii games are made by Nintendo, and in fact a lot of excellent active games for Wii are made by other companies.  EA Sports Active comes from EA; Just Dance, Your Shape and Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout are by Ubisoft; the DDR series and Walk It Out are from Konami, and so on.  But because these games are  simply licensed by Nintendo and not actually made by them, they’re not in the running for that AHA badge, no matter how deserving.

Moreover, “Wii” certainly isn’t the first and last word in exergaming, no matter how much Nintendo wants it that way.  DDR began in video arcades and was on Playstation and Xbox long before Wii came along – and I still like the PS2 and Xbox versions better than the Wii ones.  Peripherals like Gamercize turn any console game into an exergame.  Nintendo’s own DS has games like Personal Trainer Walking and Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver that turn a heart-healthy outdoor walk into a game.  And when Xbox 360 and PS3 come out with their own motion controllers later this year, the home exergaming market will bust wide open.

Good for the AHA and more doctors recognizing that active games are good for our health, and good for Nintendo in focusing on fitness, but when consumers shop for cardio games, they should look outside the AHA-stamped box.  May I suggest for starters:

  • Just Dance
  • Golds Gym Cardio Workout
  • Walk It Out
  • Active Life Outdoor Challenge
  • We Cheer 2
  • Pokemon HeartGold or SoulSilver for DS
  • and, yeah, DDR

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.

Another video game myth has been shattered

We all know that video games keep kids indoors, socially isolated, and immobilized except for their thumbs, right? Wrong.  A couple of White House bureaucrats and their kids are busting that myth with a little help from Pokemon.

In a whitehouse.gov blog post, Peter Emanuel reports that his 11-year-old son, Devon, just got the new Pokemon DS game that comes with a pedometer that strengthens your pocket monster the more you walk.  Devon likes it so much that he wrote a letter to the First Lady suggesting it as a way to help her in her campaign to fight child obesity:

Dear First Lady Michelle Obama:

My dad told me that you think it is really important that kids exercise and eat right, so I wanted to write this letter to tell you about a new video game I just got because you would find it interesting. My parents are always telling me that I have been playing my video games all day and that I should go outside and play. My sister, Isabel, plays softball and soccer, but I’m not into that. I was really excited this weekend because my dad took me out to pick up the new Pokémon Heart Gold and Soul Silver game that I ordered. The store helped me unlock a new character in my game when I picked it up, and they gave me a Poke Walker that I clip to my pants. It counts my steps when I walk. Today I beamed one of my Pokémon named Onix into the Poke Walker. When I walked around so did my Pokémon. He earned watts in the game and that helps him evolve. The book also said that when I earn enough watts I can start battles and catch other Pokémon that I usually can’t find. I want to earn enough watts so I can catch Castiform or Kecleon. The book says that once I catch them in the Poke Walker I can beam them back into my game. I haven’t done that yet. I need to take a longer walk so that I can earn enough points. Dad says it should stop raining soon and we can walk around the neighborhood. I hope you are having a good time at the White House.

Sincerely,
Devon Emanuel

One of his dad’s colleagues, Debbie Stine, reports that her daughter Tina-Marie is also getting into walking with her Pokewalker.  (And apparently you need to walk 1000 miles to unlock all the available routes, so better have some comfy shoes and keep those water bottles full!)

Devon mentions in his letter that his sister plays sports, but “I’m not into that.”  How many of us were treated like outcasts in PE class because we simply couldn’t hit a ball or run as fast as the others?  What are you learning when you’re seated on a bench or isolated in the outfield?  With new games and new technology, now everyone can choose to be active and social in ways they enjoy and are good at, whether it’s traditional sports or exergaming.  None of it is “wrong”.  Go Devon, go Isabel, go Tina-Marie, and more power to your parents and your monsters.

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