The last video game system I owned was a Nintendo 64. Needless to say things have come a long way since NHL '99 and James Bond's Golden Eye. Video gaming has hit an almost scary level of virtual reality and has tapped into just about every realm of life - including fitness.
Fitness video games are a fascinating paradox - the very thing that is contributing towards keeping children and adults alike sedentary is scratching for an opportunity to become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
The latest incarnation of this phenomenon is Ubisoft's Your Shape - a concept that could change the face of fitness-based video gaming - and perhaps gaming in general. I had a chance to try this one out and here's a bit about it...
- The game comes with a webcam - which is used to track your movements to be sure you're going at the right tempo (and that you're actually doing the exercises).
- So picture this - a virtual instructor (in this case Jenny McCarthy) with a square box beside her and you in the middle of it.
- Your Shape is actually less game and more exercise DVD - with no controller (except to make selections at the beginning) and nothing to strap to your leg.
- The game features over 400 different workouts and a very personalized experience - with the ability to select level of difficulty, goals (strength, toning) and specify which muscle groups you want to target.
- The game feels like a guitar hero for fitness - you essentially follow Jenny's movements and tempo on the screen and you are awarded points based on your ability to follow her and complete the moves - all while Jenny gives you encouraging feedback.
What's Good About it
- The hand-free and movement tracking capabilities certainly separate Your Shape from all others in the category of fitness-based gaming.
- The ability to tailor workouts to your own goals and abilities and based on a fitness evaluation is essential.
- The variety of workouts is quite impressive - certainly enough to keep you from becoming bored.
- You have the ability to incorporate equipment if you have it such as dumbbells or a stability ball.
- You can't really cheat because Jenny is watching! This will help keep people from skipping out on the last few reps. She will also let you know if you aren't keeping up or if your form is starting to go.
- There is a tutorial if you are having difficulty with certain movements.
What could use some improvement
- There are certain movements that should have more explanation - especially given there will be many novice exercisers playing.
- Some positions are difficult to perform while looking at the screen - for example you are positioned parallel to the screen and having to turn your neck to see what Jenny is doing. This is where more cueing and description would be good.
- One thing I tested the game on was it's ability to come up with back exercises without equipment so I specifically indicated I wanted to target my back. The workout didn't really hit the back at all - although it would be almost impossible to without equipment of some sort.
- Even when you select strength you are given more of an endurance workout.
For someone with only a casual eye on video game advancements, Your Shape was certainly something to behold. This game will probably be a trendsetter for other fitness-based games. That said, because it is in its infancy, there are some glitches that could use ironing out and some re-evaluation of the programming parameters. I think this game would really appeal to women in particular and could be a great adjunct to other activity outside of the home.
Disclosure: Ubisoft's PR firm Cohn and Wolfe paid for my flight and accommodation to San Francisco to try the game. Special thanks to Mike Manning of Cohn and Wolfe for orchestrating the demonstration and the crew from Ubisoft for their help in answering my questions.