Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Fit? Not mii.

For some reason, I have never been the sort to preorder games. No, let me start that again – for one of a number of possible reasons, I have never been the sort to preorder games. I blame my parents, and especially my Mom, for instilling in me two very fundamental psychology quirks. First is a deep-seated love of a good bargain, which Mom always blames on the Scottish blood coursing through the Alexander veins. Preordering a game galls me in some way, largely because it involves putting down money and walking away with no guarantee that when the games come in, I'll actually get one. Although you'd think that Gamestop would be required to honor all reservations on release day, you'd be wrong. Oho, would you be wrong. Asshats. It's the same reason that airlines overbooking flights gets me right in the breadbasket – although I understand the economics of air travel are tenuous at best, and I understand that overbooking flights permits the possibility of refunded tickets if one's plans suddenly change, the idea that I bought a ticket for this plane, at this time, and showing up and not having a seat after all pisses me off about as badly as if I went to the grocery store, bought a big box of cereal and then, when I went to pour myself a bowl the next morning, found that the box was empty. What!?

The second reason is an even deeper-seated love of the chase, which I blame both of my parents for. When I was a kid we'd spend hours scouring through antique shops or flea markets or car shows looking for the parts Dad needed for an old car he was fixing up, or for a piece of furniture that Mom needed to finish redecorating a room, and so on. With kid-me, that hunting pattern manifested itself in action figures; with adult-me, it manifests itself primarily in books, games, clothes, and, well, action figures. Unfortunately, the big difference between my collecting patterns and my parents' is that my parents' hunts usually wound up being worth more money than they sank into it, and mine usually lead to little more than a bigger U-Haul truck being required the next time I move. Still, the thrill of the chase is definitely there.

I should note that now that my folks are both retired, Dad tends to do most of his hunting on eBay and Mom gravitates towards garage sales. You wouldn't believe the roomfuls of knickknacks and tchotchkes that she's collected from hundreds of garage sales over the last couple of years, but I suspect that the real reason why she does it, and partly the reason why my Dad still frequents car shows, is the social aspect of things. This morning I was reminded that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

I've been trying halfheartedly to track down a copy of Wii Fit ever since it was released. Being naturally heavyset is strike one, having settled into a happy domestic arrangement with Laura is strike two, and living a primarily sedentary existence working on computers both at home and at the office is strike three – I'm out, baby, especially my waistline, which is way, way out. Laura and I hit the mall to pick up some shorts for our upcoming Greece trip and damn, that was not a lot of fun. Ordinarily I enjoy clothes shopping, but seeing myself in those mirrors in my current rotund state was not pretty. While plenty of storytellers and academics are comfortably, um, well-rounded, I definitely need to start attempting to resemble Michael Chabon more than Warren Ellis. Hence the interest in Wii Fit.

Last weekend, I got snaked out of the very last copy at my local Best Buy, so this weekend I decided to wake up early and get in when the store opened. This was made notably easier by it being hotter than blazes in Boston last night, the humid, heavy kind of hot that turns a nice, pleasant night's sleep into eight sweaty, muggy hours of flopping about on the bed like an asphyxiating carp, and by our black cat Albus' deciding that 7:15 AM was a great time to start throwing up in the kitchen. Lately he's been yarfing on the floor a couple of times a week, which I blame on our recent acquisition of ferns for the sunroom (and his acquisition of a taste for devouring them), but a few months ago Albus had a nasty session when he was throwing up blood, so you can't blame me for being paranoid every time I hear him start making that bizarre oilcan-pumping noise that cats apparently make when they're about to toss their cookies. Up I got, and up I stayed, and a good thing I did, too – when I went to take my morning 'jog' around the Internet, I discovered that this morning's Best Buy flyer included not only promises of Wii Fit in stock at opening today, but also Wiis themselves. I tossed on some clothes and headed into the store a little early; the store opened at 10, so I arrived about 9:40, and was dismayed to find two things: that a line was already formed, and that it was already hotter than Satan's ass on a particularly fiery day.

Mercifully the line was only about 12 people or so; while the article I'd read said that they were only guaranteed to have about 10 copies per store in stock, I decided to stick around anyway. Less than a minute after I joined the line, my parents' genes kicked in and I struck up a conversation with the nice Asian couple ahead of me in line. We chatted amiably in somewhat simplified English for a couple of minutes, and then came the next wave of people. Immediately behind me came another nice couple, 2-year old in arms, and the father was wearing an Ohio State t-shirt. "Go Bucks," I said to him, and we were off to the races.

We were joined by a guy about my age from Connecticut, who was really just in line for a Wii – the couple with the kid had bought their Wii at Costco just a few days ago and now the mother was keenly seeking out a copy of Wii Fit. I'm happy to report that all of us got what we came for – despite the line swelling up to probably over a hundred people (!) before the doors opened, the Best Buy people handled things with remarkable aplomb; instead of having us tear through the store like madmen, they funneled the entire line into the registers, and each of the four to six registers they had open had a stack of Wiis and Wii Fit behind the counter. A customer got the head of the line, was directed to a register, forked over their credit cards, were handed their merchandise, and were happily shooed out the door. A cart of the most popular Wii games and accessories was set up nearby so people could be handed whatever else they might want in an exponentially more expensive version of the candy bars and magazines impulse racks at the front of your local Target, and they had blue-shirted runners at the ready to scurry off and snag anything else you might want for your new system as well. They even graciously handled the one poor soul who had stood in the line with the rest of us not for a video game but just to buy an air conditioner – he brought his A/C unit up to the front and one of the guys there quickly ushered him to either an otherwise closed register or off to customer service, depending on what payment method he wanted to use. Given my previously on-the-fence impression of Best Buy, I was impressed.

I stopped off at the Target next door before heading home to pick up some drinks, and then rushed home with my prize in the trunk. The game sets up quickly enough and even includes its own batteries, which was a nice touch. I chose which avatar I wanted to represent myself, and then took a deep breath and went through the orientation progress, which includes weighing myself and getting a report on both my BMI and what it calls my 'Wii Fit age'.


To be fair, I was pleasantly surprised by one thing – although I definitely tipped the scales (yes, my fat ass was classified as 'obese') my Wii Fit age was actually better than I thought – although I'm now about 30.5, the game pegged me at 31. Which is to say that although I may be heavy, I'm definitely not alone for my age. I brightened at that, and then proceeded to spend half an hour doing aerobics and balancing exercises before deciding that the combination of hot weather (it's currently 88 with a predicted high of 94) and my total couch potatohood meant that I oughta take a break for a while. Sweating more than I'd like to admit, I trundled off to the office to write up this essay, but I did so with a smile – although it hurt to watch my Mii plump up like the Michelin Man after it took my readings, I'm also happy to see that the game somewhat restricts the feasibility of the goals it allows you to set. I myself am hoping to drop a sizable amount of weight and get back down to at least my undergrad weight by next year, which the game wouldn't allow me to set as my goal, but it would allow me to enter in something it deemed more reasonable. I expect it will allow me to revisit that goal in three months and move the target further down then, but knowing that the game wouldn't let me say "OMG I'M GOING TO DROP FIFTY POUNDS IN THREE MONTHS" made me feel like it had my back, somehow. The games it offers are fun and breezy, the jogging game offers some pretty scenery (although I desperately hope Nintendo will pony up some additional landscapes via downloadable content updates) and its tracking system seems like it will be encouraging to use. We'll see how it goes – I'll use it for about a week and then post another update with my progress.

One final note – I'm just waiting for someone to hack the Wii Balance Board to work with my computer. Some clever souls have already figured out how to use the Board to surf Google Earth, but I'd love to see it used as a simple web-connected scale. Given the massive numbers of weight loss journal-keeping applications out there, you'd think that being able to hook up a Wii Balance Board to a simple database would be child's play. Maybe I'll see if anyone around the lab has any ideas. For now, I'm going to go hammer on some projects for a couple of hours and then maybe take another long jog around the island. I can see how this game might be addictive. Wish me luck!


Roundly enjoyed your Wii Fit narrative, Geoff. I've been flirting with the idea of getting one myself (it would be only the third addition to my Wii library, though I purchased the console almost a year ago -- I'm one of those who's happy playing Tennis and for some reason timid about trying new titles). My birthday's coming up, so who knows, maybe my wife will buy it for me -- though GTA4 ranks higher on my wish list.

Good luck with the new system -- looking forward to future posts.

Post a Comment