Friday, October 22, 2010

Real, or Not?

In which our Heroine plays Video Games for a Workout. 

It is amusing to me that I get to play Wii Fit sometimes at physical therapy sessions.  Yesterday, I won the top ranking (but the game still deemed me as unbalanced).  Despite the good marks, I have no delusions that I am really the best—rather I believe I am simply healthier than the other gimpy players.  I don’t think the games get used all that much because I catch other patients looking on curiously from other areas of the gym.  The employees often look a little envious.  As for me, I was relieved to play the Wii instead of doing squats again.  I only get to play for 10 minutes at a time.  I think my therapist is wisely aware that I stop blinking and that can cause some nasty headaches.  The fatigue is all in the head too—not in the body I’m trying so hard to strengthen. 
So far, my only experience with Wii Fit happened last Christmas in a busy mall as I stood slack-jawed in front of an inviting display.  I like the Wii, but Fit was something else entirely, marketed very well toward a portly American public just at resolution season.  There it was in all its glory: Wii Fit.  Just think!  You and I could be fitter, healthier, and more productive people just by playing a video game once a day!  Oh, miraculous machine let me spend money on thee… Fortunately, I caught sight of some very overweight people out of the corner of my eye and remembered that Wii Fit is probably not the marvelous solution we all desire.  Once I managed to tear my eyes off the display, rational thought came back to me and I said to myself, “Tara, a video game is the last thing you need to compete with your limited time.  Besides, if you want to get fitter, go for a walk or a jog.  You’ll get fresh air too (what a concept!).  At last Jon and I managed to walk away. 
You see, for some time I’ve had views about all this glorious technology.  Mothers everywhere are right that the Wii is much more interactive than other video game systems, but I had no intention of playing one regularly, or of spending that kind of money on it.  In fact, I was becoming more and more skeptical about all the time people spend on the computer blogging or facebooking, etc…  Not that I don’t love what it can do for all of us, but the number of hours a person can spend online or surrounded by such constant noise and flashing lights is alarming.  (How do they listen to themselves think?)  Thus the reason why I didn’t start a blog until I pretty much had to.  Until surgery, it didn’t seem like it would add enough to my life and I realized it would be easy to fall into the trap of following other interesting blogs for hours (which I have, incidentally). 
Most these technological wonders, things such as internet conversations, TV shows, computer and video games—Wii Fit included—simulate real life in such a way that the marketed product may sometimes actually seem more intriguing, worthwhile, and rewarding than reality.  We can fall into a pattern of living that resembles these simulations in regular life.  Men and women fall in “love” through the internet, boys begin to think that violence is a normal and healthy way to fix an argument (see Prince of Persia, Grand Theft Auto), and teen girls see themselves as fatter and less brassy (or do I mean busty here?) than Laura Croft, Tomb Raider. 
As I learned from a master’s degree in art history, visual simulacra can be confusing, persuading, and deluding even to the most aware viewer.  You may not realize this, but wars have effectively been started using this stuff.  See below for a number of Hitler and Goebbel’s most terrible propagandist posters denouncing the Jewish nation.  I’ve studied this a lot—and trust me, from my end it is pretty clear that Hitler and friends basically created a new reality for the German people—one where an enemy was clearly defined as despicable and where there could be no expected punishment for the hero, who was, after all, just living out his “hereditary destiny”.  They were given a blonde and blue-eyed model on which to gaze adoringly, boys and girls were tutored while still young about the proud excitement of war, and women were actually awarded prizes for giving birth to “German” looking children.  I cannot help but feel pity for a people surrounded by such constant and effective media.  The German people had no idea what had hit them—and neither did the Jews. 

Do I go too far in raising a cry of alarm against video games?  Yes and no.  Yes because there is certainly no cause to destroy the computer I’m typing on—it makes a lot of good things possible too.  But there is the other side.  Every week, new movies, or TV shows, or music, or games come out that have constructed a new reality from which we are simply meant to take amusement.  But any time a new world (and the rules it runs by) is formed, we as viewers/readers/listeners must be on guard for the values that media creates, exploits, or even takes for granted.  (For more info on the concept of simulating reality, see Elder Bednar’s CES fireside: Things as They Really Are).   


  1. I will say that Wii Fit helped me lose my baby weight after I had Benson. It was easy to use while he was sleeping. Jimmy and I have only bought a few games for our Wii and they are all games where you have to get up and move. I'm just saying... :)

  2. Good point, Sue. The post probably makes it sound like the Wii is the villain here. But its not. Rather, I just used it as a jumping off point for my other ideas about media and the creation of false realities in general. Incidentally, when I started writing the post I had no intention of comparing games with Hitler... that came later and is probably too extreme!

  3. No no. I wasn't dogging on your comparison I was simply saying how I like our Wii. :)