Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm going to Wii my way to a smaller waistline

Here Wii go.

Video games and I go way back. From the days of "Pong," "Gorf" and "Pac-Man," I was there. I can't tell you how many times I would stay indoors instead of running around outside.

When our family got our Commodore 64 computer, my dad, an electronics whiz in the Air Force, encouraged me to learn how to program instead of playing games all the time. Sorry, Dad . . . I was too busy running the decathlon on the computer or jumping vanishing tar pits in "Pitfall" to think about programming.

And exercise? A very distant afterthought.

At my top weight, I tipped the scales at 330 pounds. My mom can cook, and she taught me. By the time I graduated from high school, I was at 260. In college, I added the "freshman 30" and inched closer to 300.

I ran every now and then — during a two-week period, I got motivated to run a mile every day with no breaks — and lost 15 pounds. I got sick on the last day and never was motivated like that again.

After I finished college, I was 330 and inactive. Until now.

Enter Wii, stage left.

I was never a big fan of Nintendo consoles after the Super Nintendo. I considered them gimmicks and not really video game machines like the Xbox or Playstation.

However, the Wii offers new ways for gamers to get interactive. If you are playing a Wii game, you can't just sit on your duff and unlock achievements. You become part of the game.

The public's response has been overwhelming. Nearly nine months after the console's launch, it's still a very difficult video game system to find, without having to elbow people for one. More on that later.

I acquired a Wii mid-July but decided to return it after a few days. Then I had another change of heart. I called around to stores throughout the area and couldn't find one until — eureka! — I tripped upon five of them at a Wal-Mart Supercenter on Coors and Rio Bravo Southwest.

I took my Wii home and decided to play.

The Wii comes with one game — "Wii Sports." It's an interesting set of minigames that involve, you guessed it, sports. You can play tennis, golf, baseball, boxing or bowling. Using the console's remote, another controller called a nunchuck and a sensor strip in front or on top of a TV, your on-screen Mii, Nintendo's cool avatars, mimic your movements with the remote or nunchuck.

I've read several stories online about how folks were getting in shape using the Wii. I laughed at most of the stories — even Tribune science reporter Sue Vorenberg poked fun at the idea of playing a video game — and getting in shape in one of her columns.

The first time I played the Wii, I was on it for 1 1/2 hours. I'm not sure about the calories I burned, but I was dripping with sweat and sore the next morning. Wow! I was hooked.

My wife, a nongamer, watched me smack a couple of homers like I was an overweight Henry Aaron. She giggled as I tried to return serves on the tennis minigame. She smiled as I sliced ball after ball on the golf minigame.

Regardless, I was doing something as foreign to me as green chile was when I arrived here years ago from Mississippi. I was exercising!

My wife, and even my son, have decided to help me lose weight. My goal is 175 pounds. I am 90 pounds from meeting it.

Will I succeed? Will I yield to temptation? Only time will tell, but you can follow my progress here on The Duke City Gamerz Blog. Look for Mad Skillz's dropping weight blog. I'll do weekly weigh-ins to see if Nintendo's Wii will help me get in shape.

Care to join me for a virtual workout or two?

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