EA Sports Active 2: Get fit without getting laughed at
In the revelry of Christmas party season, getting fit comes somewhere between buying new sunglasses and cutting the lawn in the list of things furthest from most peoples’ minds. But come New Years resolution time, when the guilt of a thousand roast potatoes begins to set in, the first thing many people think to do is run (well, jog) off and join a gym.This year though, you might be better off just buying an Xbox.
I’ve been playing with the Kinect-based EA Sports Active 2 on and off for a few weeks now. Working with the Xbox 360’s new motion sensor, it’s built on letting you tailor an exercise routine around your lifestyle and initial fitness level. With the difficulty ramped up it’s a legitimate competitor to going to the gym in real life, with the added geek-bonus of having live feedback in terms of a heartrate monitor you wear on your arm which keeps you updated onscreen, and which feeds into a counter which tells you how many calories you’ve burnt up during your exercise.
In my case the game suggested a ‘Cardiac Kickstart’ and, once I’d got over the shock, it delivered that kickstart in the form of daily exercises lasting quarter of an hour each. The first few were difficult, but they improve over time and pretty soon I felt compelled to push myself a little harder than the game had suggested. (Perhaps the makers are conscious of the potential liabilities involved in getting someone judged to be Cardiac Kickstart material to work out too hard.)
With all exercise, monotony is a major disincentive. But in EA Sports Active, it’s the combined appeal of completing a course (there are 3-week and 9-week options) and the encouragement of your virtual trainer which is designed to keep you coming back for more punishment. Especially for an amateur, the personal trainers are key; mine was Devon, a softly-spoken Californian (I’m guessing by the accent), who seems to know just the right things to say to keep you jumping and stretching like a grinning idiot.
Over time, I’ve grown to love Devon, mainly because he doesn’t judge me for my workouts. When he sees the badly-choreographed assault on the senses that is my split squats, or the awkward gurning which accompanies 20 bicep curls (and, thanks to Kinect’s cameras, he really does see them) he offers only encouragement, and not the cloying I’m-only-saying-this-because-you’re-paying-me encouragement of real life personal trainers. When, after a particularly tough run around the game’s virtual track, I sit down to take a breather, Devon notices and tells me to take a break and get a glass of water. His kindness when I’m struggling is matched only by his frustration at my inability to coordinate my limbs during step classes.
Being compelled to exercise by a virtual athlete intent on making you sweat until you break down might sound like some hellish dystopian future, but in reality it’s not so bad. It beats being barked at by a human, at any rate. There’s the added support of an online community for people who do want to share a little of their embarrassment (and success) and a two-player mode if you’ve got someone close (really close) you want to exercise with. If the next few weeks will be dominated by unhealthy eating (and drinking), and you think you’re going to have to get fit pretty soon, do yourself a favour now and put a Kinect and EA Sports Active 2 on your Christmas list.Tagged in: fitness, gaming, technology, Xbox 360
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