Random Asides

Dear Nintendo

I want to have a little talk with you about the Wii.  Specifically, the Wii Fit.
It’s a cool little thing, don’t get me wrong. Not only am I able to have a quick workout and do some fun hula hooping, but there are lots of games that are highly entertaining at parties.


We need to discuss the way in which your device ruthlessly hounds me about weight gain from day to day. I’m subjected to an interrogation about minor fluctuations in my weight. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition in a video game.

Frankly, your choices on this screen are crap. And if I give an honest answer to your machine’s third degree, which is that I DON’T FUCKING KNOW why I gained 2 pounds in one day, I get a lecture from your stupid animatronic Wii Fit board.

I do not wish to be lectured about physiology by a bouncing white blob. In particular because said bouncing white blob does not seem to understand basic human biology.

It’s highly unlikely I ate 7000 calories in just one day, which is what it would take to actually gain 2 pounds of tissue. You seem to be missing an obvious reason why a large segment of the population might experience significant weight fluctuations over time, despite doing everything “correctly” in terms of the reasons you list on this screen.

Maybe this is because there are no women on your development team. I don’t know, but I kind of suspect that’s the case.

I find it difficult to believe a female designer would have let a game ship with such an obvious camel toe on the woman yoga instructor.

But I digress.

Anyway, in the interests of improving the usability of the game, I’ve taken the liberty of fixing this particular screen. No need to thank me.

reposted from the Bug Blog


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. Not necessarily because of a lack of women on the team. I’m a guy and, as I weigh myself every day, I can say that my weight fluctuates as much as 4 pounds in a single day.

  2. Skepchick gets bug_girl’s blog’s best posts.

    Also I hate everything about the animated balance board. I know it’s been a long time since I used you, I don’t want fitness tips, ever!, and the reason I’ve gained weight is I didn’t step on the scale at the same time of day as last time. Now fuck off and let me play the games!

  3. I made the mistake of getting on it for the first time in months when I was about 25 weeks pregnant. It seemed appalled that I had gained 20-ish pounds in the several hundred days since I had used it last. What really upset me, though, was what it did to my avatar… I guess as an illustration of my weight gain, it turned my avatar into a very portly version of myself without giving me any room to make my case in defense. That is not to say that I feel that weight gain needs to be defended, but the way it reacted made me feel like I’d done something wrong.

    I just wanted to hula hoop. :(

  4. I’d like to echo jwynia here. I noticed that after a hard, sweaty day of work, I’ll weigh myself on the pallet scale, and I’ll be down a few pounds, I assume from loss of water.

    The obvious problem is still that most people still only take height and weight into account. If I work out and gain 15 lbs of muscle, my doctor, and the wii fit, will assume I got 15 lbs fatter.

  5. I logged a lot of hours on my wii fit, but I used it predominantly as a behavior log. I bought an actual step platform and used the free run program for 30 minutes while doing bench step aerobics. The controller jiggles around in my pocket and converts my pace to wii miles. I gave myself rewards for every 100 hours of effort I logged.

    I found it very discouraging to weigh myself everyday. It was better to weigh myself every two weeks. Despite the effort I was putting in (500 hours in 258 days) I had a really long plateau and just couldn’t budge.

    What was even more discouraging was people telling me that wii fit wasn’t really exercise and that I was lazy because I didn’t go swimming, do jogging, or lift weights. People made me aware that exercising to lose weight should in fact be punishment because being obese makes me an object of contempt.

  6. I was just on the verge of buying the Wii. I am so glad I have been warned of its insidious need to be judgmental.
    I hate it when machines start acting like my mother. The car seat belt alarm has made me hate wearing my seat belt. I’ve got this irrational desire to rebel just because it reminded me. And since I normally wear a seat belt, it only goes off when I have for some rational reason not put on the seat belt immediately. I can’t defend myself and I feel even more irritation.
    I do not like machines telling me what to do.

  7. A 2 lbs difference is just water weight. I work at a hospital so I weigh myself and my weight fluctuates about 5 lbs. A gallon of water weights about 11 lbs and I usually drink lots of water in the morning. Once after a night of lots of booze I felt quite dehydrated the next day and in the morning I weighed 172 and by noon I was back to 178 which is what i normally weigh.

  8. I actually like listening to my robot trainers (in preparation of them becoming our overlords) but I have never liked Wii Fit – echoing most people’s comments above. However, I do like EA Active – though it has its problems – I get a really good workout without “helpful” tips. And from what I saw at E3 the next version is gonna be even better. My two cents (the robots made me type this).

  9. Another lecture I love—and this one happens both in Wii Fit and a couple of DS games—comes from their presumption that everyone’s on a 9-to-5-type schedule.

    I work weird hours. One day, I’ll weigh myself at 2 am, shortly after I wake up. I will invariably get a lecture on being up so late. Then, the next day, I’ll weigh myself at 7 am, shortly after I wake up. I will invariably get a lecture on not weighing myself at the same time every day.

    It’s a really good piece of software, but yeah, the nagging and ridiculous assumptions (basing the whole damn thing on BMI?!) are quite annoying.

  10. The problem with BMI, as I’m sure most of us are aware, are that it only takes into account weight and height, not other factors such as muscle mass, frame size, etc… Many professional athletes are classed as overweight (or even obese) under BMI, despite being amongst the healthiest individuals in society.

    I don’t need to do a calculation to know that I’m quite a lot overweight, I just need to look at myself. Fortunately, I happened to luck out with a doctor who doesn’t slavishly follow BMI as a guide for a target weight and has managed to set me a target weight that is suitable for by body frame and realistic for someone in my situation. I’d still be overweight according to the BMI calculation, but I’d be (reasonably) healthy.

  11. @Andrew Nixon: Reminds me of a comedy bit I heard once. What’s the point of using a scale when you have a mirror? Who looks in the mirror says, “Boy, I’m fat…” then steps on a scale and “Oh, no wait, I’m not.”? The BMI was instituted to be an objective measurement that the government could use, but it’s far too simple. A quick subjective measurement tells you far more about whether or not you’re too fat than the BMI ever can.

  12. Chiming in on the Wii Fit annoyance. Other games on the Wii console are driving me crazy, too. The whole platform seems designed to be a nanny.
    Excellent addition bug_girl!

  13. A few months back, I weighed myself on the Wii Fit. For some reason, it didn’t take, and asked me to step on the balance board again.

    At just that moment, my cat decided to walk in front of me and sit down on the balance board. It took her weight.

    It congratulated me on my 200+ pound weight loss, although it was slightly concerned that I’d lost so much weight in such a short time. My Mii was slimmed down to a stick.

    I left it there for a while, although I eventually re-weighed myself because I was tired of only burning 1 calorie no matter how long or hard I worked out, as my cat’s weight was used to calculate the calorie burn. (Not that I believe it!) It was disappointed that I’d gained weight, but not so worried as it ought to be that I’d gained 200+ pounds in two weeks’ time.

  14. I was simultaneously amused and bothered the first time my Wii Fit Board tried to get me to inform on other people in my family. We had set up Mii’s for my parents when they visited, and after they had gone home, the Wii started asking if I had seen them lately, and did I know why they weren’t using the Wii anymore.

    I considered ratting them out to see if I could get it to shave a few pounds off my weight.

  15. Having the program respond to daily variances seems like really poor design. Why didn’t they have it calculate a moving average or something?

  16. Wait, isn’t there an option for what I would think would be the most obvious explanation?
    “I’m not wearing the same clothes today as I was yesterday.”

  17. Haven’t used wii myself, but although I shouldn’t be, I am somewhat surprised they are using BMI.

    Hell, even the person who created it (can’t remember the name right now) supposedly intended it as a demographic tool, and to be used on populations; not as a diagnostic tool or to be used on individuals.

    using BMI to determine someone’s ‘fitness’ is almost as bad as using their height to determine gender (everyone 5’6″ and under is female, everyone 5’7″ and over is male – and no arguing, this is backed up by official studies…)

  18. A friend of mine uses Wii Fit a lot and bitches about it for pretty much the same reasons listed here, but it also is the first time that one of her weight loss plans has actually worked and that makes her happy, so there’s lot of mixed emotions going on there. Most of the time her attitude is “I fucking hate this…. but it’s working.” So I’m not really sure what to think, but I’m not above being amused by the whole thing.

  19. @ryk: It was invented by a Belgian by the name of Adolphe Quetelet in the 1850s. He based his figures on 5000 (male) Scottish soldiers. It was mostly forgotten until the 1970s when Ancel Keys began to use it (with a slight modification) for population studies and not individual diagnosis.

  20. And this is why I bought my WiiFit Balance board from Craigslist and use DDR for my Wii-based workout. (Followed up with some of Margaret Richard’s Body Electric DVD’s, and I’m done for the day.)

    WiiFit provides calorie burning exercise, but for me, I think what it provides is a private workout environment and the concept that you have to track your metrics. If you can get used to exercising in private where you feel less self-conscious, then once you hit a plateau with WiiFit (and you will, because it happens with any exercise program), you’ll want to get out and do something else.

    That, and the balance board makes Rayman Ravin’ Rabbids really fun.

  21. Hi there!

    You know what they say about anyone who prefaces anything with: “I’m not racist, but …”?

    I honestly hate to generalize and stereotype like this, but it never bothers me that the Wii Balance Board is condescending and snide. Because I always assume that the Wii was designed with little Japanese children in mind. (because: well, Nintendo)

    You tell an American kid (much less an American adult) that they’re fat because they didn’t exercise enough, and that person says: “Well SCREW YOU, you smug little animated blob of plastic, you’re not the boss of me, pal!!”.

    You tell a little Japanese kid the same thing, and they think: “Oh NO! I must work harder and adhere to the physical ideal that society expects of me!! I will now do 8,732 push-ups and eat nothing but dried krill until I lose that .023 of a kilogram!!”

    Is that racist? Or just a reflection of the wonderful and interesting differences between our two cultures? Of course I’m generalizing, and pandering to stereotypes. But that’s just always how I imagine it.

    I’ll shut up now. [hides] :(

  22. I have a WiiFit, and I totally agree with bug_girl’s assessment. In fact, I got so sick of the stupid computer whining at me that I just stopped doing the little test at the beginning, just so it wouldn’t whine about tiny fluctuations in my weight. It’s stupid, but you could try that — just jump straight into the exercises.

  23. I easily ingest and excrete 10+ lbs. of matter daily, and on most days, in nearly equal amounts. But, I don’t do both simultaneously. James K is right: a moving average is more appropriate. One can notice a definite trend to the stock market over the period of a year or so, but you can’t infer that trend as it’s happening by focusing on the day-to-day fluctuations.

    “A 2 lbs difference is just water weight.”

    Aren’t humans something like 70% water? I’m carrying well over 100 lbs of water weight! On a day-over-day basis, isn’t a 2-lb difference more likely to be attributable to the fact that I don’t have bowel movements on a rigid schedule?

  24. I don’t use the Wii for exercise at all, only for gaming (Mario FTW!). The only times I may be doing some kind of exercise is if I play one of those tiresome minigame collections which forces you to shake your arm so quickly that at the end it feels like your arm is dead.

  25. @IBY: “I play one of those tiresome minigame collections which forces you to shake your arm so quickly that at the end it feels like your arm is dead.”

    And that is different from masturbation…how?


  26. I’m a guy. I weigh myself obsessively every morning. Same time every morning. (…right after voiding waste. ;-)

    My weight fluctuates 4 pounds easily — for no particularly good or obvious reason. You just need to learn to ride over transients. It’s only an average over several days that has any meaning given the half-pound precision that my scale gives me.

    And as for WiFit… My yoga instructors had a fit when I described it to them. >;-> Competitive numeric scores for yoga performance is SO… …NOT Proper Yoga. >;->

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