I canít think of any singular object associated with videogames that has had a more profound effect on my life than the Kinect. Just typing that seems preposterous. People hate the damn thing, and for good reason. It was gutted right before launch by its corporate overlords to cut costs, which crippled many of its features. The library consists of countless examples of hastily put together mini game collections, very few of which are entertaining, and much of that entertainment probably stems from it being broken and you having a good laugh about it with your friends. Furthermore, the handful of games marketed to suckers as the ďHardcore Kinect experience youíve been waiting for!Ē have ranged from mildly entertaining but still kinda obtuse (The Gunstringer), to some of the most vile, busted, infuriating, and downright deplorable games of the last few years (Steel Batallion: Heavy Armor). Itís ugly, It takes forever to start up, and Microsoftís need to make everything Kinect Friendly has made the XBox Dashboard into a cluttered mess.
And through all of the bullshit associated with this thing, it still managed to change my life.
On December 31st, 2011, I weighed 255 pounds. Years of playing videogames as your primary hobby and a diet consisting of the cheap nuclear waste most college students eat on a regular basis will do that to you. It was starting to effect my back, I couldnít run more than probably 150 yards, and my arms were about as toned as my grandmothers. Iíd show you a picture, but frankly, I donít have any. I hated how I looked, so I avoided photographs like the plague, and it was starting to get to me emotionally. After anÖohh lets call it an enlightening experience on a basketball court, enough was enough and it was time for a change, so I cut out soda, cut out fast food, kept the diet simple, and set a course for better health.
However, as someone who, for better or worse, tries to find all the answers he seeks within videogames, I bought two Kinect titles to facilitate this endeavor: EA Sports Active 2 and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Gymís arenít my kind of place, and the Kinect still intrigued me a great deal a year ago, so I wanted to see if a video game could indeed help you lose weight. It turns out the answer is a resounding yes, depending on a few factors. If you commit to playing them six days a week for six months while also eating a lot of broccoli and baked chicken breast, then yes you can. The secret to weight loss is that there is no secret: do a bunch of aerobics and donít eat like shit is pretty much all you need to know. Your success is based entirely upon your commitment and personal discipline, and by mid June, my commitment had paid off in the form of a scale that read 198 pounds. I was under 200 pounds for the first time since I was eleven, and it felt incredible. My confidence got a huge boost, I felt fantastic, and for the first time in a long time, I was proud of myself.
Then this happened:
That bitchiní scar is the aftermath of a bicycle crash that left me with a shattered collarbone. Frankly, it could have been a lot worse, but the severity of the break required a titanium plate be fused onto my clavicle so that it would heal and function properly, which pretty much ended my workout routine. My entire upper body was damn near useless for two months, I couldnít work, and my doctor wouldnít clear me to even run for three months. In short: it was devastating. Not to mention my previous plans for a Summer filled with all kinds of debauchery got thrown into the wood chipper. Then the old habits started to reform. My new job at an upscale local pizza restaurant meant I was given all the free pizza I could eat, and when youíre beyond poor after a prolonged stint of unemployment, youíll take whatever scraps one will throw at you. Then I started drinking soda again, and sure enough the scale read 210 pounds a couple weeks back. I was told you can gain it back just as fast as you lost it, and seeing that unfold was demoralizing.
Now the last thing Iím going to do is let myself fall back into the same hole because of a bump in the road. my collarbone is fully recovered, the doctor has cleared me for physical activity, and now Iím ready to take it to the next step. Iím no longer fat, but Iím hardly in optimal shape. The gut is still there, as are those ever-present man boobs, so thereís clearly room for improvement. But now Iím going to do the thing I shouldíve done last time: Tell the world of my excursion. I used to write as a freelancer in college for a couple of video game websites like GamesRadar, and I had grandiose visions of working in the video game enthusiast press full time, but I pretty much stopped writing after I got sick of being forced to play such well executed and fun titles as The Fight: Lights Out and the Wii port of Sid Meierís Pirates! Iíd like to think this dream could still become a reality, so this blog will also serve as an archive of my writings and general musings over gaming at large. Losing weight and getting into shape was last yearís resolution, and since that was so successful, this year I will work to instill the same level of discipline I used to lose weight towards becoming a better writer.
And this is my first project. Nike+ Kinect Training has been heralded as the finest fitness videogame ever created, and while this may be true, Iím still skeptical. This skepticism doesnít come from the game itself, but rather the fact that I find any review of a fitness game from a traditional gaming media outlet to be patently absurd. It took me months to form concrete opinions about EA Sports Active 2 and the other fitness games I played, and reading a review written by a guy who most likely played it for five days max and went back to his cheetos binge just seems incomplete. Thatís not what youíll find here. I plan on running Nike+ through all its courses for months on end, and only by seeing the real world results and comparing it over the long haul to my other fitness game experiences will I be able to tell if this game is indeed the one fitness game to get. Iíll be updating this project on a weekly basis while tracking my weight loss and reporting my findings. But there were a few things that needed to get done before that could happen.
DAY ZERO: PREPARATIONS
That room right there is where all the magic happens. I live with two roommates, and as anyone with a Kinect will tell you, space is a premium. Luckily they donít seem too keen on hanging out much in our cold, creepy basement, so I kinda turned it into my game room. But it didnít used to look like that. It was a mess a few days ago, and while I still had an adequate amount of space to play Kinect fitness games, it wasnít quite enough. Nothing like stubbing your toe on a table or tripping on your sofa while jogging to remind you of the technical limitations of the Kinect hardware. So for round two, I did a little renovating, moved some stuff into the garage, moved the couch to the back wall, and hopefully that will give me more freedom.
For the record, the Grim Reaper and the Unicorn posters were there when I moved in.
Anyways, Nike+ recommends an 8◊8 square play area, but hopefully that rug will provide enough space, because slipping and falling onto bare concrete is not my idea of a good time. The room is quite large and dark, so lighting was also a major problem the first time around. So I changed out the dead fluorescent bulb and equipped my lamp with high wattage natural lighting bulbs to alleviate this problem. I say problem like this is my fucking fault, but this aint a me problem. Itís a Kinect problem. Iím already sucking down the kool-aid Microsoft is serving due to my dramatic weight loss, but Iím guessing around 10% of the people reading this have the space and capability to properly play these games. If I hadnít hit double sixes on the housing dice roll and ended up with this kickass basement that nobody in the house was using, this whole project would have probably never happened. Lemme know if this is feasible to do in your household in the comment section.
Then I started to spend money.
For another record, one of my other new years resolutions is to be a little more frugal with my money, but the actual outfit was a gift from my grandparents. They gave me $100 to get a new workout outfit, and after some thrifty shopping, I got the shoes, socks, shorts, and the shirt for $99.88, which made me feel like I had won some game on The Price Is Right. My old, cheap shoes were just that, so they needed to be replaced, and I decided that if I was going to keep down the workout path that it was time I started to dress the part. The clothes are durable, lightweight, unobtrusive, and very comfortable. The thermal underpants were $20 and actually were suggested to me by my testicles, who really got sick of going into hibernation every time I went on a run in the middle of February. The game itself was on sale for $35, so overall things werenít too pricey.
But I then made the wonderful decision that, yes, going without much food for the last half of the month and endangering my ability to pay rent so I could buy an iPod was in fact a good idea. In my defense, I found my new 7th gen iPod Nano on sale and I had some gift certificates, so with the armband it only came out to $125. Also my last MP3 player broke two years ago, and since then Iíve been using a PSP as my primary music player, which I wouldnít recommend anyone attempting. However, while running with some proper tunage is always better than going without, the new Nano also has built-in Nike+ support, so I can track my runs alongside my activity in the Kinect trainer. This is fantastic, as one of my biggest pet peeves was there not being any way to track runs with the previous Kinect fitness games.
The last bit of prep that was needed is also the most important. Iíve been living for the past 18 months practically without a bed. At the last moment, my new landlord told me that I wouldnít be allowed to use my water bed when I first moved in, and since I was broke after moving, all I could afford was a six inch thick piece of foam that I folded over to give me about three feet of width to lay on. How my back is not completely and permanently fucked from this is a miracle of modern science, so I figured it was time to have a bed. Best $230 I ever spent, and every time I lay onto its greatness I am astonished at the sheer lunacy that was going on in my head to allow me to go this long without a proper bed. You spend a third of your life asleep, so being comfortable during it is important, but Iím sure you all know this since youíre probably all smarter than me.
Today was a nice sneak preview of things to come. I ran for the first time in five months this morning. Well, ďranĒ may be a stretch. There were a few more stops than usual, so I can already tell Iíve lost some endurance, but it felt fantastic. The memories of empowerment and knowing that, yes, you can improve yourself were enough to fill me with excitement over whatís to come. It wonít be easy, but if it was, we wouldnít be living in an obesity epidemic that I was once a part of. Goal #1 is to be under 200 pounds by February, and I canít wait to get started. Also if anyone reading this feels like joining me on a mission of self improvement, I would greatly encourage you to do so. Let us know what your plans are or even simply what your New Years Resolution is.