Help! My Wii Says I’m Fat

Posted by: Matt Vella on May 09

fatty.jpgAs Nintendo gears up its next big thing – the May 19 release of Wii Fit – games blogs and websites are abuzz over what might be described as the accessory’s lack of tact. In fact, if you’re overweight, Wii Fit may just call you fat.

Ok, not exactly. But, the Wii Fit – a $90 kit that includes a motion- and pressure-sensitive board and software to help players lose weight and improve their fitness – doesn’t pull any punches. Interestingly, when Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo of America’s president and CEO, visited BusinessWeek’s offices last month, he said the Fit’s designers had toyed with sugar coating results, worrying about alienating players by potentially calling them overweight or even obese. But, to make the product “useful and honest,” they ultimately decided not to.

Still, gamers are wondering if Wii Fit may come off as harsh. It analyzes a player’s fitness in part via their body mass index. (See the picture to the right below.) But, according to this discussion thread that might turn some players off. User “Mrs Hobbes” relates the story of her ten year old grand-daughter who 4ft, 9in tall, weighs 92lbs and was deemed over-weight by Wii Fit. (This BMI calculator says she would be “normal weight.”) Mrs Hobbes wrote:

She is solidly built but not fat. She was devasted to be called fat and we had to work hard to convince her that she isn’t. I know it is just a game but seriously we already have to worry about young girls starving themselves to look like the magazine models and now we have a game that tells them their fat. This to me is very worrying and I hope that is doesn’t cause emotional problems for any youngsters out there :(

weight.jpgFor more, games site Gamespy has an in-depth look at the experience of being deemed overweight by the new Nintendo accessory.

Still, the minor flap hasn’t done anything to dampen excitement for Wii Fit, which is already selling briskly. In fact, some retailers have stopped taking pre-orders thanks to strong demand. Amazon blew through its entire stock in about a month, according to blog WiiFanBoy. Another blog, GoNintendo, is also reporting that Toys R Us may be doing the same thing.

Nintendo is preparing one of the biggest roll-outs in its history, targeting an even broader range of non-traditional gamers than it did when it launched the Wii. Think advertising in The View and Women’s Health. “Consumer-level advocacy is marketing nirvana,” Fils-Aime told me last month, underscoring how important the company anticipates word-of-mouth being.

He added that he’s expecting two big waves of Wii Fit sales, an initial surge made up largely of people who already own Wii consoles and a later wave of players that would be new to the system.

Reader Comments

Rob

May 9, 2008 05:08 PM

Well, BMI does tend to be inaccurate, but only for athletes. For the other 90% of us, it works just fine, and lowering our BMI is a worthy goal.

The added weight of clothing doesn't help all that much either.

ADD

May 9, 2008 05:08 PM

I put absolutly no stock in BMI ratings. According to standard BMI charts, every player on my high school football team was either overweight or obese. It does not take into account body frame and muscle.

Steve

May 9, 2008 06:37 PM

BMI is carefully designed to measure the body masses of human beings from different races. It is well recognized by the UN, WHO and world population.
The reality is that Americans are generally overweight. I know it sounds harsh. but if you ever travel to other far countries, you'll know that under different cultures, "skinny" and "fat" could vary so much.
i'm 6 feet 160lbs. here in the US, I'm considered skinny. If I go to Asia, I will be considered bigger than average.
So as long as you feel comfortable about yourself, why care what others say.

Nancy

May 9, 2008 06:56 PM

If you're fat, you're just fat. You can still have a lot of fun with the games (and life, too).

Seamus

May 9, 2008 09:58 PM

Don't forget that the BMI has the Gov. of California listed as Morbidly Obese. Most anyone who has played up to the College level in Baseball, Football, or Wrestling are all on the bad list according to BMI.

BMI is fine for folks who were not athletes for most all of their years up to and including College....Though for the rest of us it is a pain and causes a lot of problems.

tiddle

May 9, 2008 10:11 PM

Such a lack of tact. I'd tell you, even an electronic device needs to have proper etiquette. Hell, I just want to play games. I'm not going to a doctor for annual checkup. I'm not asking for an opinion, and I don't need wii to tell me whether I'm fat or skinny. It's so rude. Who is wii to judge if I'm fat or not.

Zach

May 9, 2008 11:37 PM

If you are fat and don't want to be told your fat, don't buy the game. If you are an athlete then you probably have been introduced to the concept of BMI and understand that it is not an accurate discriptor for you. For the rest of us who don't mind a little honesty, this can be helpful tool.

Justin

May 10, 2008 12:00 AM

You know what, if you don't want a game to tell you you're fat don't buy it. If your kid has a sensitive self-esteem, don't buy it. It all comes down to people growing up and dealing with things instead of complaining about them. If you don't like it, don't buy it.

socialmelon

May 10, 2008 02:14 AM

If you don't want to be called names, don't use the product. Everyone is not supposed to be thin - our lives are meant to be spent being individuals; being unique. We can all live in the same world if we stop being so judgmental of ourself and others.

By the way, this written commentary wasn't edited properly.

joey

May 10, 2008 02:43 AM

i just think its funny that our country accepts obesity and lowers standards in order to justify why over 60% of americans our overweight. are our standards low because they're too fat to be lifted any higher?

people shouldn't have to go to a doctor, or have their wii tell them their overweight to be concerned about their weight, heart, and general health. it should be something of concern in the first place.

and if people want to die of obesity while others in third-world countries die of malnutrition and emaciation, it's okay. its everyone persons god-given right to take for granted the fact that they can afford a mirror, a weighing scale, exercise, and self control.

Tiddle's voice of reason

May 10, 2008 04:25 AM

Tiddle, if you play the game then you will be judged. Don't like it, don't play the game. In a culture that is increasingly politically correct and prescribing to a form of "proper etiquette" that is not helping the situation, I applaud Nintendo for taking the initiative to give a somewhat realistic comparison for people to view themselves in.
The wii, in general, is essentially a gaming console that requires more than developing calluses from button pushing and a fat ass. Obesity causes serious health problems from diabetes to heart attacks.
This game was not developed for people like you. Obviously from the presale and stats they already have, you are in the major minority and I doubt your $90 will make or break the success of the wii fit.

Vincent

May 10, 2008 04:26 AM

Tiddle, if you play the game then you will be judged. Don't like it, don't play the game. In a culture that is increasingly politically correct and prescribing to a form of "proper etiquette" that is not helping the situation, I applaud Nintendo for taking the initiative to give a somewhat realistic comparison for people to view themselves in.
The wii, in general, is essentially a gaming console that requires more than developing calluses from button pushing and a fat ass. Obesity causes serious health problems from diabetes to heart attacks.
This game was not developed for people like you. Obviously from the presale and stats they already have, you are in the major minority and I doubt your $90 will make or break the success of the wii fit.

Kariuki

May 10, 2008 04:39 AM

I think people should be honest with themselves and accept that they are fat. The Wii is an opportunity to get back in shape and have fun while doing it. So why not just try it.

Tom

May 10, 2008 06:16 AM

i think the mere fact is that when playing a game about fitness they are going to have to tell you the truth about it! if you want to be coddled into thinking that you are normal weight when you are clearly not don't play the game, it might not be the best for nintendo marketing but this is the fact. we all know there is exceptions for following bmi but otherwise it is fairly accurate. personally, i am underweight (according to the bmi) but i know i am not dangerously underweight. Anyway, for years they have been moving the scale up to meet with the amount of overweight people. a point of note should be that (especially in teenage years) girls are going to naturally weigh significantly more than some boys. this might have been something that nintendo should have thought about considering the audience...

mynameis

May 10, 2008 06:44 AM

If anybody just read the instruction manual in Wii FIT then you would see it says it can only measure accurately if you are over the age of 20.

Is everybody just stupid or can you read?

Robert

May 10, 2008 07:03 AM

Ugh. Feeling a rant coming on.

You don't want it to call you fat? Don't buy it.

Guess what -- if you're "feelings are hurt" because a machine calls you out -- you've got bigger problems than you know. The Wii is just programmed with a BMI chart. Are you insulted if a chart says you're obese? Maybe burn the book and you won't be fat anymore.

Geez -- this reminds me of the people who complain that their GPS told them to make a U turn where none is allowed. "It tried to kill me!" Yeah. That's what it did. If your passenger told you to drive off a bridge, I guess you'd just have to do what they said.

If you can't take personal responsibility when you drive, don't drive. If you can't handle being assessed for what you are -- don't buy the Wii and go back to telling yourself that you're "big boned."

People really don't like having their self-created fantasy bubbles burst.

If you want the Wii to help you get into shape because you'd rather play a video game than work out, great. Fantastic. Whatever works to get you into shape.

If your ego is so fragile that you can't stomach the truth -- even if the truth, if acted upon, will save you years of health and life -- again, you've got more problems than you know.

To the grandmother whose 4'9" 10-year-old granddaughter weighs almost a hundred pounds -- and who is "not fat but solidly built" -- shame on you. She's in the 90th weight percentile and is at risk for becoming obese. And you try to convince her she's fine? You preach about girls obsessing to become overly skinny? That may very well be an issue for some girls -- but it's one issue your granddaughter does NOT have. She's at risk for becoming OBESE.

This is just classic in our current word-spinning climate. Fine. She's "solidly built." Call it whatever you want. Her "solidness" if left unchecked will make her die years before her time. Changing the phrasing will not save her the pain you're setting her up for.

Your granddaughter is at risk for joining the tens of millions of Americans who are FAT ASSES.

I say this as a former fat ass. I lost 40 lbs in 2001 and have kept it off -- with work and vigilance.

How about instead of trying to convince her that the Wii is the liar -- how about getting her on a healthy regimen? Guess what -- being healthier is OKAY -- even if you're NOT FAT. And wow -- what if she actually dropped some "solidness"?

Dollars to donuts the grandmother and the rest of the family are overweight too. I've seen first hand several instanced where overweight parents literally DISCOURAGE their overweight kids from trying to eat healthy. Misery loves company. If mom and dad are fat and fat kid loses weight -- what does that say about fat mom and dad? Makes the excuses a little more difficult, doesn't it?

I was at Souplantation (Sweet Tomatoes) - kind of a healthy buffet place. A teenage girl dined with her overweight parents. While they were guzzling sodas and slamming the mac & cheese, she ate her veggies and drank -- heaven forbid -- water. And the entire time, her parents mocked her and ridiculed her, saying things like, "You think that's going to keep you from being fat?"

That's the ugly side of family obesity people don't want to talk about. Some may be genetic and inherited. But there's also a pervasive culture of obesity that's even more powerful. Maybe it's not politically correct, but it's true. Her parents ostracized her for daring to rebel against their family's identity.

But she was doing exactly the right thing. Keeping healthy is about everyday choices and making health a habit. And yes, what she was doing WILL keep her from becoming fat.

Many of us could learn a lesson from that girl's courage and resolve.

If our 92-pound granddaughter engaged in a similar tack, maybe she wouldn't be as "solidly built" -- but she'd damn well be healthier.

Robert

May 10, 2008 07:14 AM

By the way --

Paragraph 3 says that "(This BMI calculator says she would be “normal weight.”)

NO -- IT DOES NOT.

Follow the link. That chart is specifically for an ADULT WOMAN -- not a 10-year-old child.

Go find a BMI chart for a CHILD / TEENAGER.

Here, for example, from the CDC.

http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Result.aspx?&dob=4/25/1998&dom=4/25/2008&age=120&ht=57&wt=98&gender=2&method=0&inchtext=0&wttext=0

And guess what it says:

"Results

Based on the height and weight entered, the BMI is 21.2, placing the BMI-for-age at the 90th percentile for girls aged 10 years 0 months. ***This child is at risk of becoming overweight.***"

*** = CDC bolded text.

Robert

May 10, 2008 07:24 AM

Last one. Promise.

I made a mistake when I calculated her BMI. I entered 98 lbs instead of 92. The 6 pound difference brings her out of the "at risk" category.

Still ... 6 pounds is pretty close to that danger zone.

Robert

May 10, 2008 07:26 AM

In fact, she's just *1 lb* away from the danger zone.

93 pounds and she's "at risk".

Tegan

May 10, 2008 09:38 PM

Anyone who is serious about weight loss won't completely leave it to a game! Even without the game people don't solely rely on scales to determine whether or not they are overweight, they look in the mirror, judge by the feel of their clothes and how they feel personally. Some people LIKE a little bit of weight. So it's nice having machines and gadgets guiding us and the Wii fit is at least encouraging! Even if it does say your overweight it's not "NA NA NA NA"ing. Ultimately though you can't leave it up to a machine to tell you whether you are fat or not, most people know if they are overweight it's no surprise. And when it comes to kids, I'm a primary school teacher, I wouldn't let my kids go on it! Adults can at least rationalise, some kids WOULD be devastated. I think this is a game for adults.

David

May 12, 2008 08:54 AM

Nice post(s) Robert, people don't like the truth cause it hurts.

I wish I would have seen that girl, I would have told her what a wonderful job she is doing to help keeping herself healthy, would have been nice for her to reply with "You think that is going to make you fit and healthy"...

I hear people saying "big boned", "large frame", Solidly built", "slow metabolism", "I have a fat gene", "Starving people have a large stomache" (yes, I've heard people say that!!! - btw, it's due to malnutrition and lack of clean drinking water).

All that translates to - you're over weight...I applaud the game makers of this and lets hope the flood gates are now open to allow us to call people what they really are...

jenni

May 12, 2008 11:24 AM

robert i agree with you but i didn't look anything up but my view on the point is that people that think their fat on/or they are fat know that they shouldn't eat the food they eat. like my school we don't have candy mechines or anything like that. we aren't able to buy soft drinks othet than at lunch. but in the teachers lounge there's snacks i know that for sure cause the other day i seen one of my teachers walk in there when he walked out he had a coke and a bag of chips. i mean look at lunch, we are allowed cookies and snacks. really if your fat or think your fat you know that eating the food that you eat is wrong to your health but what do you do.... you still eat it. it your fault that your dying. sorry but it's the truth.

TGN

May 19, 2008 01:58 PM

I have been using XaviX's fitness applications for over a year alredy & not once would it ever call you "FAT"!!!
I have Jackie Chan encouraging me & keeping track of the calories I've burned... & they are FUN & cost way less than nintendo's games. I think nintendo is trying to cover to large a demographic. they should stick to driving & shooting games like my boyfriend loves, & leave the fitness to Xavix!

Mackerfan

May 26, 2008 01:21 AM

I just purchased Wii Fit and weigh 190 and am 5'6"- It shows me as obese and yes I am obese. I have been working out with it regularly this week and feel a little difference in my clothes and have dropped a couple of pounds already. It is easy to get an hour of workout in without even realizing it. Some of the yoga and the strength training excersises are a little difficult at first for a person out of shape, but the balance games are fun right off the bat. As you practice and master the other things it gives you a sense of accomplishment. With it keeping the standings for all the players it makes fitness fun and competitive for all of our family. I think it is a great accessory. I agree, I would think that if your kids are overweight you will need to explain to them about the BMI so they don't take it too negatively, but they also need to face reality because it doesn't get any easier to lose weight as you age. Sometimes if it takes getting your feelings hurt to start getting into shape so be it.

Sarah

May 26, 2008 04:03 AM

Myth: Scare tactics and an emphasis on thinness help people lose weight, prevent obesity, and do no harm.

Fact: Obesity rates rose steeply over the last 30 years, as pressures to be thin increased. Scaring children and adults about the risks of obesity adds to their stress, anxiety, and potential immune suppression leading to higher risks, and fails to help them lose weight. An overemphasis on thinness can lead to body hatred, hazardous weight loss, malnutrition, size discrimination, and eating disorders. (19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)

Resources: 19. Third report on nutrition monitoring in the US, Vol 1-2, Dec 1995. Life Sciences Research Office, US
Health/Human Serv, US Dept of Agriculture. Natl Ctr for Health Statistics, NHANES III. Advance Data Nov
14, 1994.
20. Levine P. President’s message. Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention Newsletter. Spring 1995:1-3.
21. Pipher M. Reviving Ophelia. 1994. Ballantine Books, Random House, NY.
22. Fallon P, M Katzman, S Wooley, edits. Feminist perspectives on eating disorders. 1994. Guilford Press, NY.
23. Grange D, J Tibbs, J Selibowitz. Eating attitudes, body shape, and self-disclosure in adolescent girls and boys.
Eating Dis 1995:3:3:253-264.
24. Smolak L, M Levine. Toward an empirical basis for primary prevention of eating problems with elementary
school children. Eat Disorders 1994;2:4:293-307.
25. Berg F. Underage and Overweight: America’s Childhood Obesity Epidemic – What Every Parent Needs to
Know, 2003. Chapter 5A/C (Nutrition and Eating behavior) and 9 (Prejudice). N.Y: Hatherleigh Press.

anne

May 26, 2008 09:26 AM

The WiiFit takes the age, height and weight and then calculates the BMI. It isn't cruel or insulting it is just honest. And it focuses more on learning your center of balance and maintaining posture more than weight. The BMI calculations and weight goals are more of a bonus to track it. 90% of the games and yoga positions teach you to keep balanced. Me (overweight) and my two kids (both in the normal range) played all weekend. And I am sore!

Cathy

September 27, 2008 10:29 PM

To some extent I agree that if your fat your fat and its probably better for you to know about it, and if you don't like it don't buy the game. However I think the wii shouldn't have a bmi calculator for people under 18. I have seen too many girl friends of mine have eating disorders for a lot less, even saying they are "ideal" instead of underweight could set off something. BMI in children and teenagers is for doctors to deal with.

For the people who say that if you eat right and work out you will not be fat, you would be wrong. I trained Muay Thai for several months 4 times a week in addition to pushing children in strolelrs up hills and all around (because it was the only way they would nap) for at least 2 hours a day/4 days a week ate well, not perfect but not bad and gained weight. It is not as simple as it seems for everyone. Some people do have problems, not excuses. I'm not saying everyone, but some.

drew

September 30, 2008 06:20 PM

I've got a question.with my wii when iturn it on and i try to turn on the remote it won't turn on and stay on and I have tryed it with new and rechargeable batteries

from drew

email if you can anwser my question on
phdc@tpg.com.au

vince

January 8, 2009 11:10 AM

As a professional Police officer, who is in very good shape, Wii seems to feel that i am obese......Pretty funny. My co-workers seem to think its funny too. Do not take the BMI index seriously. It is not Accurate. We are better off with traditional old-school height and weight ranges..........

Thank you for your interest. This blog is no longer active.

 

About

No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.

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