The Games We Play: Did You Move Today, Fatty?

Brandann Hill-Mann
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When my body started to slow down in my in the middle of my Navy career one of the things I had to slowly let go of, much to my chagrin, was physical training (PT). I slowly went from miles of running a day, to elliptical training (didn’t you know this is “no-impact”?), to swimming (this was actually a good change for me), to days where I was only allowed to do small amounts of stretching and yoga. Even now, I am allowed to swim only a few laps at a time, which is really all I can handle, and the other types of exercise I can do change with the season.

Additionally, because we live in a climate where we have these things I am told are called “seasons” (which we did not have in Hawai’i but I vaguely remember from Michigan), going out to do exercise is a hassle. It is tiring, it takes work, it takes spoons, and all of that is before I even step foot in the gym. Going to the gym can be a draining event, physically and emotionally. I hated going as I grew less confident about my body, because the military can be such a cesspool of fat shaming and body negativity.

So, when the Nintendo Wii introduced the balance board I was over the moon with excitement at the thought of bringing exercise into my own home. I had some store credit at a GameStop from being hosed from trying to get into the Warhammer Online Beta while running a Mac machine (they would only give me credit). So, I brought the thing home and happily plugged it in. Home gyms are expensive, and gaming is a pricey hobby. Two in one! How could I go wrong?

I will tell you that the board’s usage itself, along with Wii Sports game pack included, presented everything that I was looking for, and to this day I’ll rave about the Wii’s schtick. With the exception of the Yoga in the included game, which required me to hold one pose for far longer than my body can do comfortably—rather than giving me options to move from one to another (and I still can not find one that will do this)—the Sports pack was exactly what I needed to fit a little bit of motion into my day. There was a walking track that let me move in place. There was a step aerobics game, all kinds of fun balance games, and they were all in small enough bursts that I was not overwhelmed, or drained. Some other people with more motor function or motion control issues than I have might not be able to manage it, though.

First, though, the Wii wanted to do a fitness assessment. I had to stand on the board to be weighed, something I dreaded. I had to move around, to see if I could get this little dot in the center of the screen by shifting my weight. The game had to match my “physical age” or some such with the age I entered into the database and give me an arbitrary number that was supposed to equal how old my body was based on what shape it was in. I watched in horror as the little Mii I had created plopped out a big belly on the screen and reflected a cartoon-y version of me that I fear I’ll see when I look in the mirror—the version of me that will always be there because I have body dysmorphic issues from years of eating disorder recovery.

Then, every time I used the damned thing, it wanted me to “weigh in.” The game reminded me that it had been “X” number of days since I had used it, and even though you don’t have to set a target weight goal, there it was; the option to set myself up to fall off the edge of progress gained. I just didn’t need a creepy personal trainer fat-shaming me on top of losing my job, my declining mobility issues, and an increasing relapse into body hatred.

Eventually, I couldn’t use it. There were days I wanted to, but I would nearly have a panic attack at the thought of taking it out. I couldn’t use the Wii Sports anymore, and I haven’t used it again in a really long time.

What could have been a really positive experience for me, something the video game industry was trying to push, turned into a negative, fat-shaming, concern-trolling nightmare.

I love the idea of interactive entertainment that allows for movement. Like I’ve mentioned before, video games are working towards a place where they’re accessible to more people, but the exercise game industry has to get a better understanding of its audience. More importantly, they need to consider the ramifications of projecting shame onto people who want to exercise, but who are already finding barriers to accessing exercise for any number of reasons.

I’ve not had the opportunity to try out the Kinect or the PlayStation Move, so I have no idea if the exercise games in their bundles have similar deterrents, but I don’t think I’ll be able to use my Wii to get that benefit from it ever again.

Be sure to check out Tasha Fierce for more on size-positive living, and this recent post by Bitch intern Deb Jannerson about fat shaming on Swag Bucks.


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25 Comments Have Been Posted

Couldn't Agree More!

I understand and sympathize with your Wii situation. While I'm not an avid gamer, I liked the idea of an at-home gaming option that allowed for a bit of exercise in the privacy of my own home. But now I have conflicted feelings for Wii Fit. The games are cute, and for the most part helpful in small doses. But the "shaming" of calling the player out on lapses in using the system or that little cartoonish squeal of "That's obese" EVERY TIME I step on the scale is disheartening. Like you, I was hoping for more positive reinforcement.

(Though I can't help but wonder if the Jillian Micheal's Biggest Loser themed games aren't a complete horror and humiliation).

Best of luck with finding exercise and gaming you can enjoy!


The three games I have for Kinect (Kinectimals, Zumba, and the sports game that came with it) do NOT have those deterrents. I love my Kinect. I can play with it on days when my fibro is cooperative and can ignore my kitties when I'm not. :) Haven't gotten that good at Zumba yet, but the sports adventure thing is a lot of fun, too.

It's annoying, but

... you can skip all of those steps and go straight to the activities. You don't HAVE to get body-shamed by the machine.

I love this!

This is an excellent post and has come at a GREAT time for me! I too bought the wii fit plus with all kinds of happy hopes. My own quote to deflect all the negativity I would get from others has always been "Body by Nintendo! I may have a fat ass, but I can hand you yours in {insert game name here}", so the gaming system I love coming out with something like this had me all kinds of happy.

I think the only thing that gets under my skin more than the inflating me and the chirpy "your obese!" (I'm glad someone sounds happy about that.) is their system they put in place to make you give a reason that you gained weight. As the game will even tell you, your body weight fluctuates during the day as much as two pounds and throughout the week more than that! Especially as a woman who is still very much menstrual and prone to water retention during that super happy time, it is disheartning to only have options that include such things as "I ate too fast!" "I over indulged!" and such.

I have not hit the point where I have a complete aversion to this system; I can see that portion being a major factor to any sort of discontinuation of use. Maybe I did not indulge; perhaps I have gained muscle mass. Is this an option--certainly not. If you gain, your a fatty--there is no room for scientific involvement even if your pants fit better.


I use Wii Fit by EA. I didn't by the Wii balance board because I didn't want to be weighed by a video game.

Moderator alert

Hi everyone,

Just a heads up that I've deleted a few comments from this thread because things were getting a tad concern-trollish. This post is not about weight loss, nor is it about whether or not someone should go outside instead of using video games for exercise. It's about exercise games themselves, so please stick to the topic at hand. Thanks!

I understand your choice of

I understand your choice of moderating my last comment. However, I really think that the word "troll" is used carelessly. It's used as soon as a participant breaks the status quo or assumptions such as the inescapibility of capitalism. Do we really want debates to be so narrow ie to always stay within the framework of consumer capitalism?

It's pretty simple:

We are talking about the use of video games for home exercise as options for people who have difficulty accessing exercise for various other reasons. Many of those reasons were already spelled out in the OP. Debate all you want, but stay within the confines of the topic, and be respectful and mindful of the people on this thread with those limitations, myself (the post author) included. Deliberately derailing from that, or veering off of that to lecture about non-related issues, is trolling, especially given the environment of this blog.

A good clue is: If you are debating whether or not you are trolling, then chances are that you are.

We don't have a wii, but my

We don't have a wii, but my parents do. There's a reason my mom never uses wii fit though: she really doesn't need another outside voice telling her she's fat and unhealthy. Instead of encouraging people (whether or not they want or need that aside), it just drives them away.
I tried it a few times, but I can't really use the controls, or the balance board (and definitely not both). Though I was surprisingly good at skiing: apparently lots of weight and falling over forwards really works up your speed.

It is really too bad that

It is really too bad that when people make what they think are incentives based on common sense, that they don't think they need to consult the vast literature on health behavior that has documented over and over again that stigma and shaming have the opposite effect and discourage rather than encourage.

I'm disappointed to learn

I'm disappointed to learn that weight and weighing comes into the games at all. If the idea is to get people to exercise, you'd think they would make it as non-intimidating as possible, and stress the players' gains (stamina, for example) rather than their perceived flaws. I'd like to see an exercise-themed game that does not include weight. I also have some issues with body image/dysmorphia and would rather not have a cheerful little bot tell me that I'm not an ideal specimen.


This is such an incredibly informative -- if terribly frustrating and sad -- post! Thank you for giving so much back story and explanation about how this all fits together for you. There's so much here I would never have considered and you perfectly set it up so that it stands alone for folks who haven't been following the series, which I think makes it even more powerful.

My own note on how this would ruin my day: I purposefully have no idea what I weigh because I'm quite sure it would bother me. I haven't really known for probably six years now, maybe more. I step on the scales backwards at the doctor's office and insist they not tell me what it says because I try to focus on how I look and feel instead. This game would make me go completely berserk, and especially if I was into gaming and/or wanted to use this as a way to avoid the anxiety of the gym (yes please!!), I would just be so unbelievably upset. I'm trying to think of something similar -- like, what if the beloved DDR machine at the arcade made me weigh in first?! You stand on that too, after all, and that's just for fun. OMG. I'm sorry this ended up being so incredibly disappointing.

That's a good idea about the

That's a good idea about the doctor's office. Like you, I'd rather not fixate on the number. I haven't owned a scale since, like, ever. I think I'll try it out next time I'm at the doctor's. Thanks.

I don't have the Wii Fit, but

I don't have the Wii Fit, but have a few fitness-related games for my Wii. For Christmas, I got "Walk it Out," which is a game where you walk in place at various speeds. It's cute and reasonably enjoyable, but the trainer is big on guilt trips. I have plantar fasciitis, which has really limited the amount of walking and standing I can do. Unfortunately, the game doesn't get that, and if I've missed several days, the trainer exclaims, "Tsk tsk! It's been AGES since your last walk!" Even if I hadn't played the game for a few days because I was doing something else like Just Dance, her accusations of laziness are frustrating. I really don't need *another* voice in my head telling me how much I suck :(

No need for the Wii to yell

No need for the Wii to yell at you. Just blare some Girltalk REALLY LOUD on your Ipod and run. Run for 5 minutes, or even 2 minutes. Some exercise is better then no exercise.


If your body is equipped to handle it. Which, as I've outlined in this post, many are not.

Kinect Awesomeness..

I agree with a PP, the Kinect is awesome, blows the Wii out of the water, and Dance Central (my personal fave) allows me to shake my rather sizable booty to Gaga and imagine I'm a contestant on one of those dancing shows. That being said, Dance Central is probably only usable for people who have full range of motion, or you'll get lots of little red error glowies on your various body parts, which I imagine would be stressful.

Kinect Sports is also better than Wii, in that none of the problems you had with the board exist with it. Also, due to the different types of games, which focus on different body movements, I think it would be usable for many people with various bodies/levels of ability.

Also want to say I'm a little blown away by people not "getting" different levels of ability...I would go out for a run if it wouldn't make my knees explode/ have the people down the road yelling rude things at me- thanks, but I'll stick to my Kinect!

Once More, With Feeling...

I just deleted another comment, on a post in a series about video games and gaming, about how we should just ditch games... seriously, folks. Not the forum for that discussion. We are on this thread under the assumption that you are at least marginally interested in gaming and video games, or you don't need to read this particular post and series.

Also, the line of "stop blaming outside causes for how you feel about yourself and what you see in the mirror" thought... just needs to stop here. There is a huge minefield of material related to why a person might want to discuss, on a feminist/social justice blog, why certain mediums of pop culture intersect with various oppressions of existence and result in harmful circumstances for people. Insisting that we all just "buck up, campers", insert more positive thinking, just do X activity more, or whatever else at the insistence that this is all somehow a waste of our time is ableist, boring, and also unwelcomed.

The dancing game on kinect is

The dancing game on kinect is a lot of fun! It has different levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and gets you moving even if your coordination isn't so hot. I love it. Poker face is by far my favorite to boogey down to :)

Thanks for sharing this

I've debated the Wii FIt for a while now. My mother in law has a Wii and seems to enjoy the tennis, bowling, and similar sports games. She's also 80 years old and has a pretty strong self image. If she has the FIT, the commentary just bounced of her -- or is absorbed, because she sometimes says the same kinds of things to me.

Video game makers have a long history of targeting a narrow perceived audience (straight white dudes, anyone?) and are only now, after a lot of screaming, yelling, and kicking, getting the idea that there are more people in the world to whom they could sell a product if they'd just take off the bias blinders.

I know the last thing I need is someone to yell "You're Obese!" at me, especially an animated avatar. First, what is forming that definition? Second, you think maybe I don't know my health and body issues? Third, you think adding pain and humiliation to my exercise experience is somehow going to make me WANT to exercise more? Sure! Just like beatings make morale improve.

I feel a lot of sympathy and a fair bit of anger over this. My first instinct is to be defiant of the damn game, to find a way to thwart the stupid "weigh in" (there has to be a bypass somewhere, a hack, an option). And, of course, sitting here with my bad knees, my crumbling hips and crunchy lower spine, all covered by the 70 pounds I want to lose so much that I find myself diving into ice cream to sugar/carb numb my brain for the pain, I understand the retreat and fear (your issues are not mine and mine are not yours, but I get a hint).

So I'm angry that a chance, a possibility, to exercise without being reminded how BAD I am, how AWFUL I am, how much I INFLICT myself on the world by my very existence, is thwarted before I even begin because of something like this. I'm PISSED OFF about it.

Has any action been taken to inform Wii of this problem? Letters? Complains to the website? Something? I'd be there.

Sent to Nintendo

I forwarded this article to Nintendo and I know it was received, though it is hard to tell from the canned response whether they actually read it or not. Worth a try, I guess.

You don't have to weigh

You don't have to weigh yourself to use Wii Fit. You can skip that part altogether. My kids use it, and the weighing thing isn't meant for them so it throws up weird things. We just skip it. I haven't weighed myself on it in over a year.

Even better than Wii Fit is Wii Fit Plus, which has more activities and ways to combine them however you want.

My husband's really into Just Dance 2. You can do just one or two songs if it's too much to do more. He rocks it. :)

Fortunately for me...

I skipped right by Wiifit and went on to Michael Jackon's The Experience. Probably not as focused at the Wiifit but when I can't make it to the gym, I can easily pass an hour dancing around in my living room.

Nothing quite like pretending to be a zombie to get the blood flowing...

There are always other options!


I have a Wii and I LOVE it. However, I don't have Wii Fit, primarily because I absolutely abhor the idea of "weighing in" (though I'd really love the yoga help, so I may break down and deal with it).

We have a couple games that give me a workout that I really LOVE that I could pass on as a suggestion. We got Wii Sports and Wii Resort with our console, and we didn't even bother to buy new games for five months. There's the option to play the games without judgment from the console, but in Wii Sports, you can also let it determine your "fitness age," which isn't based upon weight at all, but on your reflexes and speed rather than on weight, which is a lot gentler, and more likely for you to see improvement with regular use. However, you don't HAVE to use the Fitness Test function at all if you don't want to.

Wii Resort is even more laid back, and I adore the games available there, but they're still definitely good at helping you break a sweat. I'm particularly fond of the sword fighting. There's a game in the sword fighting section that will pretty much constantly keep you challenged, where you have to fight off a whole bunch of people at once, with each level getting progressively harder. You get so pissed off when one of the little pissants knocks you down that you HAVE to go back and beat 'em. GREAT motivation without the pressure.

For Hubby's birthday, I got him the Star Wars Lightsaber Duel, which is also proving to be a great way to burn a little fat and get up and get moving. It'll prove to be yet another fun opportunity to motivate us to get up and move a bit.

I went to the doctor in January and found out I'd lost 20 lbs. from the time I got the Wii, and I don't use it every day. I think there are definitely great options out there for losing weight with the Wii, and you don't necessarily have to go with the "Wii Fit" option, which is definitely a bit discouraging overall.

Hope that helps a bit! I'm sure others have recommended those games, too, but I wanted to make sure you got the opportunity to hear about some other options. I love the Wii, because it really does offer such a great economical chance for exercise and having fun at the same time. Hopefully you don't get too discouraged by your experience--keep at it and keep your head up! There are always other options out there!

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