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Behind the scenes of a Wii exergaming event

Ready to roll to play Wii
Ready to roll to play Wii
RECasarez

It is quite delightful when a Wii Exergaming Expert (WEE) receives a request to provide services for a play day/de-stress day for employees. In this instance, a large private corporation (though its name had Federal in it) was hosting their annual De-stress Recess Day. For three hours, the employees were released from the regular grind and allowed to exergame, golf, watch movies, get massages, play board games and munch on snacks during regular working hours.

The details were sketchy: place was high-tech and could provide any Wii support needed; expected attendance approximately 200+ employees; other services/activities would be offered in the same room; and there was room enough to set up a Wii interaction station.

Mission
Because this facility maintains high-security at all times, it is easy to see why the employees could use a break just to exhale. The WEE mission: to deliver a fun-filled, hilarious, playful, and entertaining experience to all who participated or just watched. Wii can do that.

For a Wii Exergaming Expert, this is kind of scenario provides an amazing opportunity to experiment with new Wii players while spending a whole day playing Wii with others and calling it work.

Strategy
What exergames would be most successful for this event? A WEE has a unique repertoire of exergames (approximately 10) in which she has studied, played and developed a high skill level. Ingenuity, resourcefulness, creativity, ability to improvise and a variety of exergaming skills are also required of a WEE.

Selected games:

  • DanceDanceRevolution Hottest Party 3 (HP 3)
  • Wii Sports Resort
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party (RRR)
  • Wii Music
  • Big Brain Academy

These games require varying skills; therefore, different games would attract different types of players. The strategy is to provide a Wii exergaming experience that would attract the most participants. For dancers, HP 3 and RRR Shake Your Booty would provide plenty of movement; for sports fans, Wii Sports Resort’s Shooting Hoops is an easy-to-play mini-game; for the music lovers, Wii Music would provide a stage to demonstrate their musicality and for the intellectuals, Big Brain Academy would show the world just how smart they are.

Packing
Packing was done the day of. If there is only one WEE to handle equipment, and you want things to roll smoothly, it’s essential to pack the equipment in something you can easily handle. In this case, two suitcases on wheels were required. The largest items to pack were the four DDR mats.

Less is more; be prepared
Packing was quite a balancing act and needed careful thought and planning. The boombox, though not necessary, was brought along in case a better sound system was need. DDR HP 3 definitely benefits from quality, clarity and loudness of sound. From experience, when the Wii is connected to the TV, the volume level may be reduced, and music parts not clearly transmitted which impacts play adversely. Therefore, the trusty boombox, though battered, was included in the items.

Before departing, a hearty meal was enjoyed and pictures taken. Always go to work on a full stomach. You never know when you’ll get a chance to eat again. These types of events can be hectic.

Set-up (2 hours of set-up time, provided you arrived on time)
This WEE arrived with plenty of time for set-up and after passing through security for the second time, was escorted to the massage room. What?!? Yes, the WEE had been mistaken for a massage therapist.
Finally escorted to the correct spot, and with techs on hand to assist, the Wii Exergaming station was ready. Four mats were connected and arrayed in front of the large-screen TV, standing eye-level on a rolling cart. Good. The larger the screen the better, provided there is enough room for everyone to see the screen comfortably and clearly. Don’t you hate sitting in the front row of the movie theater craning your neck to see the whole screen? After all was said and done, probably 10 could stand back far enough to see the screen easily as they played. Next, time to get some bodies to play DDR Hottest Party 3.

DanceDanceRevolution Hottest Party 3
Equipment: Wii, game, dance mats, controller, sticky socks, wipes, boombox

The mats were aligned three in front and one back, off to the side. The ladies manning the smoothie table were delighted to try DDR. It was their first time ever seeing the game and playing on a Wii. Both ladies took their stand on the mat. Starting on the easiest of the four levels (Beginner, Basic, Intermediate, Expert) they started to dance. Watching from the back, it was easy to see one was catching on faster than the other, but both were having a good time.

As a WEE you must make the decision whether it is necessary for you to monitor and play, or monitor and coach the players. In this scenario, a combination of both tactics worked well. As a WEE observer, it’s important to note what works and why, what doesn’t work and why, and what could be improved upon.

After watching numerous DDR players over the years, the tap-out phenomenon appears to be ubiquitous and intuitive. This event confirmed it. Even though warned about ‘tapping-out’, every player struggled to simply step from one arrow to the next. Most would plant their feet in the middle of the mat, stomp on indicated arrow, then return said foot to middle, i.e. ‘tapping-out’. Another behavior was the need to ‘match the arrows with the eyes’, though players were repeatedly admonished to listen to the beat and pay attention to the arrows as they scrolled from the bottom, to cue the next moves to the beat.

Note: Virtual Fitness Wii FAB (For Absolute Beginners) (VFF) techniques were applied to this game. The ‘gaming’ aspects were disabled wherever possible, which allows the player to actually focus on moving to the beat. Played this way, the video game wants you to step on the arrows on the beat. It’s an entirely different experience from the way DDR is played elsewhere.

Probably around 20 people tried the game. The employees were dressed for a work day but still managed to kick off their heels and loafers and jump on the mats barefoot or with socks on. Guys and gals alike tried and most were bored on the easiest level and begged for faster and more complicated songs. Amazingly, within the hour the game was on, many were on the mats attempting the expert level. Not all of it was pretty or performed with proper VFF techniques, but the point was, they got it. With more practice, there could be some great DDR exergamers there.

Wii Sports Resort: shooting hoops
Wii Sports Resorts was next on the list to play. It was time to lighten things up and still keep the attention of both the men and women. Basketball on the Wii can be played by anyone, especially shooting 3-pointers from various angles around the basket. This mini-game gave each player one minute to shoot 30 balls. Ready, set, go! It was a hoot watching men and women compete. This game supports four players, consecutively taking turns. What fun watching the young woman in heels beating the guys!

Note: One challenge to using this game is if the person happens to be left-handed and all four controllers are set for right-handers. You will have to stop and reset the game and choose a left-handed player, when necessary.

Players were asked to secure their wrist straps and choose a Mii from the guest menu. This was interesting in itself. Sometimes a guy would only have a female Mii to choose from, or a woman would have to choose a Mii of a different color. Fortunately, everyone was mature enough to just roll with whatever and keep the focus on the game.

About 99% were able to sink baskets their first turn. Some struggled with arching the ball and releasing the B button simultaneously, but eventually started to sink the baskets. This is a game that was quite successful in getting even the most resistant employees to play. They just couldn't say no, even though they tried, initially. Also, this game drew a crowd as it was quite entertaining to watch.

Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party
This was the last game presented in the time provided and before the people started to fade away. Towards the end of the event, fewer and fewer employees were coming into this activity room. What better way to increase the energy than Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party. This video game contains one mini game that qualifies as an exergame. That mini game is Shake Your Booty. Easy to learn and fun to play, and totally wacky, Shake Your Booty leads participants through dance moves to Rabbid’s unique music styling of familiar tunes.

What’s great about this mini-game is that more than four can play, though only four can directly interact with the game. Always a challenge, though, to get people to pretend they are playing it, but this is the best way to be good at the game when you do get the controllers in hand.

Some brave souls did step up to the plate and tried their hands at the game and to their surprise, raised their heart rates. Most people were surprised at the level of exertion they felt just after a few minutes of playing many of the Wii games.

To hear a first hand account of this event, be sure to listen to Virtual Fitness Wii FAB on BlogTalk Radio.