Keep your inner foul-mouthed Mexican teenager sequestered here. You’ll have to take a few deep breaths to maneuver your way past the sensationalist tone and outright dishonest claims about the nature of Wii Fit to find the few decent criticisms at the core of this Daily Mail article. You’re probably going to want to throw a stick of butter and shout “WHY SO SAD, FATTIES?” at the obesity experts in the UK criticizing Wii Fit for daring to call their overweight children overweight. But it seems to me that there’s something to their complaining.
Summary: leading obesity experts in the UK are upset that Wii Fit uses BMI to pigeonhole children as being underweight, ideal or overweight. They are calling for the sale of Wii Fit to be banned for children. Wii Fit heavily uses the BMI measurement system, which isn’t terrible as a very vague rule of thumb but, as an actual scientific system of determining health or attractiveness, is utterly worthless. More over, one of the Daily Mail’s examples is that a 10 year old girl who weighed 84 pounds at 4 foot 9 was classified as “overweight.” If true, that’s either a serious bug or a loathsomely narrow definition on Nintendo’s part of what constitutes fitness. However, that seems to be the sole data point in the evidence of the critique… hardly the sort of thing people who aren’t already desperate to be offended would get up in arms about. It could simply be a broken Wii Fit board.
Like I said, the tone of the piece is both indignant and dishonest: they claim that children are being told they are “fat” in Wii Fit, even though the actual terminology is the far more neutral “overweight.” Perhaps that’s a semantic niggle, but it’s the difference between telling a kid they need to do a bit more exercise and calling them an Orca and warning people not to get within splash zone for fear of mucus membrane infection. On the other hand, should a program marketed to kids be calling them overweight? Only doctors and parents should be telling that to a kid. A far better approach would simply be to encourage kids to become more active, not merely to get their BMI within a target zone. Wii Fit could have kept its own damn criticisms to itself and still helped a kid get in better shape.
I don’t have Wii Fit, gleaning all my information about how it works from reviews online, so perhaps this is all being wildly blown out of proportion. If you own Wii Fit, what do you think? Is this much ado about nothing, or was there a better way for Nintendo to handle this? Perhaps a more sensitive and less judgmental Wii Fit children’s mode?