Just the other day, I tuned into my favorite radio station on my daily 1hr commute to work and heard this parent calling into say that according to Wii Fit, her 9yr old daughter was fat. Of course, next thing you know, there’s a flood of listeners calling in, to express their outrage.
My colleague walked into the office yesterday with a similar story, ‘You are not going to believe this but Wii Fit says my 4yr old is obese’. I was horrified, what kind of monster would say that to a child and this was just a machine.
I have blogged about Wii’s mainstream marketing woes in the past and how it’s trying to appeal to every demographic on the planet, a strategy which seems to have served it well as it outsells Xbox game consoles in the US and Wii Fit is one of June’s top-selling games.
However, it is obvious that by targeting everyone, Nintendo might be confusing its user base. Unlike other Wii games, Wii Fit as the name indicates has a fitness component to it. Here’s how Nintendo describes it,
Wii Fit is a combination of fitness and fun, designed for everyone, young and old. By playing Wii Fit a little every day, you, your friends, and your family can work towards personal goals of better health and fitness.
The problem with Wii Fit is that it uses BMI (Body Mass Index) as a way to assess one’s fitness level and there’s a cute little disclaimer at the bottom,
The BMI assessment in Wii Fit is designed for adults, not for players between ages 2 and 19.
Based on their marketing and advertisement, there’s no doubt Nintendo is pitching Wii Fit to all age groups so it can’t hide behind the fine print. Moreover, BMI is a very flawed indicator of one’s fitness even for adults because it’s based on one’s height and weight. It’s very misleading because weight is not a very accurate predictor of one’s fitness, because someone with higher muscle mass could easily outweigh someone who is of the same height but has more fat, because fat weighs less than muscle. Using that kind of flawed system, no wonder cherubic little girls are inaccurately proclaimed to be ‘fat’.
One one hand, one can say it’s the parents who are responsible because why on earth are they using a gaming system to determine their child’s fitness? But then again, isn’t the customer always right? I don’t think it’s in Nintendo’s best interest to have their product associated with creating self-esteem issues in little girls.