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Dec 10, 2009



Kill Ten Ratatouilles


Okay now hear me out. I'm thinking about a fitness video game.
It will have a number of fitness actvities and options to promote excercise and healthy eating through demonstrating to people how unstable and un fit their bodies are. This could be through balance games, yoga and muscle workouts and aerobics games.

The key feature would be a calorie burning counter, with the ability for users to create custom fitness regimens or choose from a number of specialized routines based on specific objectives and available time. Like trying to burn off the calories from a Lasagne or maybe just a snack like a grapefruit.

The game should allow peer and family groups to practise the games (secretely excercise activties) together and share their data with friends online. This is key because many tweens don't (maybe shouldn't) actually dictate the kinds of foods they eat so an awareness in adults as well as tweens would be most productive.

It's a good start anyway. Perhaps there should be some kind of balance scales peripheral? But then of course you run the risk of hundreds of companies using the balance scales to sell rip off generic fitness oriented games.


Hey thanks for the great post - I loved reading it! I always love this blog.

Hannah Montanah Games


Great article.


OK, let me start off by saying I don't intend to tramp on the good intentions of this venture here. I can get behind a healthy design challenge.

But things like this always make me wonder. We all know that games are powerful learning tools. However, I feel that one of the major reasons why they are so powerful is that they only teach what the audience wants to learn, and sometimes not even that. Good games also attempt to cut out anything that may hamper the player's enjoyment, simplicity is key.

It seems that many policy makers fail to grasp these concepts. They simply look at the number of gamers out there, they look at how attracted to games people are, then decide to contort a game around some kind of "good for you" idea, all the while not understanding that this is exactly the same as some PSA.

Look at any other media out there: literature, film, fine art. The vast majority of the most popular work is simply "entertaining" and nothing more. The only people that educational media reaches are those that want the education; professionals, students, and dabblers.

And so, I highly doubt that anyone (aside from nutritionists, over protective soccer moms, and now those embarking on this epic educational game design quest) has even approached the new "Dietary Guidelines for Americans". Yet, we're going to make a magical game that will teach this to tweens!

The fact is the entire population needs to understand how to eat better, not just tweens, and games aren't going to solve nutrition problems. If the government was really trying to save us all from obesity, they should stop subsidizing specific foods (cash crops -> cheap processed junk -> fatness).

I work in educational media, so I'm not saying that this type of thing doesn't have value. Educational games are valuable. However you cannot point to something like this and say that the government is "helping" when they are avoiding the real problems with the food industry.

Sorry I guess this touched a nerve.


No question a great game could win this contest and change a lot of things, but it would be numbed by social norms and couldn't reach a full potential. The great paradox is this. We have the technology to show kids exactly how their bodies will turn out if they eat certain things and avoid physical exertion, stretching, exercise and the like. We can show them what will happen if they utilize certain habits such as staying fit and avoiding toxins all their lives.

The basic premise of the up-keep of the human body is that if you don't move it, you lose it. Your body will succumb to atrophy if you don't use it just as your mind will if you spend countless hours on youtube or watching terrible TV.

A game that would actually help the young generation realize these things would be deemed inappropriate, harsh, and negative, simply because it would be portraying a realistic picture of the situation; teaching kids how it actually is. A game that told the whole truth would almost inevitably be deemed sexual in nature; and encouraging of body-dysmorphia. It would show pictures of physically desirable human subjects as ideals, and give no forgiveness or censorship about the kind of human you become if you entirely avoid the suggestions.

This is just one side of an idea; someone prove me wrong or right!


@MC: I would have said something quite different, but along the same lines: that it would be fairly easy (provided developers' consciences were sufficiently raised) to design a game that does _not_ promote self-hatred and the worship of a narrow band of mesomorph/fashion-model/superstar-athlete characteristics, but instead actively promotes notions of healthy diversity in human appearance and potentials.

The _trick_ would be creating a game that wasn't rabidly anticorporate. The major reason Americans are fat and sick is because their institutions are tuned to make them eat the wrong stuff while remaining physically inert and gaining emotional payoffs from activity- (e.g., TV-watching) and substance-abuse. And because the government is more or less consciously complicit in all of this, they _have_ to hand the job of subversion off to deniable outsiders like us.

I am keenly moved to step up, myself. Can you imagine how subversive this game could be, with an entire phalanx of kids 11-17 (aided by their moms and dads) using library computers in school and mobile handsets to do stuff like crowdsource a complete database of corruption entailed in deciding which consumables are allowable for purchase with Food Stamps, or enumerating all the addictive memes in a potato-chip ad?

As far as play mechanics go, you could make it really cool and complicated, but it might be just as efficient to simply post a question like: "Kids! Jot down ten ways that the institutions around you -- school, municipal, commercial -- are making you and your family and friends poor, fat and sick -- and ten ideas for saving your own lives! Through 2011, we're giving away $1 million a month in grants to individuals with the best ideas."

I mean -- it ain't Warcraft, okay? But the end result could be a far more satisfying brand of PvP.


Agree that more exercise games are key... kind of a digital equivalent of the Chinese communist-era exercise stations that still litter the cities. For instance.


After playing the Sims for a while, I started thinking in terms of bars that had to be filled (as in, "Oh, I guess it's time to increase the hygiene level"). Maybe something similar could be done for calories - If it's too low, enter the grim reaper. Also, the Sims taught me that making food will inevitably set off a fire in the kitchen, so better wait until hunger metre is low (wait, that's not healthy either, I guess)

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