When they think of video games, many parents will picture their kids slouching on sofas in front of the TV. However a new generation of games encourages children (and adults) to get active. We look at what’s available.
Nintendo’s Wii, with its motion sensitive controllers, changed console gaming forever, and Wii Sports was the first home game to really get players out of their seats and moving around. The Wii U launched in 2012, with improved graphics and a touchscreen controller, although if you’re not a serious gamer the original console can still be bought cheaply second hand.
Wii Sports Club lets you take part in tennis, baseball, bowling, and boxing from the comfort of your living room. It’s energetic and fun, but for most fitness games you’ll need a Balance Board. This is an accessory which looks like a bathroom scale, but is actually a motion sensor. It can be bought separately, or in a bundle with Wii Fit U, which offers yoga, strength training, balance and dance activities. Kids though might prefer the Just Dance series, or Zumba Fitness World Party. Zumba also offer a game aimed specifically at 7-12 year olds, Zumba Kids.
Wii U consoles retail at RMB 2000-2500, depending on the bundle, and Wiis can be bought for around RMB 1000. Games cost RMB 300-500, although Wii Fit U with Balance Board is more expensive at RMB 600-1000.
A wide range of USB dance mats is available for PC. These will also work on some Apple machines, but to be sure, you are advised to buy one which specifically states that it’s Mac-compatible – these may be slightly more expensive. Dance mats allow you to play “rhythm action” games, where you need to put your feet on specific pads in time to music. Rhythm action games have fallen out of favor with big developers, who are now focusing on the more sophisticated motion capture controllers used by consoles. However there are lots of cheap or free, independently-produced games available on the internet, which can offer a low-cost, low-tech solution to getting your kids moving indoors.
Dance mats typically cost RMB 50-300.
Microsoft Xbox One
The Xbox One has no equivalent to the Balance Board. Instead fitness games use a motion detecting camera called Kinect. This is built-in to some consoles, but can also be bought as a separate accessory for around RMB 750. If you’re buying an Xbox One with exercise in mind, be sure to check whether it has Kinect, and expect to pay less if it doesn’t.
Xbox Fitness is like an interactive workout DVD, which tracks your movements, shows which muscle groups you’re using and can even estimate your pulse rate. It’s an online service rather than a game, so you buy individual videos, choosing your preferred trainer and style. However it’s very much aimed at adults. Shape Up enlivens its routines with fun challenges, such as punching asteroids or squatting to the moon, and is recommended for children aged 10 and over.
Just Dance and the Zumba games are also available for Xbox One, as is Dance Central Spotlight, which includes workout routines.
Xbox One consoles cost RMB 4000-8000, depending on specification and bundle.
Sony Playstation 4
The specifications for the PS4 were drawn up by a focus group of hardcore gamers, and it shows. The console has little to offer in terms of active, child-friendly games. Although there is a Kinect-like camera called, imaginatively, Camera, only the ubiquitous Just Dance series uses it at present.
This article originally appeared on page 28-29 of the beijingkids March 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Wikimedia Commons, Scott and Elaine Van Der Chijs, Sergei Galyonkin (Flickr)