In a vain attempt to make this thing seem like a practical purchase instead of just a way to bowl virtually with Weebles (pardon me, Wii-bles) that look vaguely like us, we also bought EA Sports Active: More Workouts to turn our Wii into a cross between Dance, Dance Revolution and the world's weirdest (and loneliest) aerobics class. However, before I could even step up to the challenge of jumping in one place in my living room with a Wile E. Coyote ACME rubber band, I had to create the Tron-jock version of me. Hairstyle, hair color, skin tone, weight, outfit type, outfit color, shoe color, accessories, glasses... okay, I'm exhausted. Workout one done! Time for a snack.
The next day, I fired up the machine, took a look at the pixellated me, looked down at the flabellated me, and realized that rather than design some wild who-I-want-to-be in the game world, I'd generated a pudgy guy with no hair wearing black shorts, a gray t-shirt, and biker sunglasses... in other words, an exact match for boring old reality. I grappled with the ramifications for a while... am I already my idealized self? Or have my dreams been so dulled that I can no longer imagine myself as more than what I already am? What does "identity" mean in our interconnected virtual world, anyway? All that grappling wore me out, so I counted it as workout two and took a nap.
Of course, Day 3 didn't mean I was ready to work out just yet. I still hadn't selected the virtual trainer who would guide me through my daily routines. The game offered two options: Studly McAbs, the drill sergeant with a heart of gold; and Buffy the Endomorph Slayer, the perky pixellated dominatrix. (Note to Electronic Arts: You didn't name the trainers, but the names I used are for sale -- call me.) One attempted workout with Studly barking orders was enough to induce junior high wrestling flashbacks, so I quickly submitted to the cruel-yet-dulcet-toned whims of Buffy instead. I started to ponder the Freudian implications of that choice (so you'd rather be yelled at by a woman? how does that make you feel?), but then I realized that pondering was a lot like grappling (something I'd done plenty of the day before) so I really needed to cross-train a different muscle group.
Finally, having chosen my identity and the identity of my tormentor, I was ready to work out. Each exercise was introduced in a short video featuring the non-pixellated, real-person pile of perk that Carla and I have come to know as Smiley. Where normal humans grimace during a workout, Smiley flashes an orthodontist's-boat-payment worth of gleaming teeth. It's disturbing. Nobody should enjoy exercise that much. But she has served as a great incentive to learn all the exercises so I can skip the videos.
Once I escaped Smiley, I figured I was in a no-perk zone. Not so fast, pal. Turns out, Buffy has a virtual encyclopedia of canned motivational phrases and she's not afraid to use them. For instance:
- "This is what good looks like!" Huh? You mean what you're doing, as in, "Hey, dummy, what you're doing is bad. Here's good." Or are you somehow complimenting me? And how can you see me, anyway? Maybe I'm just lying on the couch waving the controller around to psych you out. Or did you already know that? Spooky...
- "Oh yeah!" C'mon, are you the Kool-Aid Man? What's that all about?
- "You don't seem to be making progress." Just what I needed: A passive-aggressive virtual trainer politely calling me a clumsy lout.
- "You're on the way to reaching your goals." This has to be the least motivational thing I've ever heard. What am I, some kind of fat, step-aerobics Sisyphus? Just tell me when I actually reach my goal so I can stop and eat a cheeseburger.
Now where did I put that bowling game again?