Britain’s National Health (kind of) Supports Wii Fit Plus

According to the Telegraph, Wii Fit Plus, which launches in Britain on October 30th, will arrive at stores carrying the Change4Life logo.

You may remember that earlier this year the Change4Life campaign released a PSA which depicted video games among the factors contributing to childhood obesity. To be fair, the ads, which were created by the great animation team behind Wallace and Gromit, didn’t single out video games. Rather they included games among a number of modern conveniences that make it easy for us to live a more sedentary lifestyle.

The campaign also included a more inflammatory print ad. The message of the advertisement is that a sedentary lifestyle leads to obesity, and obesity is associated with health problems that shorten your lifespan. However some in the game industry felt that the message was that playing video games leads directly to early death, and that games are being needlessly demonized.

While I understand that watching TV, reading a book, or going to the movies are all just as sedentary as playing games, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a single page ad or a 90-second spot to tick every box just so no one activity feels singled out. Video games are being used as short hand for inactivity because it’s the most relatable for today’s parents and kids. If childhood obesity had been recognized as a problem 20 years ago, the boogeyman would have been plopping kids down in front of cartoons.

Change4Life caught some flak for targeting games in the initial campaign, and has since come around to supporting active video games as part of combating childhood obesity. A more recent TV ad included a Dance Dance Revolution type game as one way to get 60 minutes of activity a day.

Now with the launch of Wii Fit Plus, Change4Life has offered its most overt support for active video games yet.

A spokesman for the British department of health denied it was endorsing a video game, but said rather it was promoting exercise. “Active video games, where kids need to jump up and down or dance about as part of the game, are a great way to get kids moving,”

While not coming out and endorsing Wii Fit Plus as a product, the embrace of active gaming as part of a healthy lifestyle is a welcome change in attitude for the organization that shows they are not trying to paint games as a villain with a single broad stroke, but rather trying to promote awareness of healthier choices.

Interestingly, Nintendo is paying to promote the Change4Life, which could be construed as a conflict of interest for the program. This may explain why Change4Life is reluctant to endorse Nintendo or Wii Fit Plus, and are instead focusing on promoting activity and exercise in a more general sense.