In one of the comments for Bill’s last Time Wasters column, punningpundit said he’d be interested in an article about whether or not my daily gaming sessions while exercising affects the games I play. Well, actually he thought Todd was the one who worked out and before I could swoop in and make fun of Todd, Todd swooped in and did it for me. Curse you Brakke.
Fast forward to Wednesday and I have nothing to write about as the only game I’m playing is LA Noire and I feel that we’ve given that game all the attention it warrants. Plus, I don’t think anyone wants a piece about how bad I am at Neuroshima Hex. For the record, I’m very, very bad. I’m also terrible at Zombie Dice, or maybe it’s just that my wife is so much better at it. Truly I am a horrible board game player, but that’s for another time. Today, let’s talk about exercise…
When we moved to Atlanta I didn’t need to lose weight having lost 20 lbs in Virginia in a response to high cholesterol and a desire for my first tattoo. I made a deal with myself and my wife that if I lost the weight, I could get a tattoo. I kept up my end of the bargain and thus, my first step down the road to multiple tattoos was complete. Once we got to Atlanta though, Linda and I discovered the joy that was the Costco caramel apple pie. These things were absolutely amazing and we’d easily eat one every other week, sometimes every week. Yes, that’s two people eating a pie in a week’s time. I don’t care how many recipes you make from Cooking Light, if you eat half of a pie a week, you’re going to gain some weight.
In all honesty though, it wasn’t just the pies. In Virginia, we lived in a neighborhood that was easily 500 houses and filled with sidewalks and trails. Here, our neighborhood is 52 houses and no sidewalks. In Virginia we took the dogs and our son for a walk every night. Here our dogs seemed to have gotten old overnight and no longer wanted to walk. My son still did, but once we adopted my daughter no one wanted to walk as she would spend the entire walk screaming in her stroller. I am not kidding when I say this. So, the lack of walking combined with the pies led to me gaining all of the weight back, and then some.
I started working out at work as we have a gym right down the hall but I found that if you don’t want to exercise, you’re not going to and I didn’t want to exercise. Oh sure, there was a TV in the workout room, but the security guard would frequently come in before I started working out and watch Flavor of Love and other such bullshit. Sometimes I’d watch bowling, or Food Network (bad idea) and sometimes I’d read a book or watch tv shows on my PSP, but at the end of the day it was incredibly boring and day after day I’d come up with another excuse not to work out. Unlike Danielle, I hate working out, and without something to do to take my mind off of the fact that I was exercising, I was bored.
Then Wii Fit came out. Perfect, I thought. I could spend 30 minutes of my hour gaming session working out and then switch over to something else for the other 30 minutes. Plus, with the balance board also acting as a scale along with Wii Fit’s tracking features, I could keep track of my weight loss and stay motivated. For a while it worked, but I quickly learned that Wii Fit is great for people who are completely new to exercise, but if you want a sustained, elevated heart rate, Wii Fit is not for you. Plus, with the remaining 30 minutes of my game playing time, you can’t get a lot done, and depending on how the save points are spread out, you may not be able to get anything done at all.
So, with this in mind, I bought an exercise bike. I have a 92 inch screen and a projector in my basement and while an exercise bike didn’t exactly add to the decor, putting it in the basement got it out of the way and meant I could watch movies while I biked. I bought a recumbent bike, specifically so I could sit and hold a controller in my hand and not feel like I was going to fall over and break my neck. My original plan was to catch up on all of my movies and tv shows on DVD, playing games only occasionally.
It was a good plan, but the problem is that I was working out for only 40 minutes a day, I have since bumped it up to 45, and at that rate, a two hour movie takes three days. Nothing destroys one’s ability to stay interested in a movie more than having it split up into three parts. I’m fine with having a movie split up into two days, so I watch a lot of animated stuff while I work out, but by the third day, I could care less about whatever I’m watching. Except for Ninja Assassin. That movie kicked ass.
So now I game pretty much exclusively and I couldn’t be happier. Seriously. I look forward to working out because it means more time playing games. In fact, if it’s a work day, even if I’m not working out, I still get up and work out. Yes, I realize how dumb that sounds given that it means getting up at 4:30 instead of sleeping in, but I am a man of routine and working out is part of that routine. Obviously for long vacations like Christmas break I don’t, but I’d rather lose sleep than gaming time for the occasional day off. Plus, I know me and the minute I give myself permission to miss a workout here and there, it’s all over.
As for whether or not exercising while gaming affects what I play, sure it does. Anything that requires a great deal of concentration is bad as I’ll slow down while playing. So racing games are out as I’m a terrible driver and I need to focus on driving effectively. You’d think the speed would cause me to ramp up my biking, but not so. Ditto for shooters that require a lot of precision aiming. I made a concession for Bulletstorm, which I thought wouldn’t work as I was playing on Very Hard but the addition of the leash and the ability to kill without shooting made up for any concentration needed to shoot dudes.
Similarly, any games with a lot of platforming elements cause problems as I tend to slow down when I try and make a jump. It doesn’t help that I am terrible at platformers, as Danielle can attest to from our E3 Nintendo experience. So what does work? Well, really, anything else. Action games like God of War or Darksiders, 3rd person shooters with good lock on aim assist, open world games, puzzle games, RPG’s. I’ve played all of ‘em and had a great time.
Unfortunately, being an achievement whore, the exercise bike does introduce a special challenge in that a laptop is not available to look things up. For this though, preparation is key. If I’m playing a game that has a lot of collectibles, I’ll print out a list ahead of time and put the list in the bike’s magazine rack. I try to do my research ahead of time so that I don’t get stuck, as nothing is more frustrating than playing for 45 minutes and getting nowhere because I got stuck on something with no way to look up answers. In fact, just this morning I spent almost my entire workout trailing Candy Edwards in LA Noire. It sucked.
Usually I can tell from the achievements if a game is something I can play on the bike, or if the achievements require too much research or videos for completion. The iPad has been a huge help in this regard as it’s thin enough to be held in the magazine rack and easy enough to be used while I’m playing. I try not to use it if I can avoid it, as it’s way too expensive to have break simply because I couldn’t wait to find a bottle in Sly Cooper 2. The problems is though, if I get stuck, or realize that playing is going to screw something up due to my lack of preparation, I don’t have many other options. Starting a movie is a pain once I’ve started biking as I’d have to stop, get off of the bike and put it in, as I don’t have Netflix or any of my movies stored digitally. Plus, watching 20 or 30 minutes of something as filler is hardly exciting and brings me back to the reason I’m gaming in the first place, so that I don’t get bored. Most of the PS3 games I play get played while I’m biking for the simple reason that I don’t care about trophies. Of course, that also requires research and preparations so that I don’t spend ten minutes of my workout watching the firmware update bar creep across the screen. I have had this happen to me and it sucks as much as trailing Candy Edwards did.
So yes, gaming while exercising requires some special preparations and research, or at least a disregard for things like achievements but it can be done and, in my case, is the difference between looking at exercise as something you want to do and something you have to do and will eventually stop doing. It’s also a big help as it gives me more time to play games for review, and believe you me, my critical mind is sharp as a tack at 5AM. That is, when I can actually see the screen and haven’t forgotten my glasses on the bedside table. A tack I tell you, a tack! Obviously this won’t work for everyone as I have the room and a projector and nine different consoles, but I am a firm believer that combing gaming and exercise can work for people who may not want to exercise, but definitely want to game.