I've resisted discussing Nintendo's Wii mostly because others better equipped than I have already praised the game system's groundbreaking design and engineering. But the Wii Fit marks an even more impressive debut than the base system, because through Fit Nintendo promotes a social good even as they stand to make a mint off it.
The New York Times interviewed four people, two fitness experts among them, to evaluate Wii Fit. The response was generally positive, if lukewarm. The response that gave me pause, however, was from Cyndi Lee, founder of Om Yoga:
This is a little dumbed down and they are teaching more from a fitness or gym perspective. They’re saying things like, "Tighten your glutes," which we would never say in yoga.Could she possibly have missed the point any worse? First, the manufacturers of this hugely popular system are trying to encourage gamers to exercise more than their thumbs. Second, they've included yoga—a practice that not too long ago was looked upon with suspicion by a good portion of the American public—as a quarter of Fit's featured exercises.
Perhaps the Wii Fit doesn't, um, fit into Lee's conception of yoga. Perhaps she sees it as a threat to her business or as a dilution of her practice, neither of which can be very strong if Fit truly is a threat. But isn't it possible that a few people otherwise averse to yoga will try it and get hooked? It's even possible that Lee could gain a few new students as a direct result of Wii Fit.