Playbox Three-Sixt-Wii!

I was fortunate enough to obtain both a PlayStation 3 and an Xbox 360 recently. I’ve owned a Wii since it was launched back in 2006. The Wii was always relegated as a non-contender in the “next-gen” console wars. The Wuu has definitely held its own, however, effectively carving its own niche. Instead of concentrating on graphics and processor technology, they went in a completely different direction, creating a new way to play games with their innovative controller.

I have been a Playstation guy for a while. While I never owned the original Playstation, I did get the Playstation 2 on the day it was released. The PS2 was the clear winner in the previous generation of consoles, handily beating the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. Microsoft was late to the game with the original Xbox, which didn’t seem to do very well. The Playstation 3 has been a powerhouse since it was released. It clearly has better graphics then any other system out there, and the processing power of the system is incredible. Games on this thing look incredible, but despite this, I don’t think Sony is doing very well.

The Xbox 360 is a pretty decent machine, despite the red-ring issue they initially had. It doesn’t have the power or graphical prowess of the PS3, but it does have a pretty strong backing. I’m not a hardcore Microsoft hater, but I’m not exactly a fan either. I’ve essentially moved on from Windows and I use either Linux or OS X now. Despite this, I’ve been drawn to the Xbox 360 for some time now. I had avoided purchasing one, but then, I had avoided purchasing a PS3 as well. Since getting both a PS3 and an Xbox 360, however, I’ve noticed that I’m drawn more towards the 360 and I’ve grown curious as to the reasoning behind this. I think I’ve finally identified it.

If you want your platform to do well, you need to build a community around it. Microsoft’s Xbox team has done this, in spades. Marketing is one thing, and there is a massive marketing force behind the 360, but community can really make or break things. The PS3 has a little bit of a community, mostly centering around the PS blog. Nintendo’s community is virtually nonexistent. But the 360 community is just huge and engaging. Major Nelson and his team do an incredible job promoting the 360 while keeping their content entertaining and diverse. The 360 itself encompasses a ton of community building with a stream of new content about new games, videos, and music.

I think Microsoft’s Xbox team has clearly won this round of the console wars. The advent of the Kinect and the Move, round two is clearly on its way. The Kinect seems to be out to an early lead, however, with the Move being mostly ignored as a copy of the Wii motion controllers. Nintendo doesn’t seem to have a play in this latest round, though one could argue they were first to market when they initially launched.

I enjoy playing all three consoles, but the Xbox clearly seems to be winning in my home. Microsoft is doing an incredible job thus far with the Xbox and I’m hoping they continue they way they’re going.


Play with your Wii and get Fit!

The Wii is pretty popular these days. Nintendo has done an excellent job providing entertainment for just about anyone with this one device. Funnily enough, that includes fitness buffs. About 3 months ago (91 days, actually), Nintendo launched the Wii Fit.

The Wii Fit is one cool little device. It’s essentially a flat surface, about 3 inches tall, packed full of electronics. The board is broken down, internally, into four quadrants, each quadrant having its own scale. What this means is that when you stand on it, four scale simultaneously weigh you, resulting in both an accurate total weight, as well as a weight distribution that can be used to identify your balance. Thus they named the board the Wii Balance Board. Yeah.. Marketing.. They’re such geniuses.


So, 3 months ago, I went out and bought one of these beasts. Yes, I stood in line, at midnight, just to make sure I got one. Not a bad idea, apparently, as they have become somewhat scarce these days. At ay rate, I got one, and I started using it that morning. A lot has been said about the benefits of the Wii Fit, but I will tell you, from experience, that I’m damn happy I spent the $90 or so on it. I’ve missed weighing myself once since I bought it.

What’s so special about this thing anyway? Well, I’ve done a lot of thinking about that because I’ve fought with weight loss in the past, and I’ve always failed miserably. In fact, for the last 3 years or so, I’ve neither gained nor lost a pound. And while that may sound good, what you don’t realize is that I spent about a year and a half hitting the gym 2-3 times a week, I tried dieting, and I’ve tried casual exercise at home. Nothing seemed to work, and I was getting a tad frustrated. I wasn’t massively overweight, but my doctor did categorize me as morbidly obese. That puts my BMI over 30. In fact, my BMI was almost 38 when I started using the Wii Fit.

There are those that will argue that BMI is a bad measurement. I agree, to an extent. BMI is 100% a calculation of your body weight and your height. It does not take into account other factors such as muscle versus fat, or activity level. In fact, taller people tend to have an unnaturally high BMI, purely because of how BMI is calculated. Regardless, the intention of BMI is to provide a general idea of the optimum body weight for any given person.

Arguments aside, I wasn’t happy with my weight, or my BMI. I’m not the most active person in the world, and I don’t really enjoy exercise that much. But I had to do something, and the Wii Fit seemed, at least to me, to be a good idea. So far, it has worked out better than I ever hoped. I’ve dropped 35 pounds in 3 months, lowering my BMI to under 33. I feel fantastic, energetic, and a hell of a lot more confident. On the downside, though, I’m going to need a new wardrobe pretty soon.. Belts will only hold me over for so long. :)

So how did I do this? How did I lose so much weight in such a relatively short time? Well, first and foremost, I have to hand a lot of the credit to the Wii Fit. No, not because I use it to exercise, although that does help, but more-so because it tracks my weight. Seriously! Every morning I get up and weigh myself, and I immediately know where I stand. I know if I’ve slacked off too much, or if I’m on track to losing the weight I want to. It’s incredibly satisfying to look at the graphs every so often and see the curve of the line indicating the weight you’ve lost.

I do about 20-25 minutes of exercise on the Wii Fit 3-4 times a week. My schedule has changed a little recently, so one day a week I’m usually on the Wii Fit for a little over 30 minutes. That’s it for the Wii Fit! The rest of it is on my own.

I’ve reduced my food intake by a lot, which is probably the hardest thing I’ve done. I love food. I’m not keen on gorging myself, but I absolutely love my wife’s cooking. I also love pizza and chinese. I used to be able to eat half a pizza with no problem at all. So, reducing my intake was difficult. I cut out soda and candy right from the start. Occasionally I’ll have a soda, but not often. Reducing the rest was a matter of spreading it out a bit over the day. I eat smaller meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I usually have a snack or two during the day. That snack is anything from a handful of vegetables, to something like a handful of pretzels or a small bowl of pudding. I don’t watch calories or fat that much, but I am aware, somewhat, of what I’m taking in.

Next, I spend about 30 minutes a day walking. This is usually the first half of my lunch break. I’ll head out of the office, and walk around town for a while. I end up covering about 1.5 miles during that walk. It’s a casual walk, but at a somewhat brisk pace. I don’t make any lengthy stops, mostly just stop at street corners so I don’t become road pizza. It rains once in a while, and I’ll miss out on walking that day. That hasn’t happened too often, though, so I guess I’ve been lucky. My plan is to do laps up and down the parking garage if it rains for more than a day, though.

Finally, I do a little exercise before bed. It’s about a 5-10 minute workout routine. I spend about 5 minutes lifting barbells to strengthen my upper body, and then I do a series of abdominal crunches and finally I do the Plank for about 60 seconds. Occasionally I do an exercise I learned in the military called a butterfly, though I’ve only found it referenced online as a six-inch killers. It’s pretty simple, just lay on your back with your hands underneath your buttocks. Lift your feet about six inches above the ground and hold them there for 10-30 seconds, depending on your exercise level. Drop them slowly down, rest for a moment, and then start again. Another variant on this is to hold both feet at six inches, then move one foot up to about 12 inches. Switch feet, bringing one down and one up, sort of in a kicking motion. Each “kick” counts as half a rep. Do about 10 reps, then rest. The idea is to do a small set of exercises just before bed, enough to get the heart pumping, but not enough to work up a real sweat.

Overall, I do roughly an hours worth of exercise a day, and I usually end up taking the weekend off, though I’m always watching what I eat, and I endeavor to do my nightly routine every night. It’s working so far, and I truly feel great. I want to shave off another 50 or so pounds before I’m really satisfied, but I’ve definitely started moving in the right direction!

Review – Wii Sports (Wii)

When purchasing a new console or handheld gaming system these days, it’s not uncommon to have to purchase a game to play on it. So when Nintendo announced that Wii Sports would be bundled with the console, it came as a bit of a surprise to many.

Wii Sports is a collection of five sports, Tennis, Bowling, Golf, Boxing, and Baseball. Each game is played by using the Wii Remote to mimic the actions required to play the sport in real life. So, for instance, when you’re at bat in baseball, you literally need to swing the Wii Remote like a bat in order to hit the ball.

Wii Sports is also the first game on the new console to integrate with the Mii Channel. Each avatar you create on the Mii channel will show up in each game as you play. The game will also keep statistics regarding your play and display them at the end of each game.

In addition to the main sports simulations are two additional modes, Training and Fitness. Training mode presents the player with a series of exercises designed to teach the player. For instance, boxing training teaches you how to use combo punches, dodge, and throw accurate punches. You can earn a bronze, silver, or gold medal depending on how you do in the exercise.

Fitness mode presents the player with three randomly chosen exercises from training more. It then calculates the players “fitness age” depending on how well the player does. You can only play this once per day per Mii, but the game keeps track of your results and presents them in a graphical format so you can check your progress.

Overall, Wii Sports is a ton of fun. In fact, despite purchasing more “polished” and “professional” games such as Zelda, my kids are inexorably drawn back to Wii Sports. I’m pretty impressed with this title and I definitely recommend it. Of course, being bundled with the console makes it a little easier to try it out.

Review – Nintendo Wii

On November 19th, Nintendo released it’s latest console, the Nintendo Wii. Instead of focusing on an evolution in graphical capabilities, Nintendo focused on a revolution in the way we play games. With a unique controller and a new outlook on gameplay, the latest in Nintendo gaming may well be the hit of the season.

After standing out in the cold for a few hours, I drove home with a nice new Wii and a couple of games to check out. Of course, being a Christmas gift, I wasn’t able to check out the console until the night of Christmas Eve, after the kids went to bed.

The time in between allowed me to find another controller and nunchuk. I also picked up a set of component cables after reading that the graphics looked a LOT better with them. Unfortunately, I was only able to find the Psyclone cables, which ran a hefty $60. But, they do seem to be well built, so I’m not too upset.

A total of three games made it home for the holidays, Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and The Legend of Zelda : The Twilight Princess. Full reviews of these games will be coming sometime in the near future. All three of these games are excellent, however, which I find quite surprising for a console launch. In addition, the Wii comes with Wii Sports, a collection of sports games for general entertainment. While not as in-depth as some of the more popular third party titles, these games are polished enough to make them a lot of fun.

So what makes this such a great system? After all it’s really just a glorified Gamecube. Well, sort of. The processing power of the Wii is a bit more. The Gamecube clocked in at 485 MHz while the Wii clocks in at 729 MHz. Likewise, the Gamecube GPU ran at 162 MHz and the Wii runs at 243 MHz. There are obviously more differences but I won’t get into them. The real revolution is in the new controllers.

The Wii controller are wireless, using Bluetooth technology to wirelessly connect to the console. At launch, there are three different controllers. The Wii Remote is the primary controller with the Nunchuk and Classic Controller as add-ons. Most launch titles use either the Wii Remote, or the Wii Remote with the Nunchuk attached. The Classic Controller is primarily used for the Virtual Console games which I have yet to try.

The remote contains a number of accelerometers that allow the Wii to determine the speed at which you move the controller. Coupled with the Sensor Bar, the Wii can determine the location of the controller in 3D space, allowing for some interesting gameplay dynamics.

In addition, the Wii allows for online content such as a weather channel, news channel (not yet launched), a web browser (in beta), and an online store. There are likely more channels in production and will be released later in the consoles lifecycle.

Overall we had a blast playing the Wii and have clocked over 20 hours on it since Christmas day. There are still a number of launch titles that look excellent so I’m sure our library of titles will be growing. I highly recommend this system if you can get your hands on it. It is truly a revolution in gaming.