For most of my adult life, I didn’t care too much about exercise. I haven’t been thin or fit since high school, and honestly, haven’t felt the desire to get back to it, either. Once I hit my early thirties, though, I realized focusing on moving my body more would benefit my overall health and mental wellness. I enrolled with a personal trainer I see once a week, and I feel stronger, my stamina has increased, and I just feel better overall. It’s been a joy being able to feel all the positive effects of my time with my trainer. 

Since I started though, I’ve wanted more ways to combine my love of gaming with exercise. There are many ways to gamify your exercise. From creating your own achievements to reach in your workout to using apps that let you earn experience when doing real-life activities, there are many ways to combine the two. What I really want, though, are more games that take movement in new directions. There are plenty of games that are basically just workout videos, but I’d love more RPG or open world games that employ the use of our bodies. 

Get Moving With DDR and Ring Fit Adventure

Like many, I do a lot of sitting and gaming. It is very easy to sit and game for hours on end. I’d rather game than exercise on almost any occasion. In high school, I always loved Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). I was never brave enough to play the arcade version at the mall, but you better believe I annoyed the heck out of our downstairs neighbors with my mat-pounding feet. DDR gave me a fun way to both play a game and exercise, plus it introduced some fantastic new tunes that I might not have heard otherwise. Unfortunately, I haven’t played it since I was in my late teens. 

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Today, Ring Fit Adventure fills that void. While it isn’t music-based, it does combine exercise, something I don’t love, with RPG elements, my favorite genre of games. As I’ve traversed through Ring Fit Adventure, battling enemies in turn-based battles, unlocking abilities, and adorning my avatar with workout-based armor, I’ve realized the world could benefit from movement-based games. There are a number of Fitness Games besides Ring Fit Adventure. From Zumba-based games to yoga to boxing, there’s a little bit of everything. Unfortunately, many of these are just glorified workout videos and they don’t really gamify the experience. 

Let’s Get Moving In A New Direction

We’ve all seen those wild videos where people beat games like Dark Souls 3 with a DDR mat. While it’s apparent in the video it doesn’t really give you a workout, it just goes to show it is possible to combine gaming with moving your body if one has enough willpower and skills. As of December 2021, Ring Fit Adventure had sold a staggering 13.53 million units. It was especially popular at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were bound to their homes. If anything, these sales point toward people wanting to move more while gaming. 

I am not proposing that someone like Square Enix pair a Final Fantasy game with some sort of movement peripheral, but I do think more people want to see games that give you the ability to get your blood pumping that offers deeper gameplay elements. Wii Sports still holds the top spot as the best-selling Wii game with almost 83 million units sold. It featured five mini-games to play and used the Wii controller to mimic certain movements. It wasn’t a strenuous workout, but it did get your blood flowing. Nintendo is hoping to capture some of that success with the debut of Nintendo Switch Sports on April 29th, 2022. The game will allow players to experience soccer, volleyball, bowling, tennis, badminton, and sword fighting with their JoyCons. 

Looking to the Horizon

I hope future developers see the benefit of creating games that use things like JoyCons or try something new and create their own peripheral as Nintendo did for Ring Fit Adventure. It is apparent that there is a market for merging exercise with unexpected genres of games. While the narrative isn’t deep in Ring Fit, it still offers a story with a hero and villain and lots of stuff in between. Most workout-based games are missing that sense of adventure.

Guerrilla Games teased the release of its PlayStation VR game Horizon Call of the Mountain. Little is known about the game, but it does take place in the same universe as the two Horizon games starring Aloy. Players will even get to meet her. The new game is set to follow a new protagonist. A game like this would be an exciting way to use something like VR to encourage people to move. VR can be limited in some ways. Depending on what exactly the game has you doing, though, it could give players a real arm workout if they’re battling machines with spears or a bow and arrow. 

I don’t expect there to be any major trends toward games that get you up off your couch. I am hopeful though that some developer is out there trying something new. If it doesn’t happen, there is always Ring Fit Adventure at home and DDR in old-school arcades for those brave enough to feature their skills in public. If you’re at all interested in playing games that get you moving, give Ring Fit a shot or look into other ways to gamify your wellness.