Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wii Fit for purpose

Whilst most of us are still struggling to get back up to speed after a couple of weeks off over Christmas, some people have returned to work with the kind of renewed vigour that manages to make the rest of us look like feckless, work-shy losers. Chief amongst them is the diligent PR account manager for Nintendo

Maybe they've slashed their advertising budget thanks to the new 'age of austerity', or perhaps Xbox Kinetic has taken a big bite out of their motion-controlled market share. Either way, they're clearly ramping up their PR efforts in an attempt to boost their profile more cost-effectively. 

Journalists are always happy to receive a press release with a human interest angle. They can just top-and-tail it, throw in a couple of stock shot library images, and they're another article closer to hitting their daily quota. 

Most newspaper readers are oblivious to these tactics, largely because the publishers in question are smart enough to cover their tracks and hide the evidence of 'churnalism'. It doesn't look good for a paper's objectivity if it's found to be sourcing half its stories from a marketing department. 

That's why Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, prefers to point the finger at his paper's competitors when accused of relying on PR puff-pieces for content. However, there are bound to be some embarrassed faces on Fleet Street tomorrow, when someone points out that his esteemed rag managed to run two separate stories on the same day that presumably came from the same source. Possibly even the same press release. 

Don't get me wrong - the Wii is a fantastic piece of kit that has transformed gaming for millions of people. As well as changing the way people engage with interactive software, its innovative motion-based controller has seen Nintendo consoles popping up in care homes and rehabilitation wards all over the world. 

But to hear the Daily Mail tell it, we could pretty much do away with the NHS by just giving every family a small, white games console. 41 year-old Jean Hinton is proudly showing off her new slimline figure, in a lovely 'leggings and PVC boots' ensemble, thanks to half-an-hour every day on her Wii Fit. 

Devastated by being called 'fatty bum bum nana' by one of her grandchildren, the 'glamorous grandmother' took to the computerised wobble-board because she couldn't afford a gym membership. Singing the praises of her Wii, Jean says: "Now, my confidence is back and I have so much more energy. It's helped my social life and I was even able to stop taking anti-depressants as I had so many more natural endorphins from the exercise." See - who needs a GP when you've got a copy of Wii Sports and some reinforced floorboards? Jean's even set up an online support group "in order to spread the word about the wonders of Wii Fit." 

She should probably have a word with 54 year-old Julie Wilks, who discovered she had Parkinson's disease by playing on her own Wii. Brave Julie "found out she had the degenerative disorder after noticing that she was leaning heavily to one side when she was standing on a Balance Board while playing the popular Wii Fit computer game." 

Talking about her shocking discovery, Julie says, "I'm so grateful that I was playing the game that day and that it ended in my diagnosis. What an amazing piece of technology." In fact, it's so amazing that she can't shut up about it: "The Wii fit makes it much easier to exercise. I can take it as easy as I need to and sometimes part of the problem is getting where you need to be to exercise, this way I can just set myself up at home." 

Clearly, this is no ordinary games console - it's Lourdes with a scart cable. Coincidentally, the news story also mentions that the selfless ex-lab technician has also set up a website to offer "help and advice to other sufferers".  Such as links to Amazon, Argos and Game, I imagine. 

Maybe it's the conspiracy theorist in me, but the fact that these two remarkably similar stories were published just 80 minutes apart (and are both attributed to the anonymous 'Daily Mail Journalist') seems too much of a coincidence. Dacre and his team may argue that they represent the highest standards of journalistic integrity, but in this instance I think Wii know better. 

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