Whoever said cyber-athleticism wasn’t a sport?
It’s an oft-heard complaint in many households with teens who are very much into gaming: why not go outside and play sports instead?
As a lifelong soccer player, I’m definitely not going to dissuade anyone from doing just that, but it raises an interesting point. If gaming can be just as competitive as sports, then what sets them apart? Perhaps it’s physical activity, which Nintendo has already introduced to casual mainstream gaming with its Nintendo Wii, and other innovative control concepts such as Natal look set to follow.
In competitive gaming, however, controllers are very often of a more traditional nature, with joysticks, mice, pads and buttons still dominating the field. What analogies can we draw to sports there though? One only needs to look at an experience that most everyone here has had at some point, and at the many hours it takes (even during a speedrun) to fully complete some of the most popular titles. When striving for a world record, one needs endurance, fast reflexes, a high range of motion and dexterity. In many cases, a world record attempt like that is preceded by weeks or even months of practice. A big part of that is discovering and studying patterns that work well and/or get you to the finish line faster, but who hasn’t had his or her hand cramp up in the middle of an intense gaming session? That is where fitness equipment for gamers steps in.
Fitness equipment for gamers? Yes, back in January when I attended the CES in Las Vegas, I was introduced to a futuristic-looking sphere the size of a baseball that was designed with gamers in mind in order to offer them greater performance and repetitive stress injury prevention. With visions of me becoming a legendary gamer with one these as my secret weapon, I was immediately intrigued.
The people at Dynaflex, which produces the PowerBall Gamer I am talking about, kindly provided me with a PowerBall that I have been taking for a test drive for the past few weeks. Has it made me a contender for some of the most coveted world records? No, but that’s not what one should realistically expect or what it promises to do. Does it provide an effective exercise option that targets very gamer-specific areas of the body? Yes, and it does so with its own competitive element as well.
Let me back up for a minute and try to explain what this technology is based on. The PowerBall is a gyroscopic fitness device, plain and simple. Huh? Gyroscopic? My thoughts exactly, so I had to Google and Wikipedia my way around the term to discover it is technology that is also used in the hubble space telescope and that these gyroscopic powerballs have also been taken into space by NASA to help keep their astronauts in shape. Okay, that was enough to convince my inner nerd that this was cool stuff and not just a bogus marketing term.
Basically, after you start the PowerBall spinning (using the included starter dock), you grip it in your hand and start making circular motions. As you do, the forces you generate start to build up dynamic resistance, straining your hand, wrist and arm (and they also light up the LED lights inside the sphere). The faster you go, the more resistance you build up, and you actually feel like you’re targetting those parts of the body that cramp up when gaming. The speed meter measures how much speed you build up and tracks your top ‘scores’; my current high score is close to 9000RPM. Sadly, Google tells me the record is well over 14000RPM….
That’s when I thought back to my analogy with sports. Anyone will tell you that with the right exercise you will become less prone to injuries, and that you will be able to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time. For everyone involved in competitive gaming trying to beat a world record, that might well be the edge you need when you’re not the only one with a laser mouse, special mouse pad and/or arcade fighting stick anymore. According to Dynaflex (which also produces the even more stylish-looking Platinum PowerBall with a clear case), the product is already being used by some of the top cyber athletes, so it definitely felt like I was one step closer to stardom. Now all I need the talent required…..