Ah, the best of intentions.
I bought Ring Fit Adventure during the August 2020 lockdown. I bought it from a local business, so it could be delivered cheaply. When it arrived, I unboxed it, showed it to Elli and to Fox, and left it next to the TV for two weeks. I did this because Fox would go to bed at night, and take the Switch with her, meaning that I did not have a joycon-powered way to play the game. I did not check if I could use the spare joycons on my Switch Lite. I did not ask Fox to make space for me.
I just… ignored it for a little while. You know the thinking?
Tomorrow. Tomorrow. I’ll start.
I started using it on September the 4th, in 2020. I took notes, for my first twelve days. Twelve! I thought I’d have a lot more than that. And that was two years ago, with this article staying in draft form for oh so long.
I think that Ring Fit Adventures is pretty good. It’s remarkably nonjudgmental game which makes its particular focus of exercise interesting. I got it to get myself an outlet for exercise that I could maintain under lockdown conditions, when normally, I would be travelling around and doing things… and also, I know that I’m getting older and should have a more regular exercise schedule. It seems pretty good at what it’s doing and it didn’t make me feel bad.
I did, however, feel bad.
Content Warning: Under the fold is less of your typical ‘game review’ or critical engagement with the game text. It’s much more of a diary examining myself and my feelings about this game and how I struggled with it. There’s some reflections on my relationship to my body and I’m honestly embarrassed of it, but I think I need to fight that embarrassment and present a fair account of this game.
One of the things I learned was that my thighs are … problematic. See, apparently the only part of my body that’s well developed in any way are my thighs. They’re quite muscular, but they are also tapered down to the knee. Which means just by dint of leaving myself standing still, the blue joycon sliiiides down my leg, meaning that about once a level, I need to pull it up and restrap it.
Second day I realised that maybe I wasn’t expected to do a single zone a day. I was getting around four to five minutes of energetic exercise in the two days so far, and that felt good, but I was also sharply sweaty at the end of it.
Day three, the game asked me if it’d been too easy and if I should up my difficulty. So, I, considering that yes, technically, I had found the first two days very handleable, opted to do that. This was also the first boss battle, which, very funnily, I found absolutely bushwhacking. It introduced two new moves into the combat system which I kind of felt I ‘should’ do. One of them is the Chair Sit, which is like a squat but you hold it and you shouldn’t extend your knees over your toes. I can’t do that position without moving like that – my middle is just too heavy to balance right like that. There was also the introduction of putting my knees to my chest. Which I can do, but the shape of my middle makes it difficult.
I hate this, I hate writing this down.
Day FOUR, I set off to a new zone. This was not super hard, but it did involve more high stepping – bringing my knees up higher as I jogged, which uhm, that exaggerated the strap problem.
By day four I also noticed I was getting sleepier in the nights when it was time to sleep. Part of this is also no doubt tied to my emotional circumstances: Without disclosing specifics, things were extremely difficult for me on day four. It was 2020. Make something up.
Day five. Fox was awake when I did this. I worked with startling alacrity because the idea of being watched while I did this made me very selfconscious. I also learned today that the internet recommends strapping the blue joycon to my bare leg, not to my leg over pajama pants. Gunna have to give that a shot and wince about it.
I do not account these problems, with my body and with the strap and whatnot, to make anyone feel less likely to get this game for its purpose. I am okay with this game being what it is, and I like what it is doing. At day four, I know I resolved that even if day five or more sucked ass, the four days of noticing the material effects of the exercise was going to be worth it. I want to make this a habit. I want to get to the point where I don’t feel humiliated by acknowledging my body exists. I don’t think I’ve ever talked about the strange way that my thighs and calves seem to be very firm and muscled, or the way that all my weight concentrates around my midsection like the character designer that drew me slipped up.
This is an autoethnographic process, too. I’m playing the game, then I am writing about my experiences and feelings about it, and then, later, I am going to review this diary. Determine what is valuable about it.
I think I like Ring Fit. I think I like it and I hate that I feel like I needed it.
But whatever gets me to work.
I’m thinking a lot about Bojack Horseman and the quote about jogging: It gets easier. But you gotta do it every day.
Anyway, it’s day five. It feels very short. Was this a short level? Am I doing enough? I am trusting the game to parcel this content out to me in a way that’s, I dunno, properly good? I had to do a knees-to-chest today and it wasn’t the worst. I did run to get through the level faster.
I thought I’d written down what I did. But I didn’t.
This was a big one for a couple of reasons. First, this is the first day I woke up after Fox. I slept in on a Saturday after apparently needing a lot of sleep. That meant that I woke up and … I had to play Ring Fit Adventures in front of someone else. Fortunately, Fox understood that this is a thing, and she very politely declared that she was a ‘hard no comment.’
It was also a boss battle. It was a reasonably short amount of running but a lot of athletic exercises. It’s also when I first hit a sort of interface problem. The chair pose move came up in the boss battle. I could do it once, but then I couldn’t get the interface to recognise when I tried it a second time. This was partly due to the positions I could hold, with my body. So for the first time, I took a moment to sit down in the middle of gameplay, and I took another moment to try again. My knee hurt a little trying to hold the position and I couldn’t make the interface do anything about it. Like I couldn’t hold the position in a way the game liked it.
Still, I got through the boss battle.
I also was told today that the thing I was doing the most was uh, overhead press and that I was pretty good at them. That’s funny, but also awkward because that builds upper body and arm strength. I didn’t think I had much of that? Really, it’s funny to imagine that I am a 100% healthy body except for the excess belly weight I don’t like.
Man, I can’t imagine I’m ever going to post this as-is.
I guess at this point, with the distance between it, and now, I’m going to feel silly not doing it, right?
The other thing is that I looked at the way the game structured a world; each game session starts with a stretch, then you’re put into a world of three levels. Each world is about 2-3 minutes of activity per level, with a boss monster at the end that takes up like four or five minutes, followed by a stretch. I’ve been doing one level a day — I’m trying to not strain myself and make it suck to play this game. But it does have me wondering if the assumed ‘default’ is in fact a full world at a time.
I’m wondering if tomorrow I’m going to do three levels, instead of just one. That’s like, fifteen minutes of aerobic exercise, but is it going to hit my limit? That one level a day policy works really well for me mentally — I’m not finding myself wanting to escape or make excuses. If I go for a world at a time, that may overload me.
On the other hand, there are these little interface pauses between things, too. Maybe the point of opening chests on the map or talking to minigames or shops (I assume there are shops later), is to mean that between each level, I’m meant to spend some time pottering around to cool off between each level?
We’ll see. Maybe tomorrow is when we step it up to ‘proper’ session sizes.
Well forget that. I woke up with a sore foot. I considered whether or not I wanted to push on, but then I saw the new level unfolded in front of me. Seven zones in this one world, so maybe I wasn’t meant to crush through it.
I also got to think about what started me on this path, the thing I couldn’t stop thinking about when I started. It’s just the opening question in this song; I just woke up, should I drink water and stretch? Then there’s the following thought along with it, about how I’d do anything to make my life better except for the things that make my life better.
Exercise, even a little bit, can help me feel like I’m doing something, and diminish the feeling of uselessness I have about the way my body has been changing since, you know, I was a teenager. It won’t undo time, but it’ll be something I can recognise.
My foot hurts. I knew it hurt a little last night, but I think if my heel hurts a little when I put weight on it, running is going to make it worse. I opened the game up to let it know that hey, I did open you today, and put it away, rather than try to force exercise while I’m hurt that’ll probably make it worse.
I’m really unhappy about this! I’d really like to continue the streak. I hope tomorrow it goes ‘yeah, you still played the game, it counts.’ But I think it’s going to give me a reminder that I should try and make a habit of it. It was a habit! I woke up, I checked, and then I made a serious decision about my ongoing engagement with the game.
I woke up, and my leg still hurts. I could push it — I could jog despite the pain in my foot — or I could try and rest it, in the hopes it gets better faster. It seems wiser to rest it. At this point, though, I also find myself being annoyed by this, like I’m going to find getting back into the game more annoying with this two day break.
I had a rough night and woke up at eleven AM. I didn’t even think about Ring Fit, but that was for the best – my foot hurt. I’m worrying a little if by pushing myself, I wound up setting up a cycle.
No Really, The Actual Day 10
Day 9 was three weeks ago. After hurting my foot, I then hurt my leg, and at that point I felt I’d failed. I spent a little time telling myself ‘I should get back into Ring Fit tomorrow,’ and didn’t. Tonight, feeling exhausted after a rough day at school, I thought I’d just… you know. Give it a shot.
An interesting thing that happened is that I went to borrow the Switch from Fox – this is at night, not during the morning when I normally did it – and was almost willing to let it go at the slightest point of resistance. I didn’t want to interfere with her. But she encouraged me to do it, so I did it and returned the thing in, what, less than ten minutes?
I noticed with this, both that I was a little out of sorts with it, but also that it was easier than I expected. I turned the difficulty down a little because I didn’t feel good, but the combats were more convenient and I could hold squats more easily.
This is the first time I’ve ‘failed’ a level. I think the game is tuned carefully enough that it isn’t that I messed up, but that it wants me to make sure I’m picking up the game’s healing potions – smoothies.
I did it at night, this time, rather than during the day. I woke up later than Fox, and wanted the privacy. Even when she doesn’t make an issue out of it, I really hate feeling like I’m struggling with things like ‘lift your knee to your chest’ a lot.
The wild thing is I don’t think I’m teriffically unfit by the standards of this game. It makes me feel like my struggling is really pathetic.
I know I’ve played it more since this accounting. I have gotten through multiple boss fights. I’ve had to re-do boss fights, and I’ve learned my limits with one of the exercises. I’m also frustrated when I realised that the attacks I was doing felt really weedy even if I was doing a good job on the exercises.
I’ve said it before and I mean it, this game is really good at not being judgmental. It’s a good game. It’s fun, even! I like it! It’s just to get into playing it, I need to get to a place where I’m in a private space and can feel like I’m going to fall apart and be a mess afterwards while I cool down… which is kinda against the problem of a lockdown.
I want to finish this game. I want to do more in this game. I like this game and I like how it lends me structure. I don’t like when I play it and I find some new element of my body goes twang and suddenly I’m grappling with a new discovery about what I can’t do any more.
Also, for getting this far, I’d like to say that I saw someone trying to coin the term ‘exergaming’ for this, and blegh, no.