I'm Fat, and I Love 'Ring Fit Adventure'
Finally, game-based exercise that isn't shamey.
Finally, there’s a way for this fat girl to enjoy fitness. It’s called Ring Fit Adventure.
I like the idea of fitness. I don’t like the idea that it’s mutually exclusive with fatness, and I really don’t like the idea that you should be active with the only real goal being “look smaller,” but I like the idea of fitness. I like to watch people do parkour and free running, and I wish I could do it myself. Was I terrible at pole vault and high jump in my 7th grade girls’ athletics program? Oh, most definitely. But I loved them. I like the idea that my body is mine to control and use like a specialized machine, and while that’s hardly a realistic concept considering my genetically shoddy joints and iffy coordination, it’s still fun to fantasize.
At the same time, I’ve been bullied for being fat for my entire life. Size eight and active in an athletics program by choice? FAT. I think what my bullies meant to say was “you’re socially awkward and physically uncoordinated,” but kids can’t really enunciate their hatred that well usually.
I wanted dearly to be the kind of kid who could do a flip off a building and intimidate a bully into running away before having to punch them in the face, but I became more the kind of kid who was afraid to get into exercise. Exercise meant exposing myself to people who, in a paradoxical sense, wanted me to not be fat but also didn’t want to see me doing the things that society says make you less fat.
As a result, I never became a free running wizard, instead embarking on a sedentary lifestyle. I let myself believe that there simply wasn’t a way to exercise that wasn’t highly socially unpleasant or unsustainable. Don’t get me wrong, I continually try to find ways to get active and be happy about it; I wrote earlier this month about my experience with the fat-positive movement subscription Joyn. That was my first truly positive experience exercising in my 24 years of life. I’d tried other methods before, like my forays into pole dancing, which was fun but still felt like it was asking me to be something I’m not. I figured that Joyn was going to be the one and only positive movement experience I could find.
...Until my husband pre-ordered Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch and blew my mind.
I have mixed memories of the Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit, the arguable predecessors to Ring Fit Adventure. I really liked the Trampoline Target game in Wii Fit Plus, because I was a magnificent animal who could fly into the stratosphere with that jumping game. Wii Fit itself came with a slew of issues, though. When you first make your Mii (read: avatar of yourself that plays the games on your behalf), the game requests your height and the balance board weighs you. Then, in a move that can only be described as why the hell did you think this was okay Nintendo, it would take your mii and inflate it like a sad balloon into a caricature of fatness based on your BMI. All of the curves of my natural, human-proportioned body were taken and reduced to the image of a bowling ball with chicken drumsticks for legs. As you can guess, this really motivated me to start playing the game.
I still did play it, mostly because it seemed like accessible exercise to young me, but probably also because saying I wasn’t going to play a game that turned me into a walking fat joke would have garnered me more ridicule as too sensitive. So I got into the various minigames, which were mostly strange and boring. As you can likely guess, I didn’t stick around long. I did somehow end up with a copy of Wii Fit U when it came out, and that had Trampoline Target, but I still fell into a routine of ignoring that the game existed, remembering that I kind of liked a few games, playing for a day, and giving up again.
Turns out that’s a dangerous move, because Wii Fit was also a judgmental piece of garbage. “Oh, you gained weight since your last attempt at exercising? What the hell did you do wrong? No, I don’t care if it was 10 pounds that you gained in the two years since you last dusted me off, or if the single pound difference since yesterday came from extra muscular growth or even normal fluctuation. I am going to ask you what you did by taking your potential sins and placing them on a multiple choice menu for you to choose from, and you’re gonna feel bad about it. Anyways, Trampoline Target?”
I might be dramatizing that a bit, but I’m not entirely sure I am. It’s just been a while, because after the thousandth time being grilled about my butt fat gains, I kind of gave up.
Imagine, now, my fear when I boot up Ring Fit, set up my account, and it asks for my weight.
“Oh no. The ghost of the balance board is here and it remembers me… but we just spent £65 on this game so I can’t give in just yet.”
Anyways, it took my weight in stones and moved on. No BMI, to my memory. No shamey fat tuba sounds. No lecturing or telling me that I’m morbidly obese. To my knowledge, it uses your weight and height purely to approximate your calories and that’s it. It’s an understatement to say I was surprised, as well as hesitantly happy.
With my single biggest issue regarding exercising avoided, I started my Adventure, trying to keep an open mind. You start out doing some dynamic stretches, which were relatively difficult for me and my husband and actually got both of us breathing heavy. Then, it launches you into the game and story.
I really don’t want to spoil any of the story. I mean, I just finished day three today, so I can’t spoil much anyways. Regardless, let that be a testament to this game’s quality in itself because there actually is an enjoyable story to spoil. What I will say: It’s cute. I can safely tell you that your enemy is a buff dragon named Dragaux, and you have a partner in the form of Ring (who is the in-game complement to your Ring-Con).
I thought I wasn’t going to like Ring, which would have been bad, because he talks to you a lot as you play. My first gut reaction was “oh no, here comes the hokey personal fitness trainer,” which honestly isn’t wrong. He is definitely a hokey personal fitness trainer.
...And I love him.
Ring is amazing, and I will protect him with my life. You hear me? Ring is amazing. Ring is the positive support buddy that I never knew I could have. He only has good and constructive things to say about me, and he pushes me to make my body do the things that I thought it couldn’t. I consider this to be pretty impressive on the game developers' part. Where coaches and trainers failed, a rubbery plastic ring that talks to me through a glowing orange avatar of the same ring on the screen succeeds. And so do I.
Which brings me to my favorite part of Ring Fit Adventure so far: It’s letting me succeed at being what I want to be. It’s certainly not easy; my heart rate gets up to 160+ every time I run through a mission, and I am always a sweaty monster when I’m done. But I can do it, and the reward for me succeeding is that I get to watch an avatar of myself, who is synced up with my real life actions, doing the kinds of things I always wished I could. You wanna run through a forest, jump over fallen trees with grace, and beat up monsters? Now you can, and you can actually feel immersed while doing it.
Sure, you’ve always been able to run around in RPGs, but never before have they given you the kind of real feedback that running in real life does. I used to set up World of Warcraft on my laptop and play it while riding a stationary bike, but my intensive pedaling as my character ran didn’t give the same sort of feeling. With Ring Fit Adventure, you actually feeling like you’re doing what your avatar does on screen. You run faster, and your avatar speeds up. You lift your legs higher, and your avatar can climb steps or slosh through water. I’m not saying that I don’t still wish I had the power to do amazing things in real life, but I do feel like Ring Fit Adventure is much more safe and accessible than leaping off a rooftop.
I think that accessible is really the key word with Ring Fit. My biggest worries before I received the game were less about enjoying the game, and more about not being able to play it. The game uses a leg strap to hold the Switch’s left Joy-Con in place on your thigh, and I was convinced that it wasn’t going to fit. There are plenty of fitness products that only fit the skinny, and I wasn’t sure that Ring Fit’s leg strap wouldn’t be one of them. Much to my surprise, both my husband and I were able to put on the strap, as well as secure it with room to spare. I was less worried about being able to use the Ring-Con, which is like a circular resistance band, and I was indeed able to fully compress and stretch it to the game’s requirements despite not exactly being strong.
Again, despite it being easy to begin, this game is a worthy challenge. I actually lost a battle and had to restart a level today, and it reassured me that this is a game that would grow with me. Though most RPGs refuse you your experience points if you’re defeated, Ring Fit still rewards you for what you did; after all, it’s based around growing your body’s strength. Just because the Red Hoplins destroyed you doesn’t mean that you didn’t work your body out and become that much stronger. This also means that you can level up despite dying, which increases your defense and in-game strength, helping you pass the level eventually.
That said, I immediately restarted the level and annihilated those Hoplins. The game grips you like that, and honestly that’s probably why the exercise is so intense. Any less, and I wouldn’t have to stop after 15 minutes max so as to not overexert myself. This means that I’m on day three and I still haven’t even completed an hour of playtime, so I’ll be playing for a long time yet.
All of that considered means that this fat girl has finally found an intensive, gripping, and enjoyable way to exercise that should be sustainable enough to see me make real progress. I look forward to advancing the plot, and my fitness, further. For now, as the game loves to remind me, I need to rest and hydrate.