Video games at school cure fatness

Ransom Riggs

Sound like a foolhardy idea? Sure, until you realize they're not talking about Ms. Pac-Man or Mortal Kombat, but the ubiquitous, inexplicably addictive and downright exhausting game Dance Dance Revolution. Even if you're not a video game fan, you may have wandered by an arcade and wondered "Why are the kids in there moving so much? Shouldn't they be frozen, zombie-like, in front of their joysticks?" Welcome to the Revolution.

The game is played on a metal dance pad with four arrow panels: left, down, up, and right. These panels are pressed using the player's feet, in response to arrows that appear on the screen in front of the player. The arrows are synchronized to the general rhythm or beat of a chosen song, and success is dependent on the player's ability to time and position his or her steps accordingly.

If that sounds tiring, it is. So much so that Norway recently declared DDR an official sport, and the West Virginia state public school system is planning to place a game in every one of its schools to help stem the tide of childhood obesity. Studies have indeed shown that kids who play the game for at least 30 minutes five times a week maintain their weight and see a reduction in some risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. One woman even claims to have lost 95 lbs. playing the game.

Not to sound like a fogey at 27, but I grew up playing video games and playing outdoors as well, and I think it's a dark harbinger of things to come that the former is eclipsing the latter in terms of kids' entertainment! When kids stop playing sports altogether, what physical activities will video games have left to mimic?