The value of stillness on Wii Fit

07/09/2008

The value of stillness is often overlooked in exercise, education and life in general. Iyengar yoga addicts know it well and it’s good to find an immersive game that encourages it in the Zazen feature of the Wii Fit. This is the last balance game to be unlocked and is a fantastic treat after so much movement. Sitting on the board and trying to achieve stillness works surprisingly well. If I could improve it I would like it to be longer than the three minutes it offers, but even in that, you can experience a sense of stillness and calm. The flickering candle, the moth and the creaking footsteps add to the sense of timelessness.
It offers an important counterpoint to the high energy activity of the other games, but it could be an excellent means of encouraging stillness and meditation in the classroom. Bizarrely, making stillness a slightly competitive game, although counter-intuitive, feels quite attractive. This is pitched well to encourage all to participate, to be a bit of fun, but ultimately to give a genuine taste of the value of stillness.

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Immersive Games and OAP playgrounds

26/06/2008

Old people, especially the millions in the UK who don’t have access to a generous pension fund need playgrounds at least as much as they need retirement homes. More than ever at any previous time in their lives, they need opportunities to socialise widely and make new friends. One of the issues facing our society is the rise of a huge retired population. My mum was discussing the regeneration of our town centre and thinking about how we could place old people at the centre of the new market complex. We thought about how public spaces should have places where old and young can mix freely and cheaply, places that are accessible and right in the centre of the action. We talked about this while we sat in a crowded cafe and the unusual owner seated more people by the simple expedient of asking young people sitting on their own if they could shove up to make space for someone else – an old person. We then watched as the generations started to talk. It worked beautifully. We then attended a meeting where we were asked how we could improve the town centre. We raised the question of communal spaces, but the information gatherers couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get it. They wondered, would the generations want to mingle? What good could it possibly do? Maybe we could use the wonderful benefits of gaming to bring them together physically as well as in the virtual world. Eye Toy, Guitar Hero and Wii Fit could be the way forwards – I’m sure there are some old codgers who could deliver a polished rendition of Smoke On the Water to blow away the opposing 13-year olds.


My internet bridegroom

21/04/2008

I got married last year to a man I met on the internet in 1999. We’d got engaged years ago but we kept putting the wedding off because we couldn’t work out how to cope with our odd collection of family and friends. It was only the deaths of some of them that made us realise if we left it any longer they might all have gone the same way.

If you meet a man on the internet – and I do strongly urge you to do so – you leap over a lot of the stumbling blocks traditionally dividing couples; race, class, politics and so forth. In our case it left us with an interesting group of putative wedding guests.

Well – more than just ‘interesting’; they were an unruly and ill-matched bunch. Just like the bride and groom. Some of them mad, bad and dangerous. Others curmudgeonly and abrasive, quick to take offence and to dish it out. They came from all classes and temperaments, some of them embracing their fellow man like long-lost social workers, others with more than a touch of the Genghis Khans, so I struggled a bit with how to introduce them to each other.

I’d been to a lot of weddings before and they fell into one of two categories. There are ones where you get told where to sit. This means you have to last a four-hour lunch with people you’d run across a motorway blindfold to get away from. And the ones involving the informal meal you can eat with ‘whoever you like’.  I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re very cool about approaching total strangers but I always end up eating with the one other person in the room I know already because I came with them. I can’t possibly approach tight-knit groups of people I don’t know with my wilting ham roll and chicken drumstick.

So if you’re thinking of getting married soon and in keeping with the internet age, I think you should consider a third way to arrange your guests for maximum social interaction – a speed-dating arrangement. Serve five mini-courses, and rearrange the guests between each course according to your whims – age, height, month of birth …

Families must be deliberately torn apart. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends need to be separated and  set down next to people they’ve never met, and probably never will again.  You don’t need music or a disco, only odd speeches scattered through a very long lunch. A sort of teenager’s nightmare. This was how we did it and I couldn’t recommend it to you more highly. Shorn of their family armour, people blossom. Teenagers definitely need to be liberated from the disapproving eyes of friends who know them too well, As a result of this rough treatment our guests, even some of the teenagers, blossomed like a thousand flowers, or at least like a hundred really nice, interesting and friendly people. We barely recognised them.

By the end of the night we had to throw them out of the venue, and the next day once-cool teenagers sat on my sofa and asked when we could do it all over again. So  if you’re an internet bride getting married soon and your guests are causing you anxiety, stop sweating over the table plans, just herd them about like cattle between each course and force them to say hello to  strangers.  You can think of it as sort of collaborative thing – a Web 2.0 wedding. And it was so much fun I’m going to do it again next time.