Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Headline grabber of the day

As you know, I really really really hate headline grabbing. You know, those press releases or news stories that cater to the low common denominator of giving you what you want to hear. Ex: "Britney Spears reportedly contracts rare form of venereal disease" or "George Bush visits base, falls on bomb; dies"

It's not that I don't want to hear what I umm want to hear, it's just that these things are usually full of crap. With that in mind, I bring you today's headline grabber:

"Study: Nintendo Wii Style Gaming has Health Benefits" via Nintendo Revolution, via Gamegaiden, via Digg.

You barely need to get to the second paragraph on Nintendo Revolution before it becomes crystal clear this is a headline grabber:

Playing the Wii is a great way to combat childhood obesity, a new study has concluded. It makes perfect sense to us, since it's quite easy to break a sweat (and sometimes, a television) with a Wii.

To be honest, the phrase "Nintendo Wii" was never explicited mentioned in the release, but when we read phrases like "activity-required video games," there's really only one console that comes to mind.
Really? What about DDR? What about Guitar Hero? Good ol'Kong Drumming? EyeToy? Oh no, let's not consider that the study may have looked at those (the latter was the actual study vehicle). Let's go for the sexy headline. You know, the Wii is hawt! Well, at least they're honest about it.

But wait, what about the study itself, how accurate is it?
The study is the first to scientifically measure the energy spent playing video games. While the study's scope is small -- only 25 children -- it was conducted with great accuracy. Fifteen children were of normal weight for their height and frame; 10 were mildly obese. Both groups were tested while sitting and watching television, playing a traditional video game, playing two types of activity-required video games, and watching television while walking on a treadmill. [emphasis mine]
Umm, I'm not like a statistician or something but 25 kids seems like an awfully small sample size. Whatever. I guess I'd be a stickler to argue what appears to be the obvious: physical activity is good for kids. You know, when common sense tells you something should be true, why bother with good methodology.

What irks me even more is that this story will no doubt get perpetuated erroneously. Note that the blog (2nd cited link) mentions the study as if it was done with the Wii. ARGH!!

Actual press release here. (Don't even get me started on the shameless plagiarism of the press release from all these pubs). More bad Wii inferences: Here, here

GameSpot earns my respect with a balanced article and interview (though they can't help but mention the Wii too).


Anonymous said...

The big problem I see with this study is that it's not very scientific at all. It lacks a control group, so there is nothing to compare the results to. It's like measuring my height with "great accuracy" as being precisely 1 Amber tall. Outside of its own context, it's meaningless.

Also, congratulations to the Mayo Clinic for discovering that moving your limbs burns calories. I'm envisioning an entire industry born of this discovery. Places where you could visit, that have devices for you to move your limbs in different ways to burn calories and increase muscle mass. Can you see it?

Ken said...

From what I understand, the control group was supposed to be the kids that sat around watching TV or playing regular games. But I don't get it either. The study isn't anything other than saying that moving around burns calories.

What would make sense is if they did it with a true control group of kids that weren't exposed to games at all. Then a group would play non-active games, then a group would play active games. Then you would let these kids do these things for a period of time. Then you compare their health pre and post. The whole thing is weird to me.