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‘Ring Fit Adventure’ Treats All Exercise the Same, and That's a Problem

Nintendo’s otherwise superb experiment needs more control over players’ workouts.

by Patrick Klepek
Nov 27 2019, 2:00pm

Image courtesy of Nintendo

Because I’ve been running for years, I’m in decent shape. My upper body is made of glass and can barely lift a paperweight, but my lower body? Pretty good, all told. Running a meaningful distance requires understanding of proper breathing techniques and a certain amount of endurance, so when I started playing Ring Fit Adventure, I ramped up the difficulty, figuring it would be necessary for the game to make a dent. The problem? Ring Fit Adventure treats difficulty universally, which means every exercise is suddenly set to hard.

I found this out the hard way during a session last week, when the game hit me with this:

I have never done a plank in my life. My last memory of a plank was, in reality, the Great Planking Phenomenon from years back, when “plank” came to mean “lie down in a weird spot and hope the image goes viral.” A traditional planking exercise involves laying on the ground and sticking your ass in the air for a long period of time, but because Ring Fit Adventure is built on reps, it means sticking your ass in the air for a few seconds, returning to your original posture, and repeating that motion over and over until the exercise is over.

It, uh, turns out a plank is extremely difficult.

My abs, unlike my legs, are in terrible shape, which is to say they basically don’t exist. But that’s the reason I’ve been investing significant time and energy into Ring Fit Adventure, how it’s become such a compelling addition to my otherwise rote physical fitness routine. It’s pulling me out of my comfort zone while, at the same time, avoiding judgment about what I’m good at or bad at. Even when Ring Fit Adventure is trying to push me towards being better, or adjusting my form, it always comes from a place of polite encouragement, not shame.

Anyway, at this point in Ring Fit Adventure, I’d unlocked enemies who were especially weak to certain types of attacks/exercises. In this case, yellow refers to ab exercises, and the only ab exercise I had in my current loadout was the one I’d just unlocked. You know, the planks.

I went from never doing a plank to doing more than 50 in less than 10 minutes. My lower body was sore as all hell for the better part of a week. I had to take planks completely out of my Ring Fit Adventure rotation for two whole sessions because I couldn’t handle doing more. As of this writing, my abs are back to normal, which means I’ll planking again soon. Great!

But the thing is, there shouldn’t have been a world where I did so many planks in the first place. Not all exercises are the same, not all bodies are the same, not all reps are the same. A plank is not the same as a knee lift. Maybe it is for a certain type of person, possibly even the type of person I’m hoping Ring Fit Adventure will help me become, but that’s not the case right now. But because Ring Fit Adventure applies a one-size-fits-all mentality to difficulty, if you want one set of exercises—in my case, cardio—to be hard and intense, you also have to accept that every set of exercise will be hard and intense, including planks.

That sucks? A lot? Now sure, I could rely on different ab-centric exercises to continue playing—but I don’t want to. I want to do planks, I just don’t want to be asked to do more than 20 in a single go because my body is not equipped to pull it off. I want to dial down the difficulty granularly, reducing the reps for planks while keeping the higher amount for others.

There’s currently no way to do that, unfortunately, and Nintendo’s track record of updating games post-release is mixed, at best. (Super Mario Maker 2 hasn’t received a single meaningful update since it was released in June.) Nintendo has not communicated whether Ring Fit Adventure is going to be treated with ongoing updates, or if we’ll be left waiting for them to eventually return to fitness with a new game.

But considering Ring Fit Adventure’s basic premise is trying to improve people’s lives, I’m hoping Nintendo will be listening.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

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nintendo
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exercise
Nintendo Switch
Ring Fit Adventure