As a garbage person, I have two specific trash conditions: one, I live an incredibly unhealthy lifestyle and two, I punish myself for everything I’ve ever thought, done, and not done. You think you regret things now? I can’t forget things I did as a child. When I was seven, I stole a friend’s Nerf ball, wrote my name on it, and claimed it was mine. That still haunts me.
So when the world decided to have an apocalypse, I decided to try something I’d been telling myself I’d try for over a decade: cooking healthier food. That didn’t work. Turned out absolutely terrible, to be honest. It turns out cooking requires patience, perseverance, and following directions. None of which I was willing to do within a twenty to forty minute time frame.
But what I was willing to do was to strap my body into uncomfortable devices and exercise using video games. And the worst thing is that it actually seems to be working and it’s killing my enjoyment of every other video game.
Here’s the routine: Every day, at the moment I feel like I’m finally happy, I decide that I should make myself unhappy by playing a game requiring physical exertion. I spend about a half hour doing this until I feel tired, and then I take a shower in the dark and think about the person I’ve become.
As far as the games go, I switch them up! Sometimes I play Ring Fit on Nintendo Switch, a game about a magical exercise ring that never shuts the fuck up. It does not stop talking. And while the main villain in the game is ostensibly a weight-lifting dragon who could destroy me, my true antagonist is this fucking ring. It’s not that I don’t want to do the squat right, it’s that my body is terrible.
I’m also playing a lot of exercise games in virtual reality, because I may have a small one bedroom apartment, but I do live alone. Nobody has to see this. Nobody wants to see this. My secret shame. Most of these games – Beat Saber, Audioshield, Audica, Box VR – basically make me do the same motion: wave my arms over and over to music until my arms are tired a lot. They also make me do squats, which as the ring has taught me, isn’t my strong suit.
One of the stronger benefits of working out in virtual reality is that you can’t see yourself. I don’t have to look at a man who once spent a week eating Cadbury eggs because he accidentally ordered sixty of them and not a pack of six like he thought. It also helps to feel a bit immersed. Not immersed in the sense of “this feels like the real thing!” It doesn’t. Nothing feels real anymore. But immersed in the sense that I can’t stop exercising and check my phone every five minutes to see if I suddenly somehow have friends.
Over the last month and a half, I’ve grown to hate these games. Every day, my Ring Fit leg strap seems a little more uncomfortable and every night, my Oculus Quest feels looser and more caked with sweat. I’ve mastered almost every song on Expert. I’ve shot every person in Pistol Whip like I’m John Thicc. I want to say I’ve done a third thing, but, really, that’s mostly the range of experiences. There’s some Vader Immortal dojo play in there, but the phrase “dojo play” sounds like a sex act that I really have to ramp up to asking for.
As much as I now hate these games, as much as the thought of doing one more fucking round of POP/STARS on Beat Saber makes me want to weep, it’s actually working. I’m losing weight. I’ve lost enough weight for it to be noticable. Shirts that didn’t fit me before now kind of fit. Most of these are video game pre-order shirts. In fact, most of the shirts I have at all are video game pre-order shirts. I haven’t tried seeing if pants fit better. Pants don’t exist in this future world.
I recognize that my desire to lose weight – or at least, get in a shape that’s not best described as “Robotnik” – is only my own. My body issues are mine alone to deal with. I wouldn’t expect anyone else to try what I’m trying – nor would I recommend it. It sucks. The loathing I feel for games I once loved is not to be underestimated. Beat Saber can suck my ass. Or, arse. Whatever. I just can’t deny that this is the first time in almost eighteen years that I’ve created a healthy pattern for myself that’s not dependent on crash dieting or self-abuse.
Will I keep up this charade when New York opens back up and I have to return to my job’s offices? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I’ll keep it up another week when I finally put a fucking Joycon through my television for not registering me bending a leg in a yoga pose. But there’s something to be said of hating these games with all my heart, hating working out with all my body, hating doing anything productive with all my soul, and still doing it anyway. Maybe it’s the quarantine forcing me to find ways to be active. Maybe it’s a loophole in my brain that thinks even a game I don’t like is still a game. I don’t know. But, fuck me, at least I’m trying.