It's a vicious, ugly battle. Punches rain down upon the battered boxer. His head snaps back and around like a dog's toy being shaken. Finally, a final straight right sends him to the canvas.
Beaten — by an 8-year-old girl.
"Whew-hew," yells Lorelei Mansfield, throwing her arms in the air. Her breath is audible, and the smell of sweat is in the air — par for the course for a boxer dealing some serious rough justice.
Then she puts down the controller and heads to the kitchen for some fruit snacks.
Today's video games have very little to do with that Atari system boxed up somewhere in the garage. For nearly three decades, the only physical sign of someone having played video games was a thumb cramp. Now, the virtual reality of many games requires players to punch, throw and swing. And that, according to some studies, is helping keep video game players in better physical shape than in decades past.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in March said the magic words gamers have dreamed about for decades: Playing video games actually can be considered exercise, especially Wii Sports and Konami's Dance Dance Revolution, in which users go through the motions making their virtual counterparts perform. Boxing, martial arts, basketball, archery, bowling, table tennis and more can be simulated in one's own living room. The key is standing up and participating in what's being called "exergaming."
"Exergaming is beneficial because it keeps (kids) in a culture of movement as opposed to a culture of (inactivity)," Michael Rich, director of the Center for Media and Children's Health at Children's Hospital in Boston, tells the American Academy of Pediatrics newsmagazine.
'A good workout'
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed participation in intense games such as Wii Boxing or Dance Dance Revolution was comparable to moderate-intensity walking. But another article in the same issue said that while exergaming uses significantly more energy than sitting around pushing buttons, those games don't provide as much benefit as participating in actual sports.
In other words, gaming nerds aren't totally off the hook.
"Unless you do resistance-type exercise, you won't gain a lot of strength," says Robert Dimeff, sports medicine director at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "To get cardiovascular benefits, you'd need to get your heart rate and blood pressure up."
Getting beat by an 8-year-old at Wii boxing will get the blood pressure up, all right.
A firsthand look at five kids, ages 5 to 12, playing Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort, shows the games generate a lot of action among players.
Yelling, bickering and controller tug-of-war are optional.
"I think that (action games) are more fun because they're active," says Tony Romano, 12, of Clayton, Calif. "It feels more real when you're standing and playing. You feel like you need to win."
The kids really get worked up playing Swordplay, where the on-screen weapon looks like it's made of wood. It requires players — whose avatars stand atop a round platform in a large stadium — to defend, strike, parry and basically beat their opponent until they fall into the water below (far enough to allow pre-splashdown gloating). The harder the swing, the more powerful the attack, which gets the blood pumping.
Ron Rogers of Brentwood, Calif., only lets his kids play Wii on weekends. But when they do, he can tell the difference between the active and nonactive games.
"They end up all sweaty and red in the face from all the jumping and twisting and punching they do while playing," he says. "They're jumping the whole time and moving their arms about. We always say it makes us feel better about them playing video games because they get such a good workout."
The workout, of course, depends on the level of commitment. Mickey DeLorenzo, a 25-year-old Philadelphia man, began a semifamous fitness regime in December 2006, playing Wii for 30 minutes a day for six weeks.
He reportedly lost nine pounds (even through holidays) without otherwise altering his routine.
Comparatively speaking, exergaming beats sitting around staring at the screen, but doctors warn parents not to get too excited.
"Video games can work as exercise," says Susan Bartell, author of "Dr. Susan's Fit & Fun Family Action Plan." "However, one of the things I've noticed over and over again is that kids learn how to get over on the game and, therefore, on their parents. They'll play tennis while sitting down."
There's also the risk of playing too much — traditionally a concern for parents of video game lovers. Only now there's a new twist — repetitive motion injuries.
"Wii and other systems have been known, in some cases, to cause repetitive strain injuries, like carpel tunnel syndrome, back pain, knee and shoulder discomfort and elbow strain — conditions normally associated with actual competitive sports," says Mark Klion, a fitness consultant with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Department of Orthopedics in New York.
Here are some video-game packages featuring sports themes:
WII SPORTS: Includes simulated boxing, bowling, golf, baseball and tennis; Nintendo; $44.98
WII SPORTS RESORT: Includes swordplay, water-scooter racing and "disc dog" (tossing a disc to a pooch), Nintendo, $46.99
WII PUNCH-OUT: Simulated boxing; Nintendo; $39.98.
DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION: Dancing at different levels of difficulty; by Konami; sold in various forms and available on Nintendo, Xbox 360 and PlayStation. Prices vary.