The Gen Con 2010 gaming convention was a twelve-mile hike over four days. This is not an estimate, it is a fact. My collaborator on this site wears a pedometer as part of his fitness program and recorded slightly over 12 miles as his total for Gen Con 2010. I suspect many people exceed that number because we had a very close hotel and minimized randomly walking around looking for a game. My cohorts and I survived it with no issues, but many others at Gen Con appeared…strained. As a whole gamers are out of shape. I have only anecdotal evidence in support of my assumption, but after years of attending conventions and watching wheezing adults gasping up stairs, I think I am on safe footing.
I initially thought this post would take a “tough love” tone and re-hash all the dire medical consequences of no exercise to encourage gamers to exercise. While all true, that message is everywhere. You cannot open a magazine, watch the evening news or visit a doctor without receiving the “speech.” You know, the one where you die young, suffer horrible diseases and never get a date due to your sloth.
Clearly this approach is not working. So I have a new suggestion for gamers; exercise because it makes you a better gamer and is good for the hobby.
Though you may not care about your own health or the social consequences of your sloth, at least do it for the games! Exercise increases blood flow and reduces stress, both contribute to a clear head and a clear head means better tactics. Even RPG gamers with no need to win per se still need great tactics in combat and clever subtlety in the role-playing encounters. Do not think of it as exercise so much as sweating towards a competitive edge. It is no different from researching a powerful character build, painting miniatures or building a lethal CCG deck. All are critical preparations.
The benefits of your exercise to the hobby are both tangible and intangible. Tangible benefits include more dates for physically fit gamers which leads to more children and that leads to more gamers. Combine that increase with the longer lifespans associated with exercise and the gaming population will explode. The hobby grows! Intangibly, the pasty, obese (or scrawny) stereotype of gamers will fade into history. This is a longer term goal, but I think it is the most useful benefit of a physically fit gamer population. A better public image! Geeky gamers may be, but at least they are healthy.
So as not to appear the hypocrite, here are my current exercise habits. I work out 4-6 hours per week with a heart rate monitor that guides my workouts. I started exercising regularly about 5 years ago and now consider myself in adequate physical condition (for those interested in objective measures, my resting heart rate is 46 beats per minute and my “V02 Max” measurement is 169. Look up these measures if you like, but they fall in average range for my age (very late 30s)). I will never be an athlete, but at least I can run a couple of miles without my heart exploding and that is enough for me.
One final item I that I must mention in the interests of full disclosure; exercise is unpleasant for the first few months.
That is a simple truth that far too many exercise experts fail to mention. These gym rats always say “working out makes me feel great!” This is true, after you are in OK shape. Getting to that happy place requires sweat, soreness and probably some pain. At least, that was my experience. Fair warning.
All that said I am not an expert, just a gamer pleading for others gamers to try different lifestyle choices for their benefit and the overall hobby. DO NOT run out and start exercising without talking to a doctor and doing some research beforehand. Ignorance is a recipe for pain and injury!
So ends my rant and I hope to see fewer gamers at Gen Con trudging up stairs and more running up them!
Trask, The Last Tyromancer