Embrace the world of pr0nified IT with wide open, er, arms

Reach your target fitness climax and then close your rings

Mark Wahlberg and his come-to-life teddy bear in bed in the movie Ted. Copyright: Universal Pictures

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Would you like to play with me? I’ll show you how to do the moves. Sure, everyone will be watching us online but I promise to take you to the next level. Oh, and I’m well fit.

Great, that’s all I need: another personal trainer.

After last week’s confessions of a fitness-band wearer, I had rather hoped that the whole sports wearables blah had been put to bed for at least another six months. But no, just after the topic had slurped the remaining drops of cocoa, slipped on its bed socks and snuggled down with a fluffy-jacketed hot water bottle, it was rudely dragged away from the promise of slumber by the pernicious return of that most evil of industry jargon.


(SFX: thunderclap, horses neighing)

Oh yes indeedy. This week I was informed that fitness bands assist with personal weight loss regimes by gamifying them.

Apparently when you set a daily goal such as the number of steps or distance walked or flights climbed, you are establishing the difficulty of the “game”. Your weekly goal signifies moving up a level. Your target weight is the final level boss.

It seems you can’t do anything with an electrical gadget these days without someone claiming that you aren’t doing what you thought you were doing but merely participating in a game. Well, thank you for your opinion, Mr Paranoid Bastard, but I had rather hoped we’d all moved on from such smartarsery.

As I have written many times before (sorry about that), you can stretch the gamification analogy to fit any aspect of human experience if you try hard enough. Go to work and get paid at the end of the month? You win the level! Got promoted? It’s a power-up! Beaten the boss to a pulp? You’ve er… just beaten the boss to a pulp.

Applying the gamification monicker to every desire+effort+reward cycle is facile. If I’m hungry and therefore acquire the means to buy food and then proceed to eat it, I’m not playing some fucking game. It’s the other way round, surely: game-playing is just one example of that reward cycle in action.

Sure, there are gamified elements to fitness apps that invite you to lose more blubber than your similarly fat mates, with the pathetic promise of awarding you an infantile trophy icon.

I waste no time on these airhead gestures any more than I would on a conventional computer game. I am intrigued, however, by my Fitbit app’s insistence that I should walk down Vernal Falls in Yosemite. This is no mean challenge given that I would have to walk 6,000 miles just to get there.

For the benefit of Scottish readers, that means you'd have to walk 3,000 miles and then walk 3,000 more.

I hope my Fitbit automatically detects my splashing steps as I wade across the Atlantic. What will the app display as the exercise icon, I wonder. Jesus astride a wavy line?

No, what I see is the growth – or should I say “lengthening”? – of pornification in both gaming and consumer IT in general.

If you don’t believe me, take a look for yourself at the latest promotional catchline for the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch: close your rings

Back in the day, we would indulge manufacturers in their use of overblown but harmless clichés to describe their boring CRT monitors and laser printers as “awesome” and “wicked”.

Now, computer displays are always “bigger” or “open wider”; they have “gorgeous curves”, “turn on instantly with one touch” and can be used “at any angle”. Laser printers are always “faster” and “last longer”, with rod-like consumable cartridges that are “easy to slide in” and promising “extended endurance” to keep you going “between refills”.

Often, marketing of these products knows no shame. Bored of your fitness band or smartwatch? For just $129 you can slip on the Lovely, a product publicised somewhat vaguely as “the Fitbit for sex”.

Such metaphors are rarely helpful. “The Facebook of shoelacing”. “The Amazon of wrought iron”. What does it all mean?

Well, in this case it’s a vibrating plastic hoop that slides over a JT, and comes … sorry, I mean is supplied with recharging cradle and a smartphone app that provides exclusively hetero “sexy tips” while tracking the duration of your, er, workouts and accumulating calorie burn.

What I find fascinating is that since the company couldn’t expect to achieve much in terms of upsale by pornifying a sex toy, it reversed the psychology by using everyday business language in its marketing. The promotional catchlines say things such as: “More diversity”, “Additional stimulation”, “Explore new positions”.

Anyone would think it was an employment agency.

Rhaa Lovely! by Gotlib

See for yourself at the OurLovely website, which is perfectly SFW since its video demonstration involves a mild pornification of a banana and a peach.

By the way, that’s “OurLovely”, not to be confused with “Rhââ Lovely!” by the late, great Marcel Gotlib, which I stress most vehemently is NSFW.

As for the pornification of computer games, it has always been thus. If we hadn’t had Jimmy Savile, even the likes of Minecraft could have been dragged down that path by now. Small mercies, eh?

Then again, perhaps there is more to the claims of gamification of fitness apps than I first imagined. Certainly, participating in a group gym circuit has more than a passing similarity to living inside a repetitive, low-budget platformer, and I have played some first-person shooters that left me feeling so dirty that I wanted a shower afterwards.

Did I say “platformer”? Blimey, that shows my age. For me, the best computer games were played in an arcade or on an 8bit console, after which they got progressively worse in direct correlation to their improving graphics. The pontification of Lara Croft with swishy hair and swaying breasts did not improve Tomb Raider gameplay one jot.

Or perhaps it was the general crapness of the late 1970s and early 1980s that made those naive old computer games seem thrilling. My wife has reminded me of a dreadful hit pop song called Computer Games that played incessantly on the jukebox in her father’s café in 1979. The somewhat underwhelming chorus went like this:

“Com-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-pu-puter-puter, puter games!”

Innocent times, eh? Then again, my wife also points out that the drunken sophisticates in the café who insisted on playing this record over and over again would sing over the chorus with these improvised lyrics:

“La bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite bite au cuuuul!”

For non-French speakers among you, Google Translate can provide an English version.

And the band was called Mi-Sex. So I guess, even then, it was all about bonking after all – as indeed, it should.

Just remember to close those rings afterwards.

Youtube Video

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He has tended to avoid playing computer games for more than 20 minutes at any sitting ever since he once asked his newly-wed wife, eager to set off for a morning shopping trip, to “hang on a bit” while he completed the final stage of Sonic The Hedgehog 2. By the time he had finished, night had fallen.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018