Can casual games help you lose weight? That's the question being asked by the scientific forces of PopCap and Anne Diamond... Oh good lord, isn't this mentioned in Revelation? PopCap's latest promotional campaign for their most recent release, Bejeweled Twist, is by far the most peculiar. Teaming up with Diamond's BuddyPower.net (also called FatHappens.com), we are told a "clinical trial" will take place.
Anne Diamond doesn't like some videogames. She finds them "sickening". In fact, she's so against them that she apparently developed terrifying super powers and began ingesting the boxes into her very being.
Original image from the Daily Mail article
Diamond has previously made her opinions known, explaining to frightened mums how games she's glanced at are going to turn their children into murderous psychopaths or similar. In fact, a rather odd claim is made in the opening of the press release promoting this endeavour, saying of her "reviewing" violent games, "her damnation was so scathing that it overshadowed The Byron Review." Er, no it didn't. It got laughed at for a ridiculous broken photo and being complete nonsense.
But now she's turning her gaming eye to her most favourite of subjects: how being fat is great and how everyone should try to lose weight. This Glenda-Slaggery is in full effect at her website, Buddy Power, where articles about how there's nothing wrong with being a biggun are surrounded by adverts for diets, and pieces about how to shed those pounds. I'm so confused! And not least by her latest move, where she's teaming up with PopCap to conduct what is being called a "clinical trial" to see if playing Bejeweled Twist can improve your waistline.
Under the Mail-ish headline, "Can casual gaming aid weight loss?" (see also: "Will eating cucumbers cure smallpox?", "Are falling house prices killing your children?" and "Is the Queen on ecstasy?"), the site writes,
"January is when most of us resolve to manage our weight and it can be really hard to stay the course in the winter months. At BuddyPower.net we’re always interested in finding out more about anything that can help our buddies, manage weight. (sic) So when PopCap.co.uk told us they wanted to conduct a clinical trial to find out if casual gaming can aid weight loss, we were intrigued. We are looking for men and women who would like to help us put PopCap.co.uk’s Bejeweled Twist through its paces by participating in a trial led by BuddyPower.net’s very own Nigel Denby."
I'm intrigued now. Does PopCap's lacklustre sequel to their match-3 classic contain some secret element that's eating calories as I sit stationary before it, my index finger lightly clicking on the mouse? Perhaps it will make my muscles twitch every time I clear some gems, like one of those devices on the infomercials where the blobby guy becomes a body builder in a week. What will it be?
"The Bejeweled Twist weightloss test will take place throughout January 2009 and we are looking for dieters whose Achilles heel is beating cravings or grazing between meals. You must have access to a computer at work and at home and be willing to keep a cravings diary for 4 weeks. We will provide the diet plan and a free copy of Bejeweled Twist. So, if you want to help dieters everywhere then email Nigel Denby at nigel@BuddyPower.net for more information and you could be PopCapping the pounds away!"
So each time you get a craving for a Mars Bar, you have a game of Bejeweled Twist instead? Except, you go on a diet at the same time. There's slightly more clarity on how the game will help from Diamond in the press release.
"The theory is that playing casual games like PopCap.co.uk’s Bejeweled Twist for a few minutes, say at lunchtime, or at a stressful time of day, can provide a simple distraction from food cravings, helping dieters remain focussed, de-stress them and lift their mood – very important features in weight loss… So naturally, I wanted to know more."
She does add that this doesn't impact on her opinions of violent games.
"Of course, we are not talking about the kinds of violent games I reviewed earlier in the year, and which caused such a stir in the gaming world. We’re looking at casual videogames. Research suggests that, unlike the violent and adrenalin-fuelled titles I reviewed, certain 'casual' games can reduce stress levels, enhance mood, and even reduce depression. What’s more, they could actually help with weight loss – a subject very close to my heart."
It's a bold claim that violent games don't reduce stress levels, enhance mood and reduce depression. I'd be interested to see her data. This all springboards from PopCap's East Carolina University study that demonstrated links between stress relief and casual gaming. It's a shame that PopCap, who have previously offered some interesting research into gamers and gaming, have taken this peculiar route. But who knows, let's wait until we see the data. Whatever the case, choose Anne Diamond isn't going to help the study be taken seriously by anyone.
There's no clear request so far for people to take part who don't go on the diet but play the game, nor those who go on the diet and don't play the game. Will there be control groups? And how will the game be used to regulate cravings? We've contacted BuddyPower's Nigel Denby for details regarding these issues, but have yet to receive a reply. We'll let you know as soon as we do.