New DVD game battles childhood 'Obeez City'


ORLANDO, -- Obesity may be a global epidemic, but it's Obeez City that is spreading out of control in a new DVD game.

The game, called "Body Mechanics," teaches youngsters how to avoid being overweight by joining forces with a team of superheroes who battle villains with names like Col Estorol and Betes II.

The fighting takes place inside the body of Jack Decayd. If Obeez City is not contained, "Jack will die soon," says Neuro, the Yoda-like wise one who narrates the game's story line.

"I remember how it started. A few snacks here, a soft drink there," Neuro speaking in an ominous tone says during the opening. "And before we knew it, the Evil Coalition of Harm and Disease was threatening us all. ... Only you can change how this story ends."

"Body Mechanics" is the latest in a string of video games that promote more exercise and better eating habits, although this one doesn't actually get kids up and active. It's more of a teaching tool packaged with an animated movie and sold as a two-disc set.

It became available in limited release Tuesday in retail outlets including Target, Borders, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies.

Viewed as sedentary pastimes, video games and their cousins, the TV and PC, are typically the object of parental finger-waving.

And children are becoming gamers younger than ever -- 2 years old, according to a survey conducted by NPD Group, a market research firm. With sales in the U.S. totaling $12.5 billion in 2006, the gaming industry's foothold is firmly planted in American culture -- and so is childhood obesity. Roughly 17% of American youngsters are obese, and millions more are overweight, according to the government.

But highly popular active video games like "Dance Dance Revolution" and gaming consoles such as Nintendo Co.'s Wii and now "Body Mechanics" may help counter the belief that video games enable teens to lie around and gain weight.

Imagine Harry Potter, "Star Wars" and "Lord of the Rings" all mixed up inside the body and that's "Body Mechanics," said Tony Findlay, the game's Australian creator, who is based in Sydney.

While on tour promoting a diet book, Findlay said, "Parents approached me and asked how they can teach their kids to eat better and exercise more."

Video games like "Body Mechanics "have a difficult task, said Dr. Karen Cullen, an associate professor with the Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston.

"You can give someone an hour's worth of facts and you'll bore them to death," she said. "The games have to be entertaining to compete in the marketplace."