Video games and the political and cultural economies of health-entertainment

Brad Millington

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8 Citations (SciVal)


Focusing mainly on the company Nintendo, this paper examines the political economic and cultural forces underpinning the video game industry’s recent interest in merging entertainment and health promotion. This is a trend best exemplified in sexagenarian actress Helen Mirren’s endorsement of Nintendo’s fitness-themed game Wii Fit Plus. In one sense, ‘health-entertainment’ is deemed a product of the coercive laws of competition that impress the need for reinvestment and innovation as a way of warding off industry rivals. Nintendo’s turn to health promotion is from this perspective an extension of the ‘console wars’ that in the past drove gaming companies to pursue verisimilitude on screen in hopes of attracting (young male) consumers. In another sense, the present moment offers an ideal time to direct innovation towards the issues of health and healthy ageing in particular, as the cultural logics of healthism and the ‘third age’ both emphasise the virtues of ‘healthy’ and autonomous consumer activity. As such, Nintendo has pursued aesthetic simplicity but kinaesthetic realism as a way of extending the appeal of video gaming beyond the male youth demographic. In examining the implications of these developments, it is argued that health and entertainment, as independent constructs, are conceptually reimagined through their integration with one another. The pursuit of entertainment is made ‘responsible’, thereby remedying the concern that video gaming is an unhealthy activity. The pursuit of health, meanwhile, becomes a matter of playful, technology-enhanced and ultimately consumption-based experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)739-757
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number6
Early online date4 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • ageing
  • health
  • healthism
  • neoliberalism
  • post-Fordism
  • video games


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