Dance Punch like no one’s watching
At least, I can take comfort in the fact that there are 58,000 people who would commiserate with me, and they can all be found on the Facebook group for Supernatural, a VR workout app available on the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 VR headsets.
The concept behind Supernatural isn’t new. It uses gamification to make working out less of a chore. Each session starts with a warm up with a coach before leading into the main workout, which comes in two styles: Flow or Boxing. The former is Supernatural’s pioneer format and involves holding hand controllers while swinging them at targets that the game hurls at you. In the virtual world, the hand controllers appear to be bats. The latter format was added only last year and, as its name implies, is designed around boxing movements.
The colour and type of the targets indicate the type of punches or swings to use, and the hand that should be executing the movement. Glowing triangles you have to fit into and bars flying at you force you to duck, lunge, and squat so that lower body movements are addressed. The coaches are on screen only during the warm ups and cool downs, but remain present off screen during the main workout to shout encouragements, give tips on your form and inform you when to punch harder.
What really differentiates Supernatural from similar games is its visual. Every workout takes you to a different part of the world or even out of it, from the salt flats of Bolivia to a volcano in Iceland, and the moon. In the last one, the visuals were assembled from panoramas from NASA and the 1969 moon landing. Finding yourself in a remote location surrounded only by nature is particularly conducive for the guided meditation mode and the Moment mode, where you may simply sit in silence to contemplate your virtual surroundings.
Then, there are the songs. The app creators have taken great pains with licensing, resulting in a music library of more than a thousand songs in every genre imaginable. Whatever song gets you moving, you’d probably be able to find it, including The Jackson 5, Bob Marley, Disney themes, heavy metal, and even your favourite rock band.
But these features, awesome as they are, are not what’s keeping people coming back. It’s the abovementioned 58,000-strong community. Known for being exceptionally diverse and inclusive, the Supernatural Facebook group has become a safe space for anyone with any reason to feel uncomfortable in a gym. Here is where those struggling with obesity, eating disorders, and gender identity issues can finally find open up about the challenges they face and find a support network that truly understands.