Alongside his quest to add more Olympic medals to his collection of 16, swimmer Michael Phelps has taken some time outside of the water to dive into his first video game.
The 14-time gold medalist has partnered with publisher 505 Games and developer Blitz Games to create the world's first swimming game for Xbox 360's Kinect system. "Michael Phelps: Push the Limit" is played without any controllers, allowing players to move their bodies to replicate swimming styles like backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke and virtually swim in competitions around the world.
Phelps, who instructs players in the game on how to improve their swimming, also provided voice work and his motion-capture likeness for the game. He worked with the development team throughout the creative process.
A life-long gamer, the Baltimore, Maryland, native is focused on training for the London 2012 Olympic Games. But he's also using technology, including the new video game, to help generate awareness for his sport outside of the global spotlight every four years.
In this interview for CNN, Phelps talks about gaming, Twitter, and why he's addicted to the mobile game "Words with Friends."
Michael Phelps\' new video game allows players to copy the Olympic champion\'s strokes.
Michael Phelps' new video game allows players to copy the Olympic champion's strokes.
How often do you play video games?
I probably play two or three days a week. It's mostly just sports games like "FIFA", "Tiger Woods", "Madden" and "NCAA Football." I've always loved the sporting games. Every now and then we'll play "Halo" online, but I just get destroyed every time and it's not really that fun.
What was it like for you to get involved in your own video game?
It was weird. I still look at the game cover and I'm like, "Wow." But it's kind of cool. Growing up a gamer and being able to work on the little things in this game like the different venues and those types of details has been a dream come true. The opportunities that I've had to take the sport to a new level and change it and do things that people haven't seen before has been fun. And now having a game on Xbox Kinect, it's not every day a swimmer has that. It's just exciting and hopefully everybody out there can enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the creative process of building it and playing it and making it and being a part of everything.
When it comes to the motion controls of the Kinect, what did that open up for swimming?
Past (swimming) games have just been about hitting the A and B buttons quickly. Kinect allowed us to get gamers up and actually go through the motions to feel like you are swimming. It's cool for me because this game might help people not only get into the sport more, but to also get up and be active. That's something that's very important for not only kids, but everybody out there.
How much of a workout can players get from this game?
It actually is hard even for me. I did have a challenging time playing it, but once you get in the groove it's not too bad. It is fairly realistic though, and that's one of the things I really wanted to have in this game. It's going to be interesting to see how people like it. I've been getting people sending me messages on Twitter constantly about it. It is a way to get off the couch and get active instead of sitting there with the controller and just tapping buttons. It's much more interactive than regular games are.
Can people learn about swimming from playing the game?
Yeah, I'm sure. The better form you have, the faster you're going to go. It's extremely realistic. I found a lot of people were afraid to put their face under the water. So if they actually feel comfortable being able to just swim the strokes, maybe they'll feel comfortable when they get in the water. There are a lot of things that could happen and hopefully we can get more people in the pool and around the pool.
What's your favorite piece of technology that you can't live without?
I'm always on my phone. I'm always on Twitter. I'm constantly on my BlackBerry and iPhone. I think the apps and everything on iPhones are just unbelievable.
Do you have a favorite app that you play around with?
I have not been able to stop playing "Words with Friends." Ever since I got it, I've been playing it constantly. I can't even invite any more people to play because I'm at the max amount of games you can have. I have 30 games going at once. I'm literally on it non-stop. I took the train up yesterday and that's all I was doing. I had my headphones on and I was playing "Words with Friends." So it kills time. It's fun, and it's competitive.
What are your thoughts about how far games have come on smartphones?
It's unbelievable. You can do anything from your phone. I never thought that I would switch from BlackBerry to the iPhone, but gradually I'm taking myself away from the BlackBerry and going to the iPhone and it really is amazing. You can get anything from directions to restaurants to games. You name it. Like the commercial says, there's an app for that.
How does technology allow you to connect with your fans, especially during the off Olympic years?
That's been one of the cool things. I said I would never get on Twitter. And I stayed away from it until last December and (since then) I literally haven't put it down. It's a cool way to connect with people all over the world. There have been fans from China and Brazil and everywhere who are constantly tweeting at me or asking things. People ask me about the video game or about how I'm training. It's been fun to keep everybody in the loop of what's going on.
What are you looking forward to with the next Olympics?
I think the biggest thing is just trying to prepare myself the best way I can. Over the years I probably haven't been in the best shape, but I'm in better shape now than I was in '09 or '10 and this past summer. Hopefully in the next ten months I can get in even better shape and just try and accomplish the goals that I have. I have a lot of goals that I want to accomplish in and out of the water before I retire. If I'm able to do that, then I can look back on my career and say it's been a success.
Can you share any of the goals?
My coach and I are the only two that know. Throughout my career I've always sort of kept them between him and I, and we're the only two that are really going to be able to help each other get to the goals that we have. We work well together. We're more relaxed now than we ever have been and we're having fun, so who knows what can happen? The sky is the limit. We have a lot to do and the Olympics will be here before we know it.