Nothing is stranger than telling someone you play guitar and having them respond that you would therefore really enjoy playing "Guitar Hero" on a television.

Wouldn't the time they spent learning an interface and practicing a game have been better spent practicing on an actual guitar?

It would seem. There are some things that are fun to do virtually because obviously we can't do them in real life. In real life a British shoemaker got to put an end to Napoleon's dreams of conquest but I can't go back in time 200 years and learn to make shoes and go to war. Likewise I can't defeat alien Nazis in World War II but ... bowling? I can do that.

This is not the lament of a man rapidly approaching middle age about wasted youth. I never liked bowling. But there are few young people with active enough lifestyles that they can afford to spend time playing 'active' games in lieu of real exercise, yet I have heard a number of claims from parents that these games are somehow better than ordinary sitting around because they involve movement.

I agree that almost anything is better than television. We use more brain waves sleeping than we do watching television (though I am certain I have memorized every line of "Robbie the Reindeer" by now, because television brings moments of peace in young children, which is scary and comforting at the same time) but no one should be fooling themselves into thinking it is real exercise just because it involves ridiculous truncated movements in sports.

The Christmas BMJ (which tells you all you need to know) has a new 'study' from Liverpool John Moores University that gives me hope for recreational sanity; it said that teenagers playing sports games on a Wii showed less than 2% increase in measurable activity (calories burned) versus children who played sedentary games. Which is not a lot, and nowhere near the exercise value of actual bowling, and completely ridiculous but it gives me something serious to talk about before we have a laugh.

I can understand if Jeff Gordon or Lewis Hamilton drives a computer race car for fun on occasion. There's a lot of setup work that goes into real race cars and a computer can memorize the gear ratio you like for each track, no tools required. Given their practice levels it is unlikely improper motion with a driving wheel will impact their real driving.

For young people who want to learn a real sport I can imagine nothing worse than repetitive practicing with bad form - if you've seen most baseball players swing a golf club you know a lot of practice with the wrong swing for a sport doesn't work well.

Likewise for young people who want to learn a real healthy lifestyle than involves a balance of mental (computer games are quite good for that) and physical practice, nothing will substitute for the real thing.

Plus, I can't speak for any of you but I have never seen anyone take a fake guitar and a Playstation to the park and meet girls. So real guitars are better in lots of ways for the foreseeable future.

And that study? It's a spoof, of course, because those cheeky lads and lasses at BMJ don't want you to take your kids' virtual gaming too seriously.