Sunday Long Reads: Fitness trackers, Irish video games and Davy Fitzgerald's reign comes to an end

Kick back with a cup of coffee and enjoy the best long reads from Newstalk

This week's Long Reads takes a look at the business of fitness trackers, and whether or not they're really aimed at the market that needs them. 

Elsewhere, there's an interview with Gerry Dunne, an Irish Patalympic athlete who claimed  eight medals in his career, but did so in a time when there was far less coverage of the Games. 

There's also a look at the Irish game development scene with the directors of the new, cinematic game 'Virginia', a reflection on Davy Fitzgerald as his reign in the Banner County comes to an end, and a look at how the zombie movie genre has evolved to reflect the ever-changing fears of the viewing public.

Fitness trackers are aimed at the fit and healthy, not at those that really need them

Fitness trackers are great aren’t they? Just strap one to your wrist and they will tell you everything from how many steps you climbed to how many calories you burned and how many hours sleep you got. They will change your life for the better. You will exercise more, eat less and sleep more soundly.

Well, at least that is what companies like Fitbit, Jawbone and Misfit want you to believe, but as a study published this week shows, that is not necessarily the case.

Over the course of two years, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh monitored 470 overweight or obese people aged 18 to 35. Everyone was put on a low calorie diet, given an exercise regime and invited to attend group sessions to help them lose weight. Six months into the study, half of the participants were also given a fitness tracker.

The result? The half that didn’t have a fitness tracker lost more weight - and the difference was not minimal.

Gerry Dunne: One of Ireland's most decorated Paralympians you've never heard of

The Paralympic athletes who return home with medals from these Games will spend their first few days sorting through requests for interviews from all forms of media. 

However, it hasn't always been a sporting event that has been given the coverage that it deserves, as Gerry Dunne can attest to. One of Ireland's most decorated Paraylmpians, he began representing his country at a very different time for the Paralympics both at home and internationally.

"I started in 1984 when it was probably known about, but the overall interest within Ireland and England wasn't as great as it is now," he explains. "The coverage that I got would have been snippets in the newspaper about winning something. I won a few medals and stuff, but it wouldn't have been the main topic of conversation on the radio or in the newspaper, and there was definitely no television coverage."

"A few medals and stuff" is one way of describing it, given that Dunne claimed four golds, a silver and three bronze, as well as setting world record times in the 100m butterfly and the 100m back stroke in 1984 and again in 1988.

The directors of 'Virginia' talk cinema, collaboration and the Irish game development scene

The word 'cinematic' is often considered a very dirty word when we're talking about video games. But the new game Virginia - from co-directors based in Dublin and London - embraces the language of cinema in a very bold and refreshing way.

Often, 'cinematic' is used to sneeringly refer to blockbuster experiences such as the Uncharted series - big budget games with lavish production values and straightforward, action-packed gameplay. 

Sometimes, 'cinematic' is a description used to refer to full motion video or FMV games - games based heavily around live action video footage. Older games in the 'genre' - I use the term loosely - have, by and large, struggled to age well, often cursed with low quality production values, limited interaction and incredibly cheesy acting. Such games fell out of fashion for a decade or so, but they have had a minor resurgence in recent years.

The genre with all the gifts: How zombie movies continue to come back from the dead

This weekend sees the release of The Girl With All The Gifts, based on the best selling novel by M. R. Carey, which tells the story of a world ravaged by a zombie-like virus.  

One young girl who has been infected but not incapacitated by it, like the majority of the population, may be the key to unlocking a cure and saving the planet for total annihilation.

The origin virus is actually based in fact, a variation on the Cordyceps fungus (and anyone who has ever played The Last Of Us video game will spot the similarity), which has already been documented as a zombie-fying, mind-controlling virus... albeit solely in the insect world. 

With The Girl with all the Gifts, the zombie movie sub-genre once again reflects the deepest, darkest fears mankind is currently experiencing and passes a light through them, projecting them on to the big screen.

One conversation with Davy Fitzgerald blew apart some of my preconceptions about him

You can never keep a full panel of players happy, that’s just the nature of it.

You might be lucky enough to keep the dissenting voices quiet if the results are good and everyone feels they’re part of something special, but that’s rare. Put it this way: if news that Brian Cody was going to move TJ Reid to midfield while drafting in Liam Blanchfield and Mark Bergin for the All-Ireland semi-final replay with Waterford made it out, then you know loose words can spread from any camp.

Firstly, a spade that we can easily identify as a spade: Davy Fitz was never going to be the most universally popular of managers. You can’t be as abrasive as he is and not draw fire on yourself.