The game business is so big that even Hollywood blockbuster movies with gaming characters are poor cousins in the overall marketing and moneymaking scheme of things. The younger you are, the more likely you are to use, enjoy and, yes, learn from whatever video game system you own. But there's a huge swath of us who do not want to sit on the couch and twiddle our thumbs. Until the Nintendo Wii came along, video games only occasionally crossed the generational divide into the biggest money-spending market: over-40 baby-boomers and seniors.
These are my people and only the youngest members of my crowd own video games if there are no youngsters at home. Take me. Over the years, I have played all the major consoles on occasion, usually at someone else's house. I saw the appeal, but never felt I needed one in my own house.
That changed with the appearance of the Nintendo Wii. Suddenly there was a game I could play standing up and moving around. The game offered the possibility of exercise that was entertaining and non-competitive. It offered an antidote to the increasingly sedentary activities of my ever-more-computer-based life. I bought one and hurried home.
I wasn't interested in the technical specs, the vivid reality of the graphics, or cool tips and cracks. I wanted physical activity with the pleasure of story packaged in bite-size increments that games are so good at for keeping you playing one turn after another. For diversions with a healthy payoff along with all the attention-sharpening advantages of traditional gaming, I figured this was worth bringing into my home.
When you buy the game, you get a Wii Sports game packet with five different options - bowling, baseball, tennis, golf and boxing. My first surprise was that the games I liked most were not necessarily the sports I enjoy in life. I play tennis, and while I enjoy the Wii tennis game, I find the game remote's lack of finesse annoying. I think it's because I have skills in real tennis that do not translate to Wii tennis. For example, it doesn't really matter most of the time whether you hit forehand or backhand. It is the displacement of the remote that causes the game players (called Mii's) to swing. And if you miss the ball with your Mii at the net (you must play doubles - your remote controls both players on your team) you get another chance to swing from the player at the back of the court. But there is a delay between swings, and so sometimes, though you are ready to hit a groundstroke, the game does not let you recover in time.
I play the tennis sometimes, but the games that are more fun are the bowling and boxing, two sports I normally avoid. The bowling is great fun for groups. I have many writer friends who roll their eyes at computer and console games. But the bowling, which can be played without much of a learning curve, even for the computer-averse, puts us all in indirect competition in no time. It is very social and just active enough that my most sport-shy friends enjoy playing.
The boxing I like for the aerobic exercise. You spend a lot of energy and get a good workout of the arms without having the anxiety that I, a gal without much upper body strength these days, would feel in a gym. I hate gyms. I have joined at gym at two different times in my life, and both times my money was wasted because I simply hated going. Here, I get a workout in my home without the misery of the locker room.
An added benefit came recently when I pulled a tendon in my foot. I had to keep off of it and so couldn't walk my usual daily mile with my dog. With the Wii, I could sit and swing away at tennis or boxing, getting my exercise while staying off my foot.
The Wii also has a training circuit that gives your Wii age, something that calibrates power, speed and accuracy and can be tracked from day to day as an ongoing fitness chart. However, it seems to me (or is it mii?) that power and speed correlate to younger scores. When I play for those two and let accuracy go out the window, I come up much younger than if I take care to be accurate and thereby lose a little power and speed. This clearly says less about my "fitness" and more about the preconceptions of the game designers.
That said, I am happy to have this contraption in my house. Now, when teenagers come over, they often (but not always) want to play the more typical console games: Mario or DDR. To each his or her own. But at least there's a game system that includes fun for me and my Luddite friends as well. Congratulations Nintendo and thanks for giving me a game to go for.
Published on Oct 24, 2008