Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Wii" are the champions, my friends.

If you don't know what a Nitendo "Wii" is by now, then you must:
A.) Be over 35 years old.
B.) Not be around kids (ages eight or older).
C.) Both

Don't feel bad. I am closing in on forty, and if my nephews didn't have a Wii then I would still be in the dark, too.

I don't have much to say about the Wii, except that I had a played some video games with it, and I just kept saying, "Wow, this is so weird! This is really weird. That's weird." You get the idea.

Oh! If you don't know what a Wii is, it's a new type of at-home video game that allows a player to hold a small "remote control" sized device in her hand, and by moving that device around, her movements are transferred to her "player" on the television, such that when she moves (in real life), her digital player moves (in the same way, on screen).

For example, if you are playing tennis (as I did), you would find yourself looking at a tennis court on the t.v. screen, with a digital player representing you and another digital player representing your opponent. In my case, I was playing tennis against a computer controlled tennis champion named "Mitchell", whom my nephews named and created as one of the many choices of a worthy opponent.

When the tennis match starts, you stand in front of the t.v. in a tennis playing stance, ready to hit the ball, serve the ball, or respond however the tennis shot dictates. When you are supposed to hit the ball, you just swing your hand with the control, in the same motion you would for a backhand or whatever stroke you'd need for returning the shot, and the computer makes your character hit the ball using the stroke you used.

You do need to change your stance and footwork to get the shots right, so you really look like you're on the court. And, yes, you do need to move your furniture out of the way and clear space around you to accommodate your high level of frenetic-ism.

It's weird!

You feel like you are really playing tennis, watching your little virtual figure hit the ball back and forth with the virtual opponent. I found myself getting into the swing of things, if you'll pardon a bad pun, and actually worked up a bit of a sweat playing tennis in the basement.

So, what's the point of mentioning this?

I think the point might be, video games are moving into a generation of development that is making it possible to interact with them on a level that engages you enough to make you feel you are really doing the activity, or playing the sport, to the degree that you find yourself getting a workout out of the deal .

Imagine skiing, playing tennis, shooting hoops--getting you workout in, without really realizing you are getting your workout.

Granted, it's not the same as jogging outside, or playing tennis "for real", but it could just be interesting enough to get couch potatoes moving and might be a fun way to get inactive video gaming kids into some level of interaction and physical activity.

Other applications for interactive video gaming will likely continue to develop in the areas of injury rehabilitation and physical therapy. Imagine, you are recovering from a sports injury and as part of your recovery you are given drills that make you feel like you are back on the field, or on the court, or skiing down the race course.

Patients receiving hip or knee replacements could take a virtual walk through a summertime garden, complete with virtual flowers and honeybees, no matter what the weather or season is like outside. This could prove beneficial as a means of getting people moving and enjoying aspects of their recovery.

While the video gaming culture may popularize Wii-like technologies, I believe some of their benefits will spill over mainstream culture in some of the ways I just mentioned.

There's always the risk that alternate realities created via interactive gaming will develop more appeal for some than, say....reality. But that's always the case. If you think otherwise, I have three little words for you: Dungeons and Dragons.

See? Case settled.

If we create alternate realities as a means of escaping our human condition, then we will be running from ourselves, which is not so hot--or so new. Haven't we been doing that all the while? Creating distractions that keep us from the bigger issues, bigger problems? Don't we enjoy running toward a new distraction more than we do sitting with issues that need to be resolved?

Politics, environment, religion, marriage, family, equality--you name it. There are so many things that need to be worked on, that it's easy to just toss your hands up in the air and go check out the latest addition to high-definition television technology.

What does that say about us? What does that say about where we, on top of the food chain, are heading? I think it says we'd better wake up, but what do I know about plasma televisions?

All I can say is, if you find yourself taking a virtual vacation to the ocean because the real oceans are un-swimmable and polluted, it's high time you ditch your Wii-device and get over to Greenpeace, where spinning protest-rich circles around whaling ships in a rubber raft (at which harpoons are being launched, I might add) would definitely provide as much excitement as any virtual gaming device could ever hope to match (I would think...) and you might just do the planet some good, in the mean time.

Well enough of the moral high-ground. I'd better run along. Mitchell just won the last set, and we're going for the best two out of three.

Wish me luck!

Until Wii meet again....


P.S. If you want to get a better look at a Wii, this link should do the trick: http://wii.nintendo.com/

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