Saturday, June 20, 2009


We recently passed the One Year mark on the Wii Fit board--we had one pre-ordered, actually. Sort of amusingly, I'm the primary user of the board, though I'm sporadic. The Boy used it for 8 hours one day, got all the high scores, took his blood sugar down to alarmingly low levels--interesting that--but then never cared to use it again.

The obvious distinction there is that The Boy is definitely a hardcore gamer. (I've been one in the past, but it got difficult to keep up 'round about kid #3.) The Wii isn't really about hardcore games. We have a few, but they don't get much play.

Of course, what the Wii is about--the reason it comes close to outselling the XBox 360 and the PS3 combined--is a simple physicality that makes it both accessible and interesting in a way that thumb twitching is not.

What's less obvious, of course, is that--particularly with the Wii Fit--the physicality isn't all that interesting to The Boy, at least in part because it's just way too easy for him. And this is before he started doing his current program, which he says has really improved his reflexes. (The other part, I think, is that hardcore gamers tend to want to minimize any exertion between their intention and action.) But it's not that easy for me, which I take to be a sign of "aging".

And, when I say "aging", I of course mean "any deterioration I can attribute to forces outside of my control, regardless of actual causes, particularly causes that I might not want to address."

Anyway, one of the tests on the Wii is to stand still--well, really to balance. If a kid can hold himself still, it's just a matter of standing very still and with weight distributed equally on both legs. I'm pretty sure this was never a problem for me before. I mean, I do okay on the test. Very close to perfect. But this and a lot of the other tests (shifting weight, standing on one leg) seem challenging in a way I don't think they would've been a "few" years ago.

I used to do all kinds of karate maneuvers on one leg (which is of dubious practicality, but that's a discussion for a different time). But not having had the technology at the time, it's hard to say how much (or even whether, he suggested optimistically) of a deterioration there's been over the years.

Meanwhile, I've wrested quite a few of The Boy's high scores away.

It's just a temporary respite, of course. The Flower and I played a couple hours of Wii Sports over the past few days, and she can give me a run for my money--beat me, even--on tennis and baseball, and her bowling skills are coming up. She doesn't quite have the light touch needed for golfing, and nobody can really touch me on boxing. Well, yet. Give her time.

All's not perfect in the Wii world, of course. As much as I love the Wii, it's more a tantalizing taste of the future than a great implementation. The wiimote suggests a time when true motion capture will be used to interact with games--and perhaps other software, though I think contra Minority Report, big gestures aren't going to ever be the norm--and the new MotionPlus is supposedly dynamite, but the games do show the limits of the motion control. (Of course, at the other end, you have complaints that the MotionPlus is too sensitive. There's a lot of frontier to be crossed, technologically speaking.)

Worse, despite the killer console sales I'm not seeing a lot of games that really embrace the motion, and the whole gaming support industry is really not set up to distinguish between traditional hardcore games and games that use the motion system effectively.

Then, there are minor issues. I think the Wii Fit board is too narrow. (I'm used to a wider stance from my karate days, and one size fits all doesn't seem optimum.) Also, there's a lot of nagging. I understand why it's in there, but it does seem condescending at first, and--after two years--irritating. It's all designed to be gentle, but needs to be a lot more easily dismissed after the 200th viewing.

Still, we've enjoyed the console, and I foresee it having another three years life, easily, on our shelf. I don't see replacing it with a button masher ever though.


  1. What is a button masher? :)

    My son finally got a Wii system. I really want this now! (but I don't want to be nagged either, lol)

  2. Darcy,

    "Button masher" is usually used to refer to a game that involves pressing a whole bunch of buttons really fast. Fighting (and arcade-style) games tend to be button mashers.

    It's often used derogatorily.

    In this case, I'm really using it to refer to all traditional consoles: You sit. You mash buttons.

    I can see the gaming world splitting between button mashers and a style that evolves from the seed the Wii has planted. One where subtle physical motions in three dimensions (that can't be duplicated by wiggling a joystick) are the language used instead of A, A, B, A+B, Left, Left, Down.

    I can see it being like a competitive Tai Chi or martial arts form. Or at least one form of it.

    There's nothing wrong with button mashing, and it can be fun way to relax, but to me motion capture is exciting.

  3. Oh, and the Wii can't nag you if you don't turn it on.

    It's (the Wii Fit) gentle enough nagging. It encourages you to do a body test every day and asks where you've been. If you gain weight it asks you to ask yourself why, etc.

    And I've always had wide swings in my weight throughout the day. I mean, I can go as much as five pounds either way. (Like, today, I was a 1.5 pounds lighter than yesterday. That gets me a lot of praise. But then tomorrow I'll be up a pound and it'll ask me to explain why.) You wouldn't have those problems very often, I'd guess.

    Also, it's limited because it's all about BMI. A sporty sport like your self is going to have more muscle and have a higher BMI even though you're better off with muscle than fat (or even nothing).


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