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A Wii bit of exercise courtesy of Nintendo?

an image of the Nintendo Wii video games console logoWhat brought a smile to my face, other than seeing a smiling face with a black eye, was that people were being stirred enough to get off the sofa and get active.

And what exactly gave one person a black eye, has so far resulted in broken windows, TV screens and left people panting, exhausted? A games console, of all things!

“A videogame maker has finally succeeded in getting kids off the couch and moving around. But the new approach is turning out to be more exercise than some players bargained for.

These surprisingly vigorous workouts are being triggered by Nintendo’s new Wii videogames. The Wii game console, which went on sale last weekend, competes with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s new PlayStation 3. One of the Wii’s distinguishing features is a motion-sensitive technology that requires players to act out their character’s movements, wielding the game’s controller like a sword or swinging it like a tennis racket.”

My nephew told me of a work colleague of his who has a Nintendo Wii, and both he and his wife decided to play a boxing game. After a little less than half an hour, the two of them collapsed in a heap .. back on the settee!

This kind of thing I love. It’s amazing, it really is.

And it’s not like the guys at Nintendo didn’t know about this, either:

“Nintendo itself warns players about this risk just before some of the games begin. A message flashes up on the screen saying: “Make sure there are no people or objects around you that you might bump into while playing.” Some Wii games also have pop-up reminders every 15 minutes advising gamers to take a break.”

an image of Nintendo Wii video games console controllersPersonally, I really do think this is fantastic. It’s something that both Microsoft and Sony will be kicking themselves over. And with good reason, too. This is precisely the kind of direction these guys should be going.

Now, I’m not going as far as to say that they have some kind of social, moral obligation to get kids off their arses, that’s more an issue of the games producers than the people making the consoles, but I’d like to think creating such a truly interactive video games console as the Nintendo Wii was the goal from the outset, rather than an afterthought.

It’s one thing to make an intriguing games controller, while it’s another to use it as a means of motivating people to become more active while playing those games.

However, the Wii is not without it’s downsides, as black eyes and broken TVs will quite graphically attest to:

“A nationwide class-action lawsuit has been filed against Nintendo over the ‘defective nature’ of the Nintendo Wii controller. Filed in US District Court for the Western District of Washington earlier this month, the lawsuit describes the original strap on the Wiimote as ‘ineffective for its intended use’ and cites reports of the strap breaking and causing damage.”

Ouch! Sounds like one in the eye for Nintendo. Not so:

“To its credit, Nintendo realized rather quickly that the original 0.024″-thick straps might not be up to the task and quietly rolled out a thicker, 0.04″ strap that is currently being shipped with the console.

Class-action lawsuits are a dime a dozen,… Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Nintendo took steps to fix the problem and is offering free replacement straps for anyone who wants one.”

Despite the obvious minor threat to life, limb and various household material possessions, I think the Wii is nothing short of amazing, and I haven’t even tried one out, yet!

I think once the initial shock of actually having to make an effort has both sunk in and died down, we might see less problems like this:

“Doctors are also preparing themselves for a flurry of complaints from victims of “Wii Strain” – the backache, shoulder pains and sore arms caused by unfit gamers playing the machine too enthusiastically.”

It isn’t too long ago when I had cause to jump to the defense of games consoles, which are not the social disablers some people might have you believe:

“I recently went to my sisters house to see my nephew. When I entered his room, he was sat there with three other friends playing a team game on his games console. That’s technology enabling group activities, not excluding people from participation.”

So clearly, the Nintendo Wii could be seen as a ‘call to arms’, which may well raise the bar sufficiently high enough to force the other games console manufacturers to emulate Nintendo’s success.

We can only hope the animated boardroom antics taking place at Sony’s and Microsoft’s respective headquarters right now translate into products with similar physical potential as opposed to just potential of a virtual kind…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

4 replies on “A Wii bit of exercise courtesy of Nintendo?”

Funny thing is, I decided NOT to get a Wii out of fear it would make me work to play it. I get enough exercise from running and the gym. When I want to play a video game, I want to relax.

Hi Ben and thanks for posting!

Each to their own, I suppose.

I can see your point and there’s nothing wrong there, either.

In fact, it’s interesting that you made that choice…

Although you are intended to move the controller in long, hard motions, it is not needed to make the Mii(TM) do the action. Like tennis-A little hand motion will hit the ball, all you need is timing. But games like Basebal, Golf, and Bowling-Require Larger and quicker mtions are used to get the ball moving at a high speed. But most normal games need require almost no movement.

Hi and thanks for posting!

So it’s all about the content of the game?

I suppose if you’ve got Solitare, there’s not much jumping about involved…

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