A Generation of Wired Shadow-Boxers; or “Wii are the World”*

I raised a son and a step-son during the age of the video game console. I saw video-games become the contemporary symbol for all of what’s wrong with today’s youth, and joined in the worrying. One of the raps against electronic games was players were “sedentary,” just sitting on the sofa for hours pushing buttons rather than enjoying the fresh air outside. (“Fresh air,” a phrase only used by parents.)

Apparently, Nintendo listened to us. (I know I’m late to covering the Wii, but under the rules of blogging, if it’s new to me, it’s news.) Anyway, according to a couple of stories I saw today in the Wall Street Journal, Nintendo designed the Wii’s controller so that players’ body movements control the game, not just their button selections. You have to play it standing up.

And now, parents have a new worry: Their kids might hurt themselves.

But as players spend more time with the Wii, some are noticing that hours waving the game’s controller around can add up to fairly intense exertion — resulting in aches and pains common in more familiar forms of exercise. They’re reporting aching backs, sore shoulders — even something some have dubbed “Wii elbow.”

More fear:

Another hazard: collisions. All those flailing arms can sometimes inadvertently smack into lamps, furniture and even competing players. IGN.com, a popular site that reviews videogames, said one player testing the Wii lost her grip and sent the controller flying into a wall. Blaine Stuart of Rochester, N.Y., mistakenly whacked his fiancée, Shelly Haefele, while playing tennis and also accidentally hit his dog while bowling.

Even the physically fit are challenged by this thing:

Ryan Mercer, a customs broker in Indianapolis, lifts weights several times a week. But that hasn’t helped much with the Wii. After playing the boxing game for an hour and a half, his arms, shoulders and torso were aching. “I was soaking wet with sweat, head to toe — I had to go take a shower,” he says. And the next morning? “I had trouble putting my shirt on,” says the 21-year-old avid gamer.

Nintendo has several videos on Youtube that illustrate what players must do. Here’s one of them:

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think these kids were suffering from advanced case of Tourette’s syndrome. But this is obviously a coming thing. The Wii is outselling the Sony Playstation 3 so far.

And I want one.

*Update: I just came across a fascinating blog post by Michael Zack Urlocker, guest-blogging on his “brother” Michael’s site. Michael is a “disruption consultant,” which sounds like a growth industry to me. (Zack “is a pseudonym for a Silicon Valley software executive rapidly approaching his mid-life crisis.” He is also a busy blogger.) Zack analyzes Nintendo’s business strategy brilliantly.

Read the whole thing, but here’s a tidbit.

The Nintendo Wii is the runt of the litter when it comes to hardware specifications. It doesn’t have the HD graphics, surround sound or DVD drives of its more expensive competitors. But it’s outfoxed both Microsoft and Sony by packing more fun for a fraction of the price. Nintendo Wii sells for $250 compared to $500 for the Sony Playstation and around $400 for the Microsoft Xbox 360. Nintendo also includes throws in a set of 5 simple but addictive games dubbed Wii Sports with every console, making the Wii a much better value and a more complete offering out of the box. More importantly, Nintendo has parlayed their lower cost hardware into two further competitive advantages: games are cheaper to develop and they make money on every console sold. While it sounds like basic common sense, for the gaming industry this goes against all of the conventional rules.

It’s always instructive to watch a successful business innovation unfold before your eyes. “Zack” is a good guide to this one.

**Another Update.  I came across a blog that specializes in California insurance law and, after reading the same WSJ story I read, the writer came to this unsurprising conclusion about what the flailing arms and flying controllers might lead to:  

Sony has included warnings against these and other perils in the product manual [PDF], but little details like that never need to reach the jury if you pick the right venue and play your cards right.  So to our friends of the plaintiff’s bar we say: Fire up the word processors!  Nintendo’s put a shiny new cause of action under your tree! 

8 thoughts on “A Generation of Wired Shadow-Boxers; or “Wii are the World”*

  1. It warns you right on the box to make sure you have adequate space when you’re playing thing.

    The guy who hit his fiancee and hit his dog? Pretty careless.

    I played the thing at a friend’s basement last week and there were 7 of us there. We played tennis mostly and it was fine. He doesn’t have the biggest basement, but we were careful and injury free.

  2. Wow, so that was what… 5 years ago? I tried to get into kinect a bit back and just found the same reasons why I didn’t care for the wii… repetitive motion, strain from it, and just… not really feeling it as a video game.

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