The Wii Workout? . . .

If you’ve been living in a cave the past few months, you might not know that the main novelty of the Nintendo Wii gaming system is a motion sensor that lets you simulate various gaming motions.

That simulation is leading to a lot of muscle stimulation, which is leaving a lot of sore players, and I don’t mean mad.

Is this, as one person said here, “One step closer to true virtual reality!”

Well . . . no, but not for the reason you might think.

Virtual, Yes, Reality, No

Any game that requires vigorous physical reaction to the game can’t be terribly real, simply because the average person (never mind a coach potato) isn’t sufficiently athletic for it.

Let’s take baseball, for instance. If any baseball game ever truly simulated a major league pitch from a major league pitcher, guess what? You’re not going to hit it. If you’re the one pitching, and the batters you face are the electronic equivalent of real ballplayers, guess what? The .170 shortshop is going to hit like Babe Ruth against you.

And if you can’t hit or pitch, you don’t buy.

Boxing? Even worse! You’d never lay a glove on a real fighter, and be very, very thankful no Wii game is ever going to be able to punch you in the head.

I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

This is not to say Nintendo meant its game format to be anything more than an additional dimension of entertainment, but the problem with accurate virtual reality is inherently not a silicon, but a carbon problem.

On average, the audience’s carbon isn’t good enough for world-class action, and Nintendo can upgrade its silicon a whole lot easier than the U.S. or Japan can upgrade its carbon. Indeed, the better the silicon gets, the worse it is for the carbon.

(And if I wanted to be really blasphemous, I might suggest that, while the playing field is more level, your king fragger or clan probably wouldn’t fare all too well against Special Forces.)

The Buff Coach Potato?

In any event, now that we’ve settled that, what about the exercise potential of Wii?

I think we run into essentially the same problem with the carbon. Here though, it’s not a matter of expert action, but a matter of expecting action at all.

After all, it’s not like the average big gamer frequently finds him/herself deciding, “Will it be Call to Duty or canoeing?” Some will no doubt like the workout, but let’s face it, most people play video games so as not to have to go out and do something.

This is especially so for those twenty- and thirty-somethings with all that disposable income the game company keep telling us are the mainstay of gaming these days. After a long day of work, well, maybe they don’t want an aerobic workout, just some minimal twitching.

The Wii controller can apparently handle that with some practice, and I suspect in time we’ll see a few mods if necessary to make it more so.

You see, if you’re going to push exercise as a marketing pitch, your audience has to want to exercise, and after a few rounds of fatigue fragging novelty, I don’t think novelty is going to win.

That doesn’t mean Wii will fail, but I don’t think most people are going to be swinging for the fences very long.


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