Like every other family in America, we got a Wii for Christmas. A Wii, for those who have managed to avoid the trend, is a video game machine that allows you to engage in traditional outdoor activities, such as golf, tennis, bowling, boxing, etc., in your living room, provided your living room is the size of a regulation gymnasium.
The way this works is you have these handheld remote control devices, and you swing them around as if they were the handles of traditional game items, such as golf clubs, tennis racquets, and what not. The actual machine is hooked up to your actual television. You have to watch the TV screen, and swing your remote according to what’s going on on the TV.
This makes you look like an idiot. Say you’re playing Wii golf in your living room, and your neighbor walks by and sees you through the window. You swing your arms like you’re hitting a ball, and then dance around like golfers have to do to get the ball to go where it’s supposed to, and your neighbor is outside calling the police on his cell phone, because he can’t see your TV.
Our Wii, when the boys first hooked it up, did not want to cooperate at all. You’re supposed to be able to point the remote at the TV and control a cursor, but our remotes had to be pointed 90 degrees to the right. The boys finally figured out that some other electrical appliance was causing interference, which is how these things work. Your various appliances rarely get along well. Once the boys turned off the DVD player everything was fine.
The idea behind the Wii is that it will get kids to engage in some physical activity, so they won’t sit on the couch playing video games until their arms and legs completely metastasize. This is fine in theory, but they’re still playing video games, even on the Wii. Plus, my kids figured out pretty quick they didn’t have to actually stand up and swing the remote like it was a real golf club or whatever, they just had to make the remote think they were doing that. So much for the exercise idea.
Another problem, at least for me, is that the remotes have way more buttons than a normal human can keep track of. The boys, of course, figured out within five minutes what each button was for, and they still know. I constantly have to ask one of my kids, every time I start to play a game, which button I’m supposed to mash to do what. Even then I forget and mash the wrong thing. Once I tried to return a serve and hit a golf ball into left field.
The best part about the Wii is that more than one kid can play it at a time. This cuts down on fights, but actually increases your chances of having to figure out what will get blood out of the carpet. Because some games really do require the players to stand up and swing their remotes like they’re actually playing a game.
Tennis is one of those. Two people can play one another in tennis, or they can play doubles against a computer doubles team. Or, if you happen to have four remote controls, four people can play doubles against each other.
This is where the regulation gymnasium-sized living room comes in handy. My brother’s family also, in compliance with national law, got a Wii for Christmas, and four of them decided to play tennis at once. No one was seriously injured, but their Christmas tree will never stand up again.
An interesting aspect of the Wii is that each player can create his or her own character, designing it from a surprisingly wide variety of choices in the way of facial features, hair style and color, eyebrow size, shape, and attitude, and lots of other stuff. The boys created a Wii character for me that looks like Jeff Dunham’s ‘Walter’ doll. He’s bald, with a gray fringe of hair around his temples, wire-rimmed glasses, and a bad attitude. They laugh every time my character comes up on the screen. That’s OK though, since none of them can beat me at bowling.
Besides the exercise aspect, I think one of the goals behind the Wii is to engage kids in traditional game activities, and not encourage them to shoot at one another, the way other games do, such as Halo. This is fine in theory, but kids, especially boys, need to blow off steam and vent aggression once in a while. The games that allow kids to shoot at one another provide that outlet.
But the Wii was a hot item this year, especially for the Japanese, since it got so you could hardly find one in stores. Interestingly, the Japanese word ‘wii’ means something like ‘YES!’ in English, which is what Japanese companies say every time they send another million American dollars to Tokyo . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who is as bad at Wii golf as he is at the regular kind. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org