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Everything Wii is good for you

February 08, 2007 ・ Blog

Games for years have borrowed the structures and rules – as well as the imagery – of athletic competition, but the Wii adds something genuinely new to the mix, something wed ignored so long we stopped noticing that it was missing: athleticism itself.

Steven Johnson, the liberal nerd’s intellectual superhero, has played Wii Sports, and he likes it. I think he’s been carried away by the hype a little, though. Wii Sports has less to do with athleticism than it does (play) acting.

After a few goes on Wii tennis, you realise that the interaction on offer is actually almost completely unrelated to that in actual tennis. In fact, it’s a lot more efficient, accurate and, frankly, easier, to play using a series of flicks of the Wii Remote instead of proper swings. My girlfriend found that when she applied the natural timing and actions of proper tennis she found Wii Tennis impossible to play.

Wii Sports is just as much of an abstraction of real sports as button-based games are, though it disguises that fact better with its control method. The motion-sensing makes it easier to take the identity of real-world sports and make simple games out of them.

However, the chances are that you’ll find yourself playing out the moves with great exaggerated swings anyway, especially in company. Because playing is more fun like that - because play is about getting into a role. And that’s what Wii Sports is working - and playing - on.