Is the Wii not a technological marvel?

Social gamingI have to admit I love the Nintendo Wii. Christmas chatter around kids this year was all about the Wii. Parents are thrilled that it reintroduces aerobics to the couch potato genre, but I’m not convinced that Nintendo won’t have to develop a Wii game that simulates Wii play reduced again to minute finger motions, the original purpose of remotes. It will remain to be seen how long already fat players will endure having to stand and power through games that used to be [sedentary] child’s play.

Is the Wii innovative or simply primitive technology revisited? It’s got retro-rougher graphics, they say because it was rushed to market, but obviously it also suits the cheaper hardware. The next generation of games promised for this summer (to match the graphics standards of the 360 or PS3) will require a processor/bus/memory retrofit or my name’s not idiot savant. The Wii has got a gyro remote that requires swinging the thing around to get it to work, the way we used to do to aim the early infra-red remotes, usually while cussing and tapping on the buttons angrily.

Paired with the inferior graphic resolution, the gyro motions themselves are primitive. The player’s gyrations have to be stilted to match the limited options of the video motion. Put the kid outside with a real tennis racket and watch if he doesn’t twitch everything into the net. Unless it’s a whiffle ball perhaps.

Really I was thrilled to see the precision required by the Wii of the bowler’s address and delivery. It reminded me of learning to bowl myself. I remember I got the aiming down, I got the geometry, I got the concentration and the follow through, willing the ball away from the gutter. As I struggled with the haphazard quality of my play, I chanced to glance aside at some real grown up bowlers, unlike the hobbyist parents doing the teaching. These people had muscular arms and hurled the heavy black ball toward the poor immobile bowling pins. Bowling became a whole other ball game.

Is the Wii innovation or gimmick? Both I say. And I’ll not even raise the question with the kids because they love it. I love the Wii vs PS3 commercial, a spoof of the Mac vs PC ad. In effect I think the Wii is that all-American commercial innovation, a reinvention of the better mousetrap.

At least the Wii was cheap, if you discount the likelihood that everybody probably already had consoles and games to match. Now they need Wii games too. But what’s the value of getting the kids out of their bean bags?

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