A to Z Challenge: (W)ii Sports

WiiSportsSay what you will about the Nintendo Wii (and don’t worry, I will), but its motion controlled gaming idea was kind of brilliant. But let me just back up a second first.

Nintendo has been one of the biggest names in gaming for decades now, and in November of 2006 they released their seventh-generation console, the Wii (pronounced the same as “we”). At first there was some doubt that the Wii would be able to compete with the Playstation 3 (released at the same time) and the Xbox 360 (released a full year earlier), both of which were much more robust, with more powerful processors, greater graphics capabilities, and more backing from big-name game developers. But despite the fact that Nintendo’s console was inferior in many ways, they enjoyed breakaway success because of their plan to target a much broader demographic than had previously been done. The Wii introduced motion-controlled gaming with their “Wii Remote” pointing device, which made the games that used it simper, and more intuitive to play. This mechanic, which was so different from the usual controllers full of buttons, triggers, and thumbpads, made it easier for people who otherwise wouldn’t play games to join in – which, of course, was Nintendo’s intent.

The perfect example of this is ‘Wii Sports’, which came packaged with the Wii as a way of showing off the motion-control capabilities. To play the game you would first create a little character to represent yourself (a “Mii”), and if you chose you could also make characters to represent dozens of other possible players. Once you had your player you could choose between five sports: tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, or boxing. In tennis, baseball, and golf the Wii Remote would act as a stand-in for your racket, bat, or club, with the equipment on the screen moving in conjunction with the remote’s movement. In bowling and boxing the Remote served to tell the game where your hand was and thus whether you were performing the proper movements.

The system was simple, fun, quick to learn, and encouraged lots of players to play together. It was a dynamic in which a 60-year-old who’d never touched a video game in their life could easily pick up and hold their own against a young kid with dozens of games under their belt. And people ate that up. All of a sudden entire families, from the youngest to the oldest, were playing video games together.

Yeah, okay, the graphics are lame, but all you had to do to learn was PRETEND to swing a bat!
Yeah, okay, the graphics are lame, but all you had to do to learn was PRETEND to swing a bat!

I can remember when my husband and I first bought our Wii. My parents were visiting and we spent half the night playing ‘Wii Bowling’, laughing our heads off, and having a hell of a time. The next morning we were all genuinely sore, having spent all evening exercising without even realizing it. Soon after that my parents got a Wii of their own, and together we made Mii characters for tons of family members. We’d have big family parties, filled with drinking, eating, and hysterics as we challenged each other to rounds of all five sports. Soon my husband’s aunt bought a Wii and we’d play there as well. My cousins bought one, my best friends bought one…people who hadn’t played a video game since Pong was the big thing were purchasing Wii consoles left, right, and center.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The Wii and its bundled ‘Wii Sports’ game are not the be-all and end-all of gaming. In fact, it didn’t take terribly long for people to get bored and stop playing – after all, how long can you really play the same simple game over and over again? There were also a lot of haters of the variety that can’t follow basic instructions; lots of people refused to use the little wrist strap on the remote and subsequently smashed their TVs by accidentally letting go of the thing in mid-swing. On top of that, plenty of hardcore gamers soon learned to loathe the Wii, since lots of game developers weren’t willing to deal with the weaker hardware, thus making the Wii’s game library woefully small. To be perfectly blunt, of all the people I know who have a Wii, the overwhelming majority of them haven’t touched their console in years. Looking at these factors, it’s easy to look at the Wii and see it as an underpowered machine with a clever gimmick that had no staying power.

But they also sold over 101 million units, so I guess there’s something to be said about that.

Did you have a Wii? If not, did someone in your family have a Wii? Don’t like to me. What was your favorite Wii Sport and how long did it take for you to get sick of it? Please share!

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9 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: (W)ii Sports

  1. Until I break down and set up the PS2 again, the Wii is our system. Even the 3 year old plays it. And with the creation of Motion+ (I think that’s what it’s called) the movement are even more accurate. We play Wii Fit Plus. We had Wii Sport Resort (10 times better than Wii Sports – it has sword fighting!) but it got worn out and needs to be replaced. Regular Wii (not the mini) has internet capabilities so you can watch Netflix and share Miiis.

  2. We still play our Wii. Not the sports so much, but we do love Mario Kart Wii, and we love the Superbomber Man that we downloaded. I also will play WiiFit from time to time, even though it yells at me for taking so long between sessions. We also downloaded the Jam City Rollergirls game (because we actually knew or knew of some of the gals in the game), but I’m one of those “I get motion sick when the cinematography gets too shaky” people so I can’t play it as much as I’d like.

    Now that people are selling them to places like GameStop, I’m looking to build our library because you can get stuff for dirt cheap (Raving Rabbids is one of those we rented back in the day and I’d love to play that again). But we do need to replace a couple of the controllers. I think we only have one working one these days. And truth be told, we mostly use it for Netflix. But we have a PS2 and a PS3, so we have plenty of gaming opps.

    • Our poor Wii hasn’t been touched in AGES, and I think the last couple of times we played it we actually used GameCube controllers because we were getting so sick of the remotes. Some day I really should turn the poor thing on…maybe my daughter would enjoy some of the games!

  3. My ex talked me into getting a Wii Fit, though I didn’t use it that much, since I didn’t feel comfortable playing with his mommy and daddy lurking in the background so much. I still have to get it out of that crowded house of dysfunction, along with some of my other stuff still in storage. My ex was the one who played it most often, since it was at his parents’ house, not my place.

    • I never tried the Wii Fit, myself, although I know a lot of people who enjoy it. Personally I prefer the dancing games if I’m going to try to get some exercise. 😄

  4. The major problem with the Wii was that after you got over the initial wow of the system when you first bought it, you got incredibly bored when you realized that 90% of the games out for it were empty shallow little flick your wrist games.

    There were still a handful of great games for the system but the casual market was going to go wherever they were told to next for their fix (right now it’s mobile with things like candy crush)

    • Damn Candy Crush. Makes my heart sick to see half the people on the work bus playing it. 😛

      But yeah, that was pretty much the big problem with the Wii. Too many games required not much more than sitting on the couch and wiggling your wrist around (and yeah, I realize how that sentence sounds…:P).

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