Don’t buy a Wii.

I must implore you: Don’t buy a Nintendo Wii.

As you’ve no doubt heard, both Sony and Nintendo have new gaming systems this gift-giving holiday season, Sony with its sequentially named Playstation 3, and Nintendo with its oddly named Wii.

When I younger, with more dexterity, I loved playing video games. I owned a Playstation and SuperNES; I now own a PS2 and Nintendo GameCube. But I don’t play anywhere near as much as I used to, so the thought of buying a new video gaming system didn’t catch my fancy. Especially one that costs $600 (PS3) or was a minor advance graphically (Wii).

My friend THW, though, is an avid gamer, to the point where he stood in line to buy a Wii. Me being the curious sort, and he being the generous sort, he brought his Wii over to share with Y and my friend E.

First, the box itself is very pretty; it’s Mac-like in its design: elegant and minimalist. While it would look slightly out-of-place next to my mostly-black entertainment center components, it would also stand out. A wise move on Nintendo’s part, I warrant.

After THW unpacked and setup the Wii, the afternoon started with each player creating a Mii; that’s an online avatar that represents you in the game world. You’re offered a choice of body type, hair, eyes, eyelashes, glasses, even moles (in case you’re Cindy Crawford?).

Now, there’s no rule that says you have to make it look like you, but I somehow felt I should, as did most of the others. While the end result wouldn’t cause most people to say “damn, that looks just like you!”, it was close enough that it gave more than a passing appearance. It’s all about the details. For THW, it was the big afro. For me, the goatee and mustache.

As I was creating my Mii, I marveled at how natural it felt to use the Wii-mote (that is, the wireless Wii remote controller). I was slouched back on my couch, pointing the Wii-mote at the TV, and with small movements of my wrist, was able to move the on-screen pointer quite easily. The Wii-mote provided some subtle feedback from the speaker and rumble pack built into it. I would go as far as suggesting that using the Wii-mote for making on-screen selections was, well, downright fun. TiVo and Apple should release a similar device (or make Nintendo’s work with their systems) for controlling menus on your TV. (Front Row on the iTV would be especially fantastic.)

And now the games.

Ah, the games. Wii comes bundled with a sports pack: Bowling, Tennis, Boxing, Golf and Baseball. You use the Wii-motes as you would use the appropriate sports implement: with Bowling, you pull your arm back and roll it forward as if you were releasing a bowling ball; with Tennis, you swing as if you had a racquet; with Boxing, you hold them in your fists and punch; etc.

Of course, these are video games, and you would expect that you’d be sitting on your couch, waving these Wii-motes around and jamming buttons, but no: we found ourselves getting into the physical motions of playing the games. We’d swing the Wii-mote like we really had a tennis racquet in our hands, even though a sharp wrist flick would be enough. Or we’d deliver huge roundhouse punches in Boxing, even though fast jabs would get the job done.

Both E and Y were especially interesting to watch. E really got into Tennis; he was leaping back and forth across the floor, reaching for the balls as they whizzed past him. Y took Boxing to heart, punching and jabbing like her life depended on it, and working up a sweat.

In fact, that would be the hallmark of the Wii afternoon: by the end of the day, all four of us had gotten some amount of physical activity we would not have gotten if we were playing any other video game. That’s right, a workout. E, Y and I all “boxed” for 15 or 20 minutes, and by the end of it, not only had we started sweating, we actually felt pain in our shoulders and arms!

From a video game!

I’m telling you, the Wii is going to lead to a generation of kids who’ll be in great shape, but suffer from lack of sun. They’ll be fit and pasty.

So again, I must beg of you: don’t but a Wii. If this post tempted you, resist. If you find yourself in a Toys ‘R’ Us or Wal-Mart, and you see that gleaming white rectangle sitting on the shelf, you don’t want it.

But do me a favor will you? Hold on to it and give me a call, OK?

(For another perspective on the first-time Wii experience, see Y’s blog at A Small Glimpse of My Life.)

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