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June 03, 2008

Wii Tennis

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

When I bought a Wii a month ago, I did so with some apprehension. I'd bought video-game systems before, and as purchases they'd never worked out well. I'm curious about culture and digital media, so I'm eager to explore and experience this new world of interactive "gaming." What's the addiction? What's the excitement? What are the terms? But since I never did get hooked on playing with the systems, I felt I'd wasted money. Would the Wii purchase leave me feeling silly too? After all, as far as I could tell I simply disliked playing computer games.

Quick answer: Although we haven't explored any games beyond the sports games that the Wii comes with, I love the Wii. Even The Wife loves the Wii.


We especially love the brilliantly designed and programmed Wii Tennis. Spin, strategy, lobs, drop shots ... Opponents with secrets, favorites, weaknesses, and strategies ... The computer players have personality too. During one whiz-bang game -- I, ahem, play Wii Tennis at a pretty darned high level -- my Wii opponents (Wii Tennis is doubles tennis) made an uncharacteristic, silly goof. I started in surprise, then muttered, "Well, they're only human." "No they aren't," The Wife reminded me.

The Wife and I sometimes start the day with 30 minutes of Wii tennis. The Wife will play for a while with me watching (and, as husbands will, offering a lot of coaching). Then I'll play for a while with The Wife watching. We're so Wii Tennis-crazy that we have to monitor the amount of time we devote to the game. Play Wii Tennis -- which in effect is a lot more like ping-pong than it is like tennis -- for too long and your shoulder, arm and wrist will ache for days.

My time with Wii Tennis has left me thinking: Hey, perhaps I don't dislike computer-game systems per se. Perhaps what I dislike is sitting in front of a screen with a controller in my hand, twiddling knobs with my thumbs. Because the fact is that much of what I love about Wii Tennis is the chance it gives me to get physical, if in a modest way. No thumb-twiddling; lots of arm-waving and wrist-flicking. Bring on the computer games. Feh on the thumb-twiddling.

A funny twist in my Wii Tennis adventures is how it has affected my love of watching real tennis on TV. Though I don't generally watch sports on TV, I'm pretty darned happy watching pro tennis on TV for hours. The French Open is currently on, for instance, and I couldn't be much happier than I am when I'm sacked out in front of the TV watching the pros battle it out on clay.

But but but ... This year I have this new option. Instead of watching pros play tennis, I can play Wii Tennis myself. Or -- something that's often even more fun -- I can watch The Wife play Wii Tennis and bug her with a lot of coaching tips.

What I'm waking up to is that my tennis-enjoyment pleasure-meter is at the same high level doing Wii Tennis as it is when I'm watching Sharapova at the French Open. That's a startling discovery. Part of the magic of watching pro sports is supposed to be the thrill of watching the world's best. Yet maybe that's not what really counts, at least for me. Perhaps what I get my real enjoyment from is taking part. Who needs the French Open when you and your buds can whap a virtual tennis ball around on your own?

I'm reminding myself of an argument I make when friends try to put down or dismiss blogging and other kinds of online fun. A friend might say, for instance, "Show me the blog posting that's the equivalent of the best literature." My response: You're missing the point. Blogging is a different (if perhaps related) activity than the traditional "literary" thing is. It isn't about exposing yourself to self-contained bits of "the best." It's about taking part, perhaps in the modest sense of surfing around under your own power, perhaps in the more ambitious sense of writing comments or of running a regularly-published blog.

So maybe Wii Tennis isn't a pathetic if amusing substitute for the real thing. Perhaps it's a very cool and very fun thing in its own right.

Hmm: I wonder if the existence of Wii Tennis is going to affect attendance levels at pro tennis tournaments ...

Can anyone recommend any other Wii games that encourage a lot of physical movement?



UPDATE: Roissy's mind has been off in Wii-land too.

posted by Michael at June 3, 2008


I've boiled down my Wii Tennis technique to a few basic wrist movements; consequently it doesn't tucker me out to quite the degree that Wii Bowling does. But if I'm going to actually break a sweat playing Wii, it'll be in the Boxing ring. With my nine-year-old daughter. Who pulverizes me.

Posted by: Whisky Prajer on June 3, 2008 8:12 AM

wii tennis is great. I like MarioKart and Madden quite a lot, but those are more stationary. I would look into wii Fit.

Posted by: jonathanjones02 on June 3, 2008 9:44 AM

The greatness of computer games lies in their appeal to the male brain. Men become obsessed with a particular role-playing game, presumably the anti-social aspect of gaming you don't like, because it is the virtual equivalent of climbing a status-ladder. Each incremental accomplishment makes you more invested in the whole, until all you can think about is accomplishing the next mission then the next then the next.

Posted by: Sebastian Flyte on June 3, 2008 11:25 AM

Second on the boxing. It's a helluva workout Yeah. Hitting people is fun.

Well, Wii-eople, anyway.

Posted by: the communicatrix on June 3, 2008 12:48 PM

i cannot impress enough on men how much women... especially the juiciest target demographic... love the Wii. if you don't already have one, buy it now and make it a central feature of your bachelor pad, right next to the stripper pole.

re: stripper pole. many girls will express shock at the idea of a man having a stripper pole in his home, often resorting to insults like "creepy" and "pervy". but you'd be surprised how intrigued they are when they see one in your place. often, they'll be drawn to the pole like moths to a porch light, and do a few moves on it when she thinks you're not looking.

Posted by: roissy on June 3, 2008 6:28 PM

Nintendo is an incredibly well-run company - they've gone totally against the conventional wisdom of the industry with the Game Boy Color, the DS and the Wii, and have made gobs and gobs of money doing so. And yeah, the Wii is fantastic. Try Tiger Woods Golf if you like Wii Tennis!

Posted by: cure on June 3, 2008 9:10 PM

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