Canberra, Wii have a problem

Ideas@TheCentre – The CIS newsletter (Sydney), 26 March 2010

The morning after held an unpleasant surprise. My right arm was sore, and my left shoulder hurt at every move. It felt as if I had dug a trench right through our garden. In fact, my wife and I had only spent an evening in front of the telly.

If only we had known what we were getting ourselves into when we decided to get a Nintendo Wii game console.

However, it was not sore and stiff grown-ups like us he had in mind when Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor recently called for a regulation on Wii games. The minister only wanted to protect children from too much exercise and realism in their computer games.

At a conference in Sydney, he warned of motion-sensing game consoles like the Wii: ‘Computer game manufacturers encourage users to put down their control pads and participate physically in a game through motion-sensing technology.’

That’s bad enough, but the minister was concerned that the kids might actually like this physical activity. ‘These interactive features are set to increase the impact of the material being enjoyed by consumers,’ O’Connor said.

It’s of course a terrible threat to children if new game technology allows them to imitate movements in gun fighting. Without a Wii, such movements would have never occurred in a child’s life, the minister must believe.

My memory probably fails me miserably but when I think back to my early childhood, I remember how we played cops and robbers, fully armed with squirt guns and toy pistols. What a persistent negative impact this must have had on my psychological development. From there, it was only a small step to make me go off the rails completely – and study economics and law.

So it follows that we must fear the worst for the current generation of youngsters. They’re already hooked to the addictive sports games that Wii is famous for. Soon they may wish to apply the skills learned in these games in real life. Just imagine whole tribes of children taking it to the bowling centres, tennis courts, or golf courses. It’s enough to make the blood freeze in your veins.

We can only congratulate O’Connor for talking tough on a virtual problem. And for the product managers at Nintendo, here is an idea for a new game to please even the fun-loving minister: Please develop the Wii MotionPlus Pencil-Pushing Challenge. It would be easier on my sore muscles, too.

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