The Nintendo ‘We’ vs. the Nintendo Wii

Imagine standing in a batter’s box at a baseball stadium. The bright lights are all around you and the crowd is cheering you on, hoping you’ll come through with the winning run. You stare at the pitcher as he readies himself and you assume your batting stance. The pitch comes and then a thundering crack. Your hands reverberate as the bat makes contact, launching the ball into the air and out of the park. The crowd screams as you jog around the bases, fist in the air. Your teammates meet you at home plate, celebrating your winning swing.

Now imagine you’re standing in your living room. The soft glow of the television illuminates the surroundings as your friends boo you and yell more than obscene words as you practice a swing with the Wii Remote. The pitcher stares at your Mii with their super round head. The ball is released from their equally round hand at 60 mph, a screwball, and you swing. The ball sails up and out of the park. You dash across the bases triumphantly then turn to the friends around you as you have won, only to be met by a chorus of boos and swears.

The Nintendo Wii offers users the chance to pitch and swing, replicating the way a Major League Baseball player does. What does the Wii do different? It puts you in the hotseat. Replacing the standard video game controller with an interactive Wii Remote mimics holding a bat and the act of swinging at a real pitch. Wii Sports as a whole (which includes baseball, golf, bowling, tennis, and boxing) remediates the act of playing and observing sports. The scoreboard and pitch count gives users the feel of watching a game while simultaneously playing as camera angles shift with every hit, mimicking the broadcast portion.

The participatory experience one gets playing these games replaces the need to play in real life. The Wii puts users into the game through interaction as well as the creation of the Mii, a digital avatar a player may create to resemble themselves. While the interactive aspects are enjoyable and effective, the game doesn’t offer users all aspects of the game, including the ability for the player to field baseballs, making it less realistic. All in all, the Nintendo Wii offers users a chance to walk the line between what is immediate and what is hypermediate as there is just not enough to make it feel the media doesn’t exist in the game.

For a sample Wii game, check out this link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGg9F3-TmHk&
Watch as a user takes on a computer; take note of the simplistic pitching and hitting but the lack of user-controlled fielding.
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3 Comments

  1. Though I agree that Wii isn’t completely hypermediate, I think it is definitely the best example in consideration to games.

    The Nintendo Wii is probably one of the most innovative gaming systems recently created. Until Wii, gaming technology has all been promoting everything in a digital-visual sense. You feel absorbed into the world on the other side of the screen, but it demands little in the way of interaction. The connection was almost entire visual and intellectual (and yes, the handling of the controller). I think that to now introduce games that you physically navigate through redefines what makes digital space. It is no longer only visual; it has an added depth of interaction. This shift from what was previously on the market adds an entirely new sense of hypermediacy. And although the games are not replicas of life, they create a new reality within the game world. Interacting with this reality is more engaging than ever before, because there is a sense of presence within the game.

    • Totally agree with the transformation of physical to digital space. To go one further, I think we can say that the Kinect for Xbox 360 goes one up on the Wii though. You are even more absorbed into this world and interaction goes beyond controllers (for the most part) and involves one’s entire body to play. Interaction is stressed even more with the Kinect by limiting the use of controllers; as far as interactive video games go, it seems the Kinect is a remediated version of the Wii.

      I’m not surprised that video games and consoles are ‘one-upping’ one another (pardon the pun). The goal for companies today is to find the next big thing and constantly improve upon older forms of technology no matter how recent or old it is. I think the skies the limit for medium such as video games in this sense.

  2. In terms of remediation, it’s somewhat ironic that the system that made games more immediate by incorporating physical motion is also the system that is perhaps the least invisible of any console video game system currently on the market. With the PS3 and the Xbox 360, we’ve grown so used to ordinary systems that we take them for granted–you buy them to play games on. By providing a more immediate experience and new control methods, the Wii sold itself not on the quality of its game but the experience of its hardware.

    Gregersen and Grodal wrote an essay for the Video Game Theory Reader 2 (available from our library) in which they argue that the Wii is actually less immersive than previous game consoles. They argue that because it allows an experience even closer to reality, players are more disillusioned because of the differences than they would be with a regular console. (For example, you wouldn’t expect your Xbox controller to feel like a golf club, but when the Wii remote doesn’t, it takes away from the experience.) It’s not a view I entirely agree with, but it’s a good argument to consider.
    –Michael Hancock


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