Rumours of the innovative motion-based gaming promised by the Nintendo Wii had console game enthusiasts excited even before its December 2006 launch in the UK. The user-friendly controllers opened up gaming to people who had no interest in or dexterity for normal video game controllers with their multitudes of buttons. A new category of titles became available for the Wii console to further draw in a new demographic of Wii users: fitness programs and accessories. These have led society to benefit from the Wii in far more ways than a mere advancement in fun and games.
While other video game platforms have begun to offer motion controlled gaming, Nintendo was the first and still holds strong with its wide variety of titles and ease of use. The Wii system encouraged an increasingly sedentary portion of society to get off the couch and into motion, not only encouraging more health-friendly modes of play but also drawing the user deeper into the game play with the element of physical involvement. When a swing of the arm is necessary to make a character swing a sword, instead of a mere thumb press, the adventure becomes more real.
Beyond encouraging a more immersive experience, the Nintendo Wii also opened up new doors for group gaming. Where before games were generally geared toward solitary experiences or limited multi-player enjoyment, suddenly a Nintendo console became perfect for parties, more enjoyable both for competitors and their audience.
But the most revolutionary uses of the the Wii system lie in the area of physical therapy. In nursing homes and retirement centres, bowling on the Wii has become popular enough that leagues and tournaments are growing ever more popular. The benefits go far beyond fun: according to studies, only a few sessions of play have resulted in improved coordination, strength, and balance, which in turn can help in fall prevention. As falls are a great hazard to senior citizens, this use of the Wii is an encouraging development.
The Wii console is not only a physical aid to the elderly. It is also growing in popularity as a physical therapy treatment for such varied health conditions as back problems and stroke recovery, as well as in regaining strength and range of motion in muscles after operations. Unlike specialized medical equipment that comes with astronomical price tags, Nintendo Wii packages that include a balance board are available for less than £200 and need only a therapist’s guidance to elevate them from mere game systems. Sessions with the Wii, at an average of 15 minutes, in addition to other treatment have produced noticeable patient improvement according to physical therapists.
Even those at the peak of health have made innovative use of the Nintendo Wii. A modified Wii remote has become a breakthrough piece of training equipment for rugby players in Australia, proving more accurate than normal stopwatches, highly portable, and much cheaper than equally precise alternatives. The benefits of Wii consoles to society go far beyond casual entertainment, and are still emerging as play goes on.