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Wii Are Family

wii tennis proIn college, I had a friend named Jane. She was the oldest daughter in a family of tennis players, and they all looked like her: tall and willowy, but strong as thoroughbreds, with defined muscles in their long arms and legs; permanently sunburned noses; and an effortless way of moving that was almost heartbreaking to watch. Even when Jane was just swinging her backpack over her shoulder as she sauntered out of class, she had a way of making it look like art.

At her Long Island home, her family walked around in track suits and tennis shoes, without the irony that, for example, a track suit would have conveyed on my plump mother. Someone was always going out to play on the courts or coming in from just having played, toting bags and several racquets and fresh cans of balls that smelled excitingly of gassy rubber. They had kitchen conversations about faults and flats and tournament seeds, and other things that I desperately didn’t understand. They taped the US Open, replaying the best parts for each other. Even their golden retriever always seemed to have a tennis ball nestled between her paws.

I envied Jane deeply. I coveted her family’s casual athleticism, their secret language, their common bond that elevated tennis from a simple game to a distinct family culture–a way of life that lent meaning and purpose to each as a person as well as to their lives together as a unit.

For a while I took tennis lessons. I started running to improve my wind and stamina. I walked around in gym shorts and short white socks with pom-poms at the heel, with a racquet tucked in my armpit. My then-boyfriend and I hit the ball back and forth on the weedy courts at a local middle school. It was fun enough, I guess, but it lacked the magic I had seen in Long Island.

Eventually, I had to face the truth: I am not a tennis player, nor do I come from a long line of athletes, like Jane did. My family isn’t willowy and tall–more Eeyore than thoroughbred–and in fact most of us, with a few exceptions, are stunningly unathletic. We are the ones last-picked for the team, the ones who are afraid of the ball.

When I was 12, I spent an entire softball season in the right outfield–the place where no one ever hits–praying that nothing would roll toward me. Renee Bettelle played shortstop, just ahead of me on the field, and I was always extra nice to her–offering her my can of bug spray when dusk hit and the mosquitoes swarmed, and bringing her small gifts of a stick of gum, an extra water bottle. I was buttering her up in the hopes that she’d come to my rescue should a pop fly ever come my way. (And the one time it happened that season, she did. Thank God.)

My own kids have played sports over the years, at times with real enthusiasm. But it’s hard to shake genetics: If athletics were a Harry Potter story, they’d still both be Muggles.

Of course, this was before something remarkable happened–before Christmas came and under our tree appeared a Nintendo Wii gaming system. The Wii might look like any other video game console, but it’s anything but.

The Wii is marketed as the gaming system for the rest of us: regular people, the non-basement-dwellers, the non-geeks, the non-gamers, the people who don’t know Astromash from our elbow. But it also suits those of us who are mere mortals on athletic fields and courts–and not, like Jane and her family, the genetically gifted, the talented elite, the Greek deities of physical prowess.

In practice, Wii tennis simulates the actions and achievements of a real tennis game, but for the colossally unskilled and unschooled. You hold the remote like you’re shaking hands with it, just like a real racquet, and you play one side of the net–volleying against someone else or against one or more players–swooping and diving with a grace and power that’s hard to replicate in the real world.

I’ve thought a lot about Jane and her family over the past week of near constant play, like when my 11-year-old turned “semi-pro.” And then again, last night, around 2 AM, when I was rousted from sleep with the sweet victory cheer of my teenage son, downstairs in the family room: He had just turned “pro.”

The Wii, more than a video game console, is an agent of change: It has taken us from Eeyore to Barbaro, reframing us as a family of virtual athletes. From the family room, in front of the screen that has their tiny avatars facing off in a match, my two kids talk tennis. Evan, in the role of game veteran, critiques Caroline’s game, her stance, her swing. And she, amazingly, accepts his advice, and sometimes solicits it.

Occasionally–usually late at night, after they’ve been on the courts for hours, they break out into a bicker. They call each other names. But even that I tolerate, because here we are with something approaching a common language and culture that–25 years after I once coveted Jane’s family–I thought was permanently out of reach.

I’m exaggerating, of course. None of us thinks we are really athletes. But what’s the harm in fantasy? What’s the harm in play?

A year or so ago, National Public Radio aired a commentary from Kelly McBride, a parent and Poynter faculty member, regarding her children’s frequent use of the Wii. From ArsTechnica: “Rather than relishing the fact that the new toy has them off the couch and swinging their arms, Kelly worried that her children are equating the game version of the sports with the real-life counterpart; that is to say, the children are gaining ‘a false sense of what it’s like to compete in the world.’”

Well, duh. Tennis is a ridiculously hard game, and there are a relative few who can, in the real world, reach pro status. Few of us can do much of anything well enough to attract real acclaim. But it’s a blast to try. And it’s even more fun to feel some pleasure of success from your efforts. To forget–even for a few foolish minutes–that you aren’t an uncoordinated undesirable left standing on the sidelines. That, instead, you are gifted. Talented. A winner on the court. The kind of person the captain picks first for the team.

This morning, my son corralled me into the family room to show off his newly minted pro status. “Check it out,” he said, as he proceeded to volley flawlessly.

I sat on the couch and watched him. He might have been standing, in his stocking feet, on the floor of our family room, hitting with a tiny virtual figure. And he might have been wearing a Grateful Dead T-shirt and jeans slung so low that he played with one hand at his waist, to keep his pants from drooping below his hips.

But seeing the look of concentration on his face, the small grunt he emitted at each powerful swing, and the tiny smile that appeared around his lips when he won the volley and his avatar danced in the end zone, he might as well have been dressed in tennis whites, rallying the crowd, and right there–for all the world–playing for keeps.

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104 Responses to Wii Are Family

  1. Peter Kim says:

    I played and taught tennis in high school. Love Wii Tennis.

    So…are you ready to let your kids learn how to drive from playing Mario Kart?

  2. Peter Kim says:

    I played and taught tennis in high school. Love Wii Tennis.

    So…are you ready to let your kids learn how to drive from playing Mario Kart?

  3. Paulette says:

    As always, this is a wonderful post. I visited my L.I. relatives over Christmas and was smitten with their Wii, especially when I earned 2 stars as a ski jumper! (Me who made a career of lounging out of sight during gym so no one would even consider picking me for anything.) Although , my dignity is still recovering from getting bonked in the head by the shoes and the pandas in soccer. :-)

  4. Paulette says:

    As always, this is a wonderful post. I visited my L.I. relatives over Christmas and was smitten with their Wii, especially when I earned 2 stars as a ski jumper! (Me who made a career of lounging out of sight during gym so no one would even consider picking me for anything.) Although , my dignity is still recovering from getting bonked in the head by the shoes and the pandas in soccer. :-)

  5. I played sports in high school, back when. Softball and horseback riding mostly, with some swimming and diving thrown in there. But I was never the one that dominated. I was smack in the middle of the pack. Not the complete klutz, but only good enough to manage not to get completely laughed at.

    What I loved most about the sports, though, was just the feeling of being with other like-minded friends. We had something in common, at least, even if my book-loving nerdiness and band geekdom separated me from them at all other times of the day. For me, sports was the great ruse, trying to demonstrate that I wasn’t a complete bookworm. Not sure I succeeded, and when college arrived, I most certainly did not.

    But something like the Wii gives me hope. It’s the fusion of the kid behind the book or the computer, and the athlete in me that never really was. And at least the little cartoon people can reassure me by being moon faced and googly eyed and somehow, still good at tennis.

  6. I played sports in high school, back when. Softball and horseback riding mostly, with some swimming and diving thrown in there. But I was never the one that dominated. I was smack in the middle of the pack. Not the complete klutz, but only good enough to manage not to get completely laughed at.

    What I loved most about the sports, though, was just the feeling of being with other like-minded friends. We had something in common, at least, even if my book-loving nerdiness and band geekdom separated me from them at all other times of the day. For me, sports was the great ruse, trying to demonstrate that I wasn’t a complete bookworm. Not sure I succeeded, and when college arrived, I most certainly did not.

    But something like the Wii gives me hope. It’s the fusion of the kid behind the book or the computer, and the athlete in me that never really was. And at least the little cartoon people can reassure me by being moon faced and googly eyed and somehow, still good at tennis.

  7. Ann, you are a darling writer: “In practice, Wii tennis simulates the actions and achievements of a real tennis game, but for the colossally unskilled and unschooled.”

    We will never own a Wii. Or any game system for that matter. I’m enormously too competitive.

  8. Ann, you are a darling writer: “In practice, Wii tennis simulates the actions and achievements of a real tennis game, but for the colossally unskilled and unschooled.”

    We will never own a Wii. Or any game system for that matter. I’m enormously too competitive.

  9. Santa brought a Wii to our house this year, too, and I think it’s going to become a great new way for our family to interact together.
    I’ve never been much for games, but am having fun playing Mario Kart with my girl. And, even better, she and her father have been spending a lot more time together trying out all the new games. I think he felt a little left out when she and I went exploring virtual worlds together on our laptops. :-)

  10. Santa brought a Wii to our house this year, too, and I think it’s going to become a great new way for our family to interact together.
    I’ve never been much for games, but am having fun playing Mario Kart with my girl. And, even better, she and her father have been spending a lot more time together trying out all the new games. I think he felt a little left out when she and I went exploring virtual worlds together on our laptops. :-)

  11. Doug Meacham says:

    Regarding game versions vs real life activities, it is interesting to note the explosive growth in real musical instrument sales over the last year as a result of kids “catching the guitar bug” through Guitar hero and Rock Band. Talk about an effective advertising model.

  12. Doug Meacham says:

    Regarding game versions vs real life activities, it is interesting to note the explosive growth in real musical instrument sales over the last year as a result of kids “catching the guitar bug” through Guitar hero and Rock Band. Talk about an effective advertising model.

  13. Ann,
    If it is ok with you, I am going to this year’s 1st scheduled appt with a prospective franchise owner.
    I will read what I am sure is, an incredible post, this evening….
    Happy New Year!
    Joel Libava

  14. Joel Libava says:

    Ann,
    If it is ok with you, I am going to this year’s 1st scheduled appt with a prospective franchise owner.
    I will read what I am sure is, an incredible post, this evening….
    Happy New Year!
    Joel Libava

  15. Hi Ann,
    I do love the posts that make me think, reconsider things, even. We have a Wii, and I don’t claim to be immune to its draw (I’m becoming the guitar player I always wished I was). But I spend a lot of time thinking about the hours my boys spend with it, and consuming all things digital, for that matter. To this point, my conclusions have been that, in general, video games (and TV) of any sort are a negative influence (yes, I recognize the hypocrisy inherent to my own fervent use of the internet).

    The overwhelming availability of opportunities to give our time and attention to things others have created rather than going out and ‘producing’ ourselves is daunting. As a father, I worry about this for my boys, worry what impact it is having on their ability to find comfort and confidence from within.

    But this post has me striking a thoughtful pose (elbow on knee, chin in hand) as I consider the value of certain forms of consumption I’d previously maligned.

    Thanks for that (I’m sure my boys would like to thank you as well).

  16. Hi Ann,
    I do love the posts that make me think, reconsider things, even. We have a Wii, and I don’t claim to be immune to its draw (I’m becoming the guitar player I always wished I was). But I spend a lot of time thinking about the hours my boys spend with it, and consuming all things digital, for that matter. To this point, my conclusions have been that, in general, video games (and TV) of any sort are a negative influence (yes, I recognize the hypocrisy inherent to my own fervent use of the internet).

    The overwhelming availability of opportunities to give our time and attention to things others have created rather than going out and ‘producing’ ourselves is daunting. As a father, I worry about this for my boys, worry what impact it is having on their ability to find comfort and confidence from within.

    But this post has me striking a thoughtful pose (elbow on knee, chin in hand) as I consider the value of certain forms of consumption I’d previously maligned.

    Thanks for that (I’m sure my boys would like to thank you as well).

  17. Heather Rast says:

    Ditto what Amber said, how Wii games enable the “fusion of the kid behind the book/computer and the athlete that never really was…”

    My family just got the Wii this Christmas, too, against my husband’s preference. He felt that it would just be one more way our kids would be in front of a screen and instead they should be playing outside.

    I argued that we live in Iowa and it’s winter, for cryin out loud. While we do indeed have a hockey rink in our side yard (there’s a story there…) most days are too frigid. And if my 11 yr and 6 yr can actually play TOGETHER at one time and enjoy a game, well then that’s magic to me. Put the nunchucks down, and all bets are off with those two.

    We’re unlikely to be the full-fledged athletes, either. But between our real-life hockey and wrestling and some Wii fun, I figure the kids are learning to play fairly and learn to gracefully accept wins, losses, and someone else possessing more skill.

    Those are life lessons I’m grateful for them to cultivate, and I think the Wii has been a good part of it (already!).

  18. Heather Rast says:

    Ditto what Amber said, how Wii games enable the “fusion of the kid behind the book/computer and the athlete that never really was…”

    My family just got the Wii this Christmas, too, against my husband’s preference. He felt that it would just be one more way our kids would be in front of a screen and instead they should be playing outside.

    I argued that we live in Iowa and it’s winter, for cryin out loud. While we do indeed have a hockey rink in our side yard (there’s a story there…) most days are too frigid. And if my 11 yr and 6 yr can actually play TOGETHER at one time and enjoy a game, well then that’s magic to me. Put the nunchucks down, and all bets are off with those two.

    We’re unlikely to be the full-fledged athletes, either. But between our real-life hockey and wrestling and some Wii fun, I figure the kids are learning to play fairly and learn to gracefully accept wins, losses, and someone else possessing more skill.

    Those are life lessons I’m grateful for them to cultivate, and I think the Wii has been a good part of it (already!).

  19. Katrina Hollmann says:

    “But it’s hard to shake genetics: If athletics were a Harry Potter story, they’d still both be Muggles.”

    Muggle I am! And my poor sister too. Even worse, I’m one of those who’s so afraid of looking foolish that I’m scared to even try things sometimes. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per se, but I do find things I want to concentrate on and improve. I haven’t come up with them yet this year but maybe overcoming the fear of looking foolish should be first on my list.

    Happy New Year, Ann! And thanks for a thought-provoking post as always.

  20. Katrina Hollmann says:

    “But it’s hard to shake genetics: If athletics were a Harry Potter story, they’d still both be Muggles.”

    Muggle I am! And my poor sister too. Even worse, I’m one of those who’s so afraid of looking foolish that I’m scared to even try things sometimes. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per se, but I do find things I want to concentrate on and improve. I haven’t come up with them yet this year but maybe overcoming the fear of looking foolish should be first on my list.

    Happy New Year, Ann! And thanks for a thought-provoking post as always.

  21. Greg B says:

    Ann,

    That is a great story.

    I just became a pro baseball player myself.

  22. Greg B says:

    Ann,

    That is a great story.

    I just became a pro baseball player myself.

  23. Yavanna Horbal says:

    Yes, Katrina (my sis) is right. I am a muggle, too! And I’m 100% with her on the looking foolish thing. Maybe we can work on that together this year!

  24. Yavanna Horbal says:

    Yes, Katrina (my sis) is right. I am a muggle, too! And I’m 100% with her on the looking foolish thing. Maybe we can work on that together this year!

  25. Very engaging story. Thanks.

  26. Very engaging story. Thanks.

  27. I’m salivating at the impending arrival of our Wii (and Wii Fit) that I won online in a contest.
    It can’t get here soon enough for me.

    I played tennis growing up – enough so that I’d go to tennis camp every summer up near Sun Valley Idaho – for 2 to 5 weeks (depending on the year I went) I’d play tennis in the sunshine 8-10 hours a day – and I’d get better and better… Then I’d come home to Colorado and it would become winter and I’d have no one to play with…

    A few years back, the husband and I went out to play tennis – both of us having grown up playing. It turns out that it’s smashingly disappointing when your muscles “know” what they should do – but your body just doesn’t do that any more.

    Am I worried that my daughter would mistake Wii for real sports? No… no more than she’d mistake TV shows for real life.
    But I do look forward to playing Wii tennis… because I’m more likely to enjoy moving but looking like a moron in my own family room than I am on an actual tennis court. :)

  28. I’m salivating at the impending arrival of our Wii (and Wii Fit) that I won online in a contest.
    It can’t get here soon enough for me.

    I played tennis growing up – enough so that I’d go to tennis camp every summer up near Sun Valley Idaho – for 2 to 5 weeks (depending on the year I went) I’d play tennis in the sunshine 8-10 hours a day – and I’d get better and better… Then I’d come home to Colorado and it would become winter and I’d have no one to play with…

    A few years back, the husband and I went out to play tennis – both of us having grown up playing. It turns out that it’s smashingly disappointing when your muscles “know” what they should do – but your body just doesn’t do that any more.

    Am I worried that my daughter would mistake Wii for real sports? No… no more than she’d mistake TV shows for real life.
    But I do look forward to playing Wii tennis… because I’m more likely to enjoy moving but looking like a moron in my own family room than I am on an actual tennis court. :)

  29. Ann,
    Am I glad I read your latest life-post! I actually played a little tennis as a kid, and was pretty good. It is in my genes.

    My late father was half of the #2 ranked doubles team in Ohio High School Athletics, back in the mid 50′s.

    I can still remember my 12 year old skinny self attempting to return his 75+mph serve. Not.

    Our daughter is trying to talk us into getting the Wii. As of last week, the entire city of Cleveland was sold out. We will just have to see.

    Great job. You ALWAYS bring back childhood memories in your posts. Thank you.

    Joel Libava

  30. Joel Libava says:

    Ann,
    Am I glad I read your latest life-post! I actually played a little tennis as a kid, and was pretty good. It is in my genes.

    My late father was half of the #2 ranked doubles team in Ohio High School Athletics, back in the mid 50′s.

    I can still remember my 12 year old skinny self attempting to return his 75+mph serve. Not.

    Our daughter is trying to talk us into getting the Wii. As of last week, the entire city of Cleveland was sold out. We will just have to see.

    Great job. You ALWAYS bring back childhood memories in your posts. Thank you.

    Joel Libava

  31. Pingback: nintendo The Nintendo Wii offers something that no other video game console offers | Electronics Gear and Gadgets

  32. Alan Wolk says:

    Wii is the only video game I have a shot at beating my 10 year old son at. (PlayStation games inevitably feature some variation of him having Kobe under the basket, alone, ready to dunk, within a millisecond of me giving up the ball… followed by the not-very-convincing protestation that “it’s not a cheat. I don’t know how he wound up there.”)

    As for tennis, it never seemed to bounce back from the Great Tennis Craze of the 1970s. I had spent my 8th through 12th summers playing a never-ending game of round-robin with my two best friends and so I had very mixed emotions about that: on the one hand, it was suddenly very cool to play tennis, on the other hand, getting a court was no longer a given. (And remember World Team Tennis? The first and only attempt at a mixed-gender sports league. I will admit to attending a number of New York Sets games. Trivia Note: Elton John wrote “Philadelphia Freedom” for Billie Jean King in honor of her eponymous WTT team.)

    Be glad your kids have found something they really enjoy and can (more or less) do together. And at the risk of sounding like a Successories poster, “confidence breeds confidence” – you might be surprised by their next on-field performance.

  33. Alan Wolk says:

    Wii is the only video game I have a shot at beating my 10 year old son at. (PlayStation games inevitably feature some variation of him having Kobe under the basket, alone, ready to dunk, within a millisecond of me giving up the ball… followed by the not-very-convincing protestation that “it’s not a cheat. I don’t know how he wound up there.”)

    As for tennis, it never seemed to bounce back from the Great Tennis Craze of the 1970s. I had spent my 8th through 12th summers playing a never-ending game of round-robin with my two best friends and so I had very mixed emotions about that: on the one hand, it was suddenly very cool to play tennis, on the other hand, getting a court was no longer a given. (And remember World Team Tennis? The first and only attempt at a mixed-gender sports league. I will admit to attending a number of New York Sets games. Trivia Note: Elton John wrote “Philadelphia Freedom” for Billie Jean King in honor of her eponymous WTT team.)

    Be glad your kids have found something they really enjoy and can (more or less) do together. And at the risk of sounding like a Successories poster, “confidence breeds confidence” – you might be surprised by their next on-field performance.

  34. Herb says:

    I was a pretty good athlete growing up, but gave up competition when my height matured before I did.

    But I was never that gifted at video games. My 10- and 7-year-olds remind me of that when we play the Wii we got this Christmas.

    I’m just happy I can kick their little tushies outdoors for now.

  35. Herb says:

    I was a pretty good athlete growing up, but gave up competition when my height matured before I did.

    But I was never that gifted at video games. My 10- and 7-year-olds remind me of that when we play the Wii we got this Christmas.

    I’m just happy I can kick their little tushies outdoors for now.

  36. Shelley Ryan says:

    PONG. That Atari game from the 70s? I remember how excited we all were when Dad brought it home and hooked it to the TV. My brother and I would play for hours. And the little vertical paddles burned themselves into permanent ghosts on the screen.

    Nowadays, a game like Pong would hold my daughter’s attention for maybe two minutes. How far things have come!

  37. Shelley Ryan says:

    PONG. That Atari game from the 70s? I remember how excited we all were when Dad brought it home and hooked it to the TV. My brother and I would play for hours. And the little vertical paddles burned themselves into permanent ghosts on the screen.

    Nowadays, a game like Pong would hold my daughter’s attention for maybe two minutes. How far things have come!

  38. I haven’t played Wii tennis, but it looks like fun. Do you do overhand serves, too?

    Have you tried the Wii Fit? That is also a lot of fun.

  39. I haven’t played Wii tennis, but it looks like fun. Do you do overhand serves, too?

    Have you tried the Wii Fit? That is also a lot of fun.

  40. Ann Handley says:

    Shelley – Funny you mention Pong. I thought about bringing it up here.. because that was the only other video game I’ve ever been hooked on, before now, I mean….!

    Peter and Chris – Tried to get both Mario Kart AND the Fit (we like yoga over here), but it’s ridiculously hard to find (at least in Greater Boston… and, I guess, Ohio too, according to Joel!)

  41. Ann Handley says:

    Shelley – Funny you mention Pong. I thought about bringing it up here.. because that was the only other video game I’ve ever been hooked on, before now, I mean….!

    Peter and Chris – Tried to get both Mario Kart AND the Fit (we like yoga over here), but it’s ridiculously hard to find (at least in Greater Boston… and, I guess, Ohio too, according to Joel!)

  42. One word: Gorgeous. Well, that was 3. Crap, now it’s 12. 13. 14. Agh!

  43. One word: Gorgeous. Well, that was 3. Crap, now it’s 12. 13. 14. Agh!

  44. Chris Winn says:

    The correlation is great–tennis to wii tennis. When Gran Turismo 3 came out for the Playstation 2, I was 14. I played the game for hours, in first person driver mode. I still argue (vehemently) that my impeccable driving skills come from handling brilliants autos for long hours on the winding European courses.

    Great article!

  45. Chris Winn says:

    The correlation is great–tennis to wii tennis. When Gran Turismo 3 came out for the Playstation 2, I was 14. I played the game for hours, in first person driver mode. I still argue (vehemently) that my impeccable driving skills come from handling brilliants autos for long hours on the winding European courses.

    Great article!

  46. Craig Sutton says:

    Wonderful post. Nice that you stay involved with your family. I think the Wii is a great thing, keeps the kids moving..not all kids desire to be athletes, but all kids desire to have fun!

  47. Craig Sutton says:

    Wonderful post. Nice that you stay involved with your family. I think the Wii is a great thing, keeps the kids moving..not all kids desire to be athletes, but all kids desire to have fun!

  48. Susan Greene says:

    Hi Ann,

    I’m new to your blog. I don’t own a Wii, but I enjoyed reading about it in your post. While you envied Jane’s athleticism, I’m betting she was jealous of your writing skills. You tell a great story.

  49. Susan Greene says:

    Hi Ann,

    I’m new to your blog. I don’t own a Wii, but I enjoyed reading about it in your post. While you envied Jane’s athleticism, I’m betting she was jealous of your writing skills. You tell a great story.

  50. Pam Martin says:

    It’s amazing how the Wii has brought out the latent athlete in so many of us. I am helplessly addicted to Wii tennis- and it’s brought back what was so much fun about the game for me.

    From the ages of 8 to 18 I spent nearly every hour of every summer on the tennis court and loved it. When I was in college I lost that child-like ability to walk onto the tennis court and just pick up a match with anyone else who happened to be hanging around the court. When do we lose the openness to play with strangers?

    I never thought I’d say a video game would change the way I look at myself- but in a way it has- and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

    Happy New Year Ann!

  51. Pam Martin says:

    It’s amazing how the Wii has brought out the latent athlete in so many of us. I am helplessly addicted to Wii tennis- and it’s brought back what was so much fun about the game for me.

    From the ages of 8 to 18 I spent nearly every hour of every summer on the tennis court and loved it. When I was in college I lost that child-like ability to walk onto the tennis court and just pick up a match with anyone else who happened to be hanging around the court. When do we lose the openness to play with strangers?

    I never thought I’d say a video game would change the way I look at myself- but in a way it has- and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.

    Happy New Year Ann!

  52. Cheyanne says:

    First of all this is a good article. You’ve pretty much nailed the virtual experience I had this past Christmas right on the head because my family also got a Wii from the virtual Santa Claus.

    I never thought I’d say this but Wii Rocks. The whole family can play bowling together, tennis… name your sport . They’ve got it.

    It brought us many enjoyable quality “family time” moments.

    Nothing beats the real thing……however,

    “The family that plays together stays together.”

    That’s my motto!

  53. Cheyanne says:

    First of all this is a good article. You’ve pretty much nailed the virtual experience I had this past Christmas right on the head because my family also got a Wii from the virtual Santa Claus.

    I never thought I’d say this but Wii Rocks. The whole family can play bowling together, tennis… name your sport . They’ve got it.

    It brought us many enjoyable quality “family time” moments.

    Nothing beats the real thing……however,

    “The family that plays together stays together.”

    That’s my motto!

  54. Mack Collier says:

    I am also colossally unathletic, but love tennis; with the big caveat that I must be playing with someone as bad as I am. My idea of ‘strategy’ in tennis to get the ball back to the other side of the court, and I can only play with people that share this single-minded focus. I used to play regularly in the summer a few years ago with friends, and one day the ‘local tennis pro’ stopped by the courts and we decided we were ready to play with him. After all, we had been playing tennis every day for a week now, we were surely ready to move up!

    I remember waiting for him to serve the ball to me, and I looked down at my feet for a second and looked back up and he was standing there with his hand on his hip as if he was impatiently waiting on me to do something. Confused, I said ‘Ok, I’m ready!’. He pointed behind me, and I turned to see his ball freshly wedged in the fence. It quickly went downhill from there.

    Maybe Wii Tennis is more my speed?

  55. Mack Collier says:

    I am also colossally unathletic, but love tennis; with the big caveat that I must be playing with someone as bad as I am. My idea of ‘strategy’ in tennis to get the ball back to the other side of the court, and I can only play with people that share this single-minded focus. I used to play regularly in the summer a few years ago with friends, and one day the ‘local tennis pro’ stopped by the courts and we decided we were ready to play with him. After all, we had been playing tennis every day for a week now, we were surely ready to move up!

    I remember waiting for him to serve the ball to me, and I looked down at my feet for a second and looked back up and he was standing there with his hand on his hip as if he was impatiently waiting on me to do something. Confused, I said ‘Ok, I’m ready!’. He pointed behind me, and I turned to see his ball freshly wedged in the fence. It quickly went downhill from there.

    Maybe Wii Tennis is more my speed?

  56. Rick Morgan says:

    Great post. I like the fact that Wii spans the generations. I play golf, tennis, bowling, etc. with my grandkids. We also play Wii with our friends after a dinner party. And I love guitar hero – my chance to jam with lots of great groups.

  57. Rick Morgan says:

    Great post. I like the fact that Wii spans the generations. I play golf, tennis, bowling, etc. with my grandkids. We also play Wii with our friends after a dinner party. And I love guitar hero – my chance to jam with lots of great groups.

  58. Ann, there is a rumor that Walmart is getting a big supply of Wii Fit to go on sale either Sunday or Monday. Our local Walmart just happened to have one a few days ago when I wandered through the video game section- I was rather shocked to see it in stock.

    Also if you follow @amazondeals on Twitter, they announce when amazon has them in stock, but order right away since they go fast.

  59. Ann, there is a rumor that Walmart is getting a big supply of Wii Fit to go on sale either Sunday or Monday. Our local Walmart just happened to have one a few days ago when I wandered through the video game section- I was rather shocked to see it in stock.

    Also if you follow @amazondeals on Twitter, they announce when amazon has them in stock, but order right away since they go fast.

  60. I am a notoriously bad athlete, although I am very good with weightlifting (not a competitive sport). I find Wii Boxing to be incredibly fun and a great way to work up a good sweat. It makes me *feel* like a real athlete – and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

  61. I am a notoriously bad athlete, although I am very good with weightlifting (not a competitive sport). I find Wii Boxing to be incredibly fun and a great way to work up a good sweat. It makes me *feel* like a real athlete – and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

  62. David Reich says:

    I can relate, since I’ve never been particularly athletic.

    My experience with Wii last spring left me with a bad back that prompted a visit to the chiropractor. She told me she’s had several me to see her with Wii-induced problems.

    I wouldn’t have felt so embarrassed if the injury had been caused by “real” bowling or tennis rather than playing those games on Wii.

    Here’s what I had written…

    http://reichcomm.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/05/a-wii-story.html

  63. David Reich says:

    I can relate, since I’ve never been particularly athletic.

    My experience with Wii last spring left me with a bad back that prompted a visit to the chiropractor. She told me she’s had several me to see her with Wii-induced problems.

    I wouldn’t have felt so embarrassed if the injury had been caused by “real” bowling or tennis rather than playing those games on Wii.

    Here’s what I had written…

    http://reichcomm.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/05/a-wii-story.html

  64. Ann Handley says:

    @david: A wiinjury! Did you try wiihab? ; )

  65. Ann Handley says:

    @david: A wiinjury! Did you try wiihab? ; )

  66. Julie Roads says:

    Okay…I’m trying to be okay with this form of exercise – and you’ve done the best job of convincing me yet…but…I’m not…quite…there…yet.

    Still love your writing…

  67. Julie Roads says:

    Okay…I’m trying to be okay with this form of exercise – and you’ve done the best job of convincing me yet…but…I’m not…quite…there…yet.

    Still love your writing…

  68. Roshan says:

    Thanks for that wonderful story. I so enjoyed it. I played tennis against my wall for about a year in my early teens and I lost a lot of weight and felt so fit during that time. Now I’m overweight and gasping for breath.

  69. Roshan says:

    Thanks for that wonderful story. I so enjoyed it. I played tennis against my wall for about a year in my early teens and I lost a lot of weight and felt so fit during that time. Now I’m overweight and gasping for breath.

  70. Amy Flanagan says:

    Great post! Santa brought us a Wii last year and I have to admit that I demonized it a bit. Always very vigilant about sticking to time limits, worrying about its influence, etc. This year Santa brought extra remotes and the Fit. One night the four of us were playing tennis together – laughing, screaming, having a blast – and I had to laugh at myself. Sure, time limits are cool, but how often do you find something that has the whole family up and active, screaming and rolling on the floor laughing?? Even when the Wii Fit announced to my whole family that I was “overweight” (which I quickly categorized as “slightly”!) I was horrified for a moment but then thought, hey, why not? I’ll still go back to the time limits when school starts again tomorrow (and we still spend a lot of time around the board games), but I’m convinced this is one of the greatest games ever.

  71. Amy Flanagan says:

    Great post! Santa brought us a Wii last year and I have to admit that I demonized it a bit. Always very vigilant about sticking to time limits, worrying about its influence, etc. This year Santa brought extra remotes and the Fit. One night the four of us were playing tennis together – laughing, screaming, having a blast – and I had to laugh at myself. Sure, time limits are cool, but how often do you find something that has the whole family up and active, screaming and rolling on the floor laughing?? Even when the Wii Fit announced to my whole family that I was “overweight” (which I quickly categorized as “slightly”!) I was horrified for a moment but then thought, hey, why not? I’ll still go back to the time limits when school starts again tomorrow (and we still spend a lot of time around the board games), but I’m convinced this is one of the greatest games ever.

  72. Julie says:

    Wii got one from Santa too! I actually waited for a UPS truck delivery to GameStop for the Wii Fit and I’m so glad I did. This is the only video gaming system that engages me. Our family played it non-stop over break and it was hilarious. My son created Wii persons for everyone (including teachers, Chuck Norris, Oprah, House, George Constanza). Then Grandma and Grandpa came to visit and played too. I think we spent more time together this vacation than any other. We’ll even take it with us when we ski for real in February. Ann, come over and try the Wii Fit!

  73. Julie says:

    Wii got one from Santa too! I actually waited for a UPS truck delivery to GameStop for the Wii Fit and I’m so glad I did. This is the only video gaming system that engages me. Our family played it non-stop over break and it was hilarious. My son created Wii persons for everyone (including teachers, Chuck Norris, Oprah, House, George Constanza). Then Grandma and Grandpa came to visit and played too. I think we spent more time together this vacation than any other. We’ll even take it with us when we ski for real in February. Ann, come over and try the Wii Fit!

  74. Larry Lawfer says:

    The part of the field behind the shortstop is Left Field. And it is the place where coaches send those who want to play, but don’t have the defensive skills to be depended on. Nicely written story.

  75. Larry Lawfer says:

    The part of the field behind the shortstop is Left Field. And it is the place where coaches send those who want to play, but don’t have the defensive skills to be depended on. Nicely written story.

  76. Leah says:

    Ann, great post as usual! I was also a perpetual right-fielder. It took me until high school to finally realize that I’m not an athlete. After playing soccer and softball with negative success (although my favorite memory is playing on an entirely defeated [zero wins!] softball team my dad coached in middle school with my other unathletic friends), I tried field hockey and lacrosse freshman year. I quit both, for colorguard in the marching band and the drama club, respectively.

    I love the Wii! My BF’s mom got one for all us kids to share, but we don’t get to play it very often due to the fact that we don’t live in the house. We plan to steal it shortly ;) Might I suggest Mario Party? That’s my all-time favorite video game, and one of the only ones I can play with any success!

  77. Leah says:

    Ann, great post as usual! I was also a perpetual right-fielder. It took me until high school to finally realize that I’m not an athlete. After playing soccer and softball with negative success (although my favorite memory is playing on an entirely defeated [zero wins!] softball team my dad coached in middle school with my other unathletic friends), I tried field hockey and lacrosse freshman year. I quit both, for colorguard in the marching band and the drama club, respectively.

    I love the Wii! My BF’s mom got one for all us kids to share, but we don’t get to play it very often due to the fact that we don’t live in the house. We plan to steal it shortly ;) Might I suggest Mario Party? That’s my all-time favorite video game, and one of the only ones I can play with any success!

  78. Tabitha Dunn says:

    I love the Wii in our household. We have a PS3 as well but I am not addicted to that. The buttons are grand and all but I love the action and movement that comes with the Wii. In fact, it was my birthday gift in 2007 and it was every bit as fun and more than I had hoped. This year we got the wheels and have been immersed in Mario Kart and Cars. My daughter is so excited that she can’t sit to drive – I can only imagine how that will translate in driving skills…

  79. Tabitha Dunn says:

    I love the Wii in our household. We have a PS3 as well but I am not addicted to that. The buttons are grand and all but I love the action and movement that comes with the Wii. In fact, it was my birthday gift in 2007 and it was every bit as fun and more than I had hoped. This year we got the wheels and have been immersed in Mario Kart and Cars. My daughter is so excited that she can’t sit to drive – I can only imagine how that will translate in driving skills…

  80. Karen says:

    We’ve had Wii since July, Santa brought Wii Fit this year. I guess all that real-world yoga is working because I’m a yoga star on Wii. Also got Wii Ski – now maybe I’ll be able to hit some black diamond runs in Colorado this March!

  81. Karen says:

    We’ve had Wii since July, Santa brought Wii Fit this year. I guess all that real-world yoga is working because I’m a yoga star on Wii. Also got Wii Ski – now maybe I’ll be able to hit some black diamond runs in Colorado this March!

  82. Angela says:

    Wii Tennis is cool, but I’m a Smooth Moves kinda girl.

    Funny (if cruel) story: my sisters got a Wii fit, and in the process of making her avatar, the slightly overweight one stepped onto the Wii scale. In response, her avatar expanded like a marshmallow!

    We all died laughing. Then slipped on a bit of loose rug and went to hell.

  83. Angela says:

    Wii Tennis is cool, but I’m a Smooth Moves kinda girl.

    Funny (if cruel) story: my sisters got a Wii fit, and in the process of making her avatar, the slightly overweight one stepped onto the Wii scale. In response, her avatar expanded like a marshmallow!

    We all died laughing. Then slipped on a bit of loose rug and went to hell.

  84. Dana Ironside says:

    Ann, I’m always amazed how your write about topics people from all ends of the spectrum can relate to.

    Me, I was the three letter sports gal in high school. An athlete in every sense of the word. As many years have passed since then, I barely do exercise let alone sports. When we got Wii, our family bonded too and I myself felt like an athlete again for the first time in ages. If nothing else, the game makes people feel good and it makes families spend time together and isn’t that what it’s all about?

    By the way, Wii Fit rocks. I’m the hula hoop champion in my house. :)

    Thanks for such a fun post.

  85. Dana Ironside says:

    Ann, I’m always amazed how your write about topics people from all ends of the spectrum can relate to.

    Me, I was the three letter sports gal in high school. An athlete in every sense of the word. As many years have passed since then, I barely do exercise let alone sports. When we got Wii, our family bonded too and I myself felt like an athlete again for the first time in ages. If nothing else, the game makes people feel good and it makes families spend time together and isn’t that what it’s all about?

    By the way, Wii Fit rocks. I’m the hula hoop champion in my house. :)

    Thanks for such a fun post.

  86. marnie says:

    Ahh…lovely…if nothing else technology is changing brain chemistry and how we think…synapses are “firing” faster…played Weii Bowling…just like the “real thing”…found myself centering and cradling the “device”; stepping back on my right foot, taking three large steps, raising my arm, swinging back, and jumping up and down with joy over my strike…in a past incarnation, I was a fairly decent bowler…now Weii Fit is the latest,…it will never replace my Yin Yoga class…Namaste

  87. marnie says:

    Ahh…lovely…if nothing else technology is changing brain chemistry and how we think…synapses are “firing” faster…played Weii Bowling…just like the “real thing”…found myself centering and cradling the “device”; stepping back on my right foot, taking three large steps, raising my arm, swinging back, and jumping up and down with joy over my strike…in a past incarnation, I was a fairly decent bowler…now Weii Fit is the latest,…it will never replace my Yin Yoga class…Namaste

  88. Gavin Heaton says:

    Watching my nephews begin the slow climb to global Guitar Hero fame this Christmas, I saw how the Wii is really a toy for our times. Adults are too tired or time poor to truck kids around for a massive variety of activities. And the competitive landscape for even kids activities has changed dramatically – there is less opportunity to try and fail now than when I was growing up. And for kids, this means there is less opportunity to learn, dream and experience.

    Games like the Wii return some of that important aspirational play that has been missing recently.

    Oh, and I bet you rock out as a Guitar Hero ;)

  89. Gavin Heaton says:

    Watching my nephews begin the slow climb to global Guitar Hero fame this Christmas, I saw how the Wii is really a toy for our times. Adults are too tired or time poor to truck kids around for a massive variety of activities. And the competitive landscape for even kids activities has changed dramatically – there is less opportunity to try and fail now than when I was growing up. And for kids, this means there is less opportunity to learn, dream and experience.

    Games like the Wii return some of that important aspirational play that has been missing recently.

    Oh, and I bet you rock out as a Guitar Hero ;)

  90. Ann Handley says:

    @gavin: I like that word, “aspirational….” That’s exactly it.

    We did get WiiFit last week.. not yet Guitar Hero. My kid wrote on her own blog that Guitar Hero is “out” (at least for local sixth grade girls), so I guess for now, I won’t really know how fabulous we are at that, too. ; )

  91. Ann Handley says:

    @gavin: I like that word, “aspirational….” That’s exactly it.

    We did get WiiFit last week.. not yet Guitar Hero. My kid wrote on her own blog that Guitar Hero is “out” (at least for local sixth grade girls), so I guess for now, I won’t really know how fabulous we are at that, too. ; )

  92. Jim Storer says:

    Hi Ann – Catching up on my reading and just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading this. It might be late and I may be tired, but you have a gift for words and it was fun catching up with your Wii experience(s).

    We’ve had the Wii for 20 months and have added some really fun games to the collection. Let your son know I’m always looking for another tennis pro to hit the ball around. ;-)

    Jim | @jstorerj

  93. Jim Storer says:

    Hi Ann – Catching up on my reading and just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading this. It might be late and I may be tired, but you have a gift for words and it was fun catching up with your Wii experience(s).

    We’ve had the Wii for 20 months and have added some really fun games to the collection. Let your son know I’m always looking for another tennis pro to hit the ball around. ;-)

    Jim | @jstorerj

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  95. Tee says:

    Loved this post! It’s kinda like that in our house. My 6 year old has a wicked serve that I’ve yet to master and though she hasn’t reached pro, she’s beat every adult she’s played with.

    My game is bowling…where I have a pro ball I’m barely holding on to.

    Might need to go and play now!

    -Tee

  96. Tee says:

    Loved this post! It’s kinda like that in our house. My 6 year old has a wicked serve that I’ve yet to master and though she hasn’t reached pro, she’s beat every adult she’s played with.

    My game is bowling…where I have a pro ball I’m barely holding on to.

    Might need to go and play now!

    -Tee

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  99. something like the Wii gives me hope. It's the fusion of the kid behind the book or the computer, gucciwell.com and the athlete in me that never really was. And at least the little cartoon people can reassure me by being moon faced and googly eyed and somehow, still good at tennis.

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  101. Nice! Tennis is a also good game but I'm really into NCAA Football!! I really love it!

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