Are Wii Green or are Wii in denial?
For Christmas this year, our family got a Wii system. And a Wii Fit Plus, an added component that helps people like me get off our butts on the couch and play fitnessy-type video games that require our bodies to actually move around and occasionally sweat a little.
From a not-particularly-green perspective, this is a really good system. It’s not wildly complicated, nor are the graphics drop-dead-fabulous, but simply the whole concept of “video game that doesn’t require one person to sit still hunched over a gaming console” is, I think, a big step in the right direction. A huge step. Just being able to hang out in the family room, all of us together talking and laughing and moving around and having a family bowling match is just plain cool. The “Wii Fit” has the addition of a balance board, this very sensitive board a couple of inches off the ground that measures weight and center of balance and stuff and has you play games or do yoga or strength training exercises based on its perception of where you are and how your feet relate to each other and stuff. I don’t know enough about yoga to know whether they’re giving us good or not so good yoga, but a nice thing in the poses is that it then shows you where your center of balance is (i.e. how much weight you’ve got on one foot/hand/whatever vs. the other) and challenges you to keep it within certain parameters so you won’t be doing it wrong or cheating. There are balance-type games, and step aerobics (fairly dull and uninspiring, actually; but I turn mine into a belly dance drill which makes it much more interesting), boxing, running, and even a sort of fun pretend bicyling course on a pretend island. My kids like the game where they get to be drum major in a parade (marching and waving the baton) and the one where you pretend to be a bird trying to make it to a particular target out in the ocean, flapping your arms like crazy and trying not to land in the water.
Honestly, for anyone looking for a serious workout, this is not the way to go. It’s clearly geared at sedentary folk like me who just need to get moving a little bit, and kids we don’t want to see become Playstation Potatoes. And shifting slightly to the greener perspective on things, I don’t know why anyone who lives in nice temperate actually-get-outside-in-February kinds of climates would ever want one–I don’t understand why anyone would want to pretend-bike on a fake island with simple two dimensional graphics when they can get on a bicycle and ride around a real area, or run, or whatever. For those people, I’d think the Cool Quotient would wear off fairly quickly, though at first it really is sort of cool. (They also have built in this system where each game has several levels, so that once you’ve completed the bicycling basic level a few times it unlocks the advanced level and you get a new course with new challenges–I do that one a lot and at this point there are five different courses I’ve unlocked, which keeps it interesting. There’s probably a lot of unlocked stuff in the other games I just haven’t gotten to. Keeps you from getting bored.)
A big plus in terms of family dynamic, though this may seem small, is that my professional techno-geek husband for once was the first person in his office to have this particular Popular Gadget, before his boss got one. This is a good thing for his Male Techno-Geek Status, since I almost never let him get fun stuff, and even if we do, it’s usually a year after everyone else has it.
Now, if I were truly a greenmom, I would have done this research beforehand…but I confess that We Just Wanted A Wii, and it was one of those cases where a few different people in the family gave us monetary gifts for Christmas and told us to get what we wanted, and the gifts pretty much added up to exactly what we needed for the Wii and Wii Fit system. So we bought it, and now two weeks later I’m looking for info about whether or not we just made a really eco-unfriendly purchase.
Jury’s still out, to be honest. The long and short seems to be that the Wii is slightly less oogy than any of the other gaming systems and uses considerably less energy to run–but still has a lot of nasty materials making it up. There’s an article over at EcoSalon which discusses some of the pros and cons and has links to the Greenpeace review and the NRDC’s issue paper on how to improve the energy efficiency of video gaming consoles. So on the one hand I can feel glad that Nintendo at least seems to be making a little bit of an effort and happy to support them, and support them more if they work harder in the future, but on the other hand, it’s still a long way from footprint-free.
So there it is.
Wii do what wii can, I guess.