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.

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Posted on January 17, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I love our Wii, my husband is losing a lot of weight with the Wii Fit, I have lost some but I’m not as good about sticking with it lol.

    As far as game systems go I think it’s by far the greenest. For one thing Nintendo is known for making products that last. My brother still has an original Nintendo which still works. I know a lot of people that still have them.

    We had an x-box 360 and it didn’t even last a year! My husband had a Gamecube which is still working as well. I think things that last is one of the biggest green factors! Yes they can do better but it’s a HUGE step.

  2. greenmomintheburbs

    The “they make products that last” point is a good one–this is our first gaming system, so honestly I don’t have any real point of comparison. But that’s huge–planned obsolescence is a rotten stinking aspect of much of our consumerism, and it’s good that at least some companies are making things that people CAN keep if they choose to–I expect we’ll be Wii-ing for a long time into the future.

    You and me both, by the way–my husband is losing all kinds of weight, and I’m just sitting within 2 lbs. on either side of where I started. I’m getting tired of the Wii’s smart-aleck comments about my weight, and I object that when they ask “why do you think you’ve put on this weight” they don’t have “monthly bloating and hormones” as one of the choices!

  3. We got a Wii for Christmas too. As a greenie who does live in a nice temperate climate where we can get outside in February (it’s been 60 the past couple days), I’ve been feeling pretty sheepish about the purchase. But for all the reasons you said, I think it’s the best video game system we could have gotten. Plus, my kids paid for half of it with allowance and birthday money.

  4. I love my Wii.My son bought it for my last Christmas and I lost 25lbs playing Wii Fit, yoga and Wii Sports. I make sure we unplug it when we are through playing so as not to waste electricity. I would recommend it as a useful too to get young and old off the couch when outdoor acivities are not possible.

  5. greenmomintheburbs

    (Erin–well, to be honest, for six months out of the year our climate is temperate enough that I COULD go out and run or bike, but I seldom do, so I should probably retract the whole “people in temperate climates” part…)

    And there’s something HUGE about parents and kids getting together and doing something like this–we did sort of the same thing, actually; we sat down and had a Family Meeting to talk about the Christmas money thing, giving my kids the choice of whether to buy a few toys of their own with their gift money, or pool our resources together for the Wii. It was unanimous, and it’s something that’s really Ours.

  6. Unplugging it is a good idea, but failing that, remembering to turn it off on the console itself, rather than with the Wiimote, makes a big difference. 10 watts! (According to our Kill-a-Watt) Who would have thought?

  7. greenmomintheburbs

    Brenda–thanks for that! I honestly had no idea, and the whole replacing of disposable batteries thing drives me crazy about the wiimote. (Ridiculous, isn’t it? This machine that we use to get physically fit, and half the time we’re too lazy to walk across the room and turn it on manually. Oy!)

  8. We have our Wii on a power strip we turn off when not in use and use rechargeable batteries.

  1. Pingback: Pussy willows! « It's Not Easy Being Green

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