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May 22, 2008

Wii Don't Seem to Have the Courage of Our Convictions

Wii The last video game I played was Pong.  That's not a punchline, that's the truth.  I missed the Pac Man craze, never played Tetris.  My husband and I have made a conscious decision to keep video games out of this house for as long as humanely possible. (Because really, wouldn't it be inhumane to make my kids the ONLY kids in America to never own some kind of video game?)  So we have no X-box, no PlayStation, no Game Boy. None of it. I don't even know what most of it is.

But all of that changed last week when I got a Wii. (And the brand-spanking new Wii Fit.)  Yeee-hah, is all I can say.  For the uninitiated, the Nintendo Wii (according to it's own website) "is not just a gaming console, it's a reason to get together with your friends and family and play..." all kinds of games.

Or as I like to put it, it's a reason for Mothers everywhere to throw their convictions out the window and let their kids play in front of a screen for hours on end. I always said I'd never be one of those mothers who let their kids play video games all day long.  But I'm realizing, that was a judgment I made before I had ever tried a video game.  It's like all of the judgments people make before they have kids.  You know, "when I have kids I'll never let them stay up late, talk back, bribe them with food."  And then you have kids and find out that a giant ice-cream cone is all the incentive they need to promise to go to bed on time and stop talking back, and ice-cream it is. That's what I've been like with video games.  "I would never let my kids play a video games!" was my superior mantra.  Easy enough, until the video games arrived.

The thing is, it's fun to play with the Wii.  You get to make a Mii, which is a little avatar of yourself. (I made myself thin, tall, and wrinkle-free. They had me at thin.) And then you play, as your Mii, anything from Super Mario Brothers 8, to Tennis, to High School Musical Sing-a-long.

And the Wii Fit?  This thing is exercise for the technologically inclined.  A virtual coach walks you through all kinds of exercises I'd never be caught dead doing alone in my living room.  But somehow, the avatar coach, sufficiently muscled to inspire me, but not sufficiently humanoid to intimidate me, makes standing on a little plastic platform while a machine calculates my BMI and weight not just tolerable, but downright pleasant. 

So now I've done two things I never thought I would:  enjoy exercise, and play video games.
I'm turning into "one of those moms."  Bring on the video games, I say.  Principles be damned!

But then I feel guilty.  Maybe it is all just smoke and mirrors. Maybe I'm being seduced by the nifty technology and fun games.  And did I mention, I get to make my avatar thin?

My husband still isn't sold.  Truth be told, the thing drives him crazy.  That is until he sees the chance to instruct our daughter on the proper way to hold a bat.  Or to teach our son the finer points of a tennis serve.  Still, when he comes out of his jock-induced stupor, he still thinks of the Wii as screen time, and does his best to limit their time playing with it.

The way I see it, when my kids are playing the Wii, they're up and moving, laughing, and socializing with each other while they play. Sure it's screen time, but it's active, they're not being couch potatoes.  They're working up a sweat.  It's the exact opposite of sitting alone, focused on some little thing cradled in their hands, pressing buttons like maniacs. But maybe that's just a rationalization.  AFter all, I was against all video games until I actually got one. Will I find a rationale for the handheld Nintendo DS when that makes it into the house? (And it will.  Some friend or relative will buy them one without asking.)

I'd like to think not.  I'd like to think that the wonders of the Wii haven't completely squelched my parental morals.  They've just bent them a little.  Put a little dent in the parental armor.  It's a good thing to be flexible, right?  Change is good, true?

Plus, now when I want my kids to stop talking back and just go to bed already, I don't have to go out and buy ice-cream.  All I have to do is threaten to take away their Wii.

Original Post to NYC Moms Blog.

Nancy Rabinowitz-Friedman is a freelance writer and former couch-potato living in NYC.

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