LEWISTON — At first, I had reservations about throwing hands with a lady and I said so to the tiny me on the television screen. A moment later, the tiny lady was throwing body shots at my face and groin and, brother, it was on.
For five minutes that felt like an hour, we duked it out. In the real world, I threw jabs and upper cuts with my real world arms. The small me on the television screen did exactly the same as he tangled with the small woman that looked a lot like my wife.
I knocked her down twice and didn’t feel bad about it. She got up, fired off a barrage of blows at my head and sent me to the mat.
The little Mark and little Corey on the screen were doing all the real fighting, but standing in front of the television with a control pad fastened to my wrist, it felt like the real thing. My adrenaline soared. I was sweating and my muscles were starting to ache. There was nothing contrived about the skill and stamina required to continue the bout.
Nothing contrived about the shame, either. My wife kicked my ass in three short rounds of Wii Sport Boxing and did victory laps around the living room.
But it wasn’t about winning or losing, I keep telling myself. The plan for the evening was for me to become familiar with the video game sensation, the favored form of physical recreation among people five to 85.
And it is physical. Weirdly physical. To aim and hurl an on-screen bowling ball, you have to bring your arm back (being careful not to smash an antique lamp or grandmother) and then thrust it forward with gusto, as though you were down at the Bowl-o-Rama drinking beer and wearing funny shoes. Whatever you do standing on the plush living room carpet, the tiny you will do in the virtual bowling alley, baseball field, race track or deep reaches of the cosmos.
For those under 10 years old, it may seem perfectly natural to play video games that respond precisely to bodily movements. For the rest of us, it is a giant and surreal advance from the days of moving a one-dimensional avatar up and down with a joy stick and firing pixelated bullets with a simple button.
The Wii is a strange step into virtual reality. And to start your descent into that world, you create what is not-quite-cleverly called a Mii. The process of creating your Mii can be quick or you can spend a day with it. The technology is just short of what police use to create composite drawings of criminal suspects. You pick your hair, your eyes and your mouth. You can even pick your nose. You design yourself short and squat, or tall and gangly. You can effect an expression of shock or one of quiet determination. You can add any variety of facial hair or throw on some blush and eye liner, if you swing that way.
But let me be straight about something. I gave up video games after Asteroids. When you have your initials at the top of the high-scores at K-Mart, what is the point of moving on?
To instruct me with my immersion into the Wii world, I consulted an expert on the device. She is my 6-year-old niece Lauryn and, like others of that age, she is creepy cool about her knowledge of the technology.
“I have already experienced all of this,” Lauryn said as she guided me through a virtual landscape in game called Petz Dogz 2. “I’m just trying to show you how it works.”
She managed to sound snooty as she said it.
I have no desire to chase dogs around a video world, no matter how vivid the effects or how mean the dog. To me, the joy of technology of something like the Wii is stepping into a world you crave yet do not often get to enter.
Bring on Wii baseball, in other words.
It amazes me that more people are not killed each year from Wii control paddles imbedded in their chests. When my Wii brother-in-law started throwing Wii junk at my Mii batter, I started to swing my Wii bat with the same force I would muster if given the chance to step up to the plate at Fenway.
The sensation is immediate. Take a hard but ugly swing in the living room, the little man on the screen will take a hard and ugly swing and miss the ball by a foot. But that’s baseball, my friends, and since the fields are muddy with patches of snow right now, those Wii whiffs were the first cuts I will get to take for another month.
Which segues sort of neatly into a point raised by many. With the joys of gaming at such advanced levels, might a child eschew the real world ball field in favor of one he can bring into his home and control with omnipotence? Why step out into the real world to brave bees and bullies, after all, when you can be the first pick on every team you create in the Wii universe?
Proponents scoff. They will tell you that Wii games enhance things like eye-hand coordination, promote competitiveness and, of course, provide exercise.
All I know is that my precocious niece knows how to set up, program and operate the Wii like a top geek from the Geek Squad. She can drive all over me in Mario Cart and throws some decent junk from the mound.
But Lauryn also plays baseball on a bonafide field in the spring, pitching a real ball to real friends. I see in her no trouble distinguishing what is real and what is Wii. She gets from the video world roughly the same thing that you and I got from Space Invaders or Pac Man when we fed quarters into those machines at the mall.
Fighter pilots use virtual worlds to practice their skills, as do surgeons. It seems to me that the Wii is just another weird step into a funky future in which everything that happens in our four-dimensional world can first be played out in that virtual realm. The kids bouncing and jabbing and flinging with wireless controls in their living rooms today may be the pilots of futuristic ships tomorrow.
But don’t take my word for anything right now, buddy. Though it was that girly-punching Mii that took all the blows the other night, my head hasn’t been quite right since.
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My take on the Top Ten Wii games

Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Here, you can scrap with multiple online players you’ve never met before and get into slap fights over the question of whether Mario can beat Link in a one-on-one match. Whatever that means.
Call of Duty: World at War: As if real war isn’t nasty enough, they say this virtual war features intense firefights and realistic confrontations. Since the game is based on World War II, go ahead and tell yourself it’s a history lesson.
The House of the Dead: Overkill: A world full of zombies and mutant clowns. If I were creating a Wii Christmas list, this one would be on it.
FIFA Soccer 09 All-Play: The players look kind of cartoony. Except for yours, which is just downright ugly.
Guitar Hero World Tour: Now you can be a rock star and live the dream. But see the fine print: panty-flinging groupies, money and fame not included.
Rock Band: You and three friends can form a band and rule the world. You’ll be hooked on dope and trashing hotel rooms before you know it.
Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Aventure: Your chance to reenact key scenes from the first three movies. A note to the ladies: that dude doesn’t look anything like Harrison Ford.
de Blob: Someone has drained all the color from your city. It is your obligation to put it back. Great for graffiti hoodlums who can’t leave the house.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 All-Play: Go ahead, buy it. You don’t want the real Tiger to run out of money, do you?
MadWorld: Jammed with reckless sex and mindless violence, this is one you want to keep away from the kids and play it yourself in the basement. Can I come over?

Source: CNET


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