Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Secret to Doing Well At Wii...and Life

First published in the Wednesday, February 20, 2013, issue of The Oxford Journal by Sara Mattinson.

Wii bowling is not the activity I would expect to yield one life lesson let alone two but that’s what you get when you Wii with kids.
My nieces and nephews received a Wii for Christmas and so when we arrived for a visit shortly after, it was immediately apparent what the week’s entertainment was going to be. We definitely can’t compete with dancing and bowling. 
Since the system was brand new to the kids, it didn’t seem right to intrude on their relentless enjoyment of the game (eight-year-old George, in particular, would play Wii from breakfast to bedtime if his mother allowed it) so I never tried to take a turn. I also didn’t want to expose the fact that a wand in my hand simply emphasizes my utter lack of coordination. 
Sometimes Uncle Dwayne would play a game sometimes my sister would jump in, taking the competition up a few notches, but I was content to sit on the couch and watch.
And learn.
Adults tend to overthink most things, especially games. We are the ones who plan too much, try too hard. We have in mind the outcome we want, the high score we need and we focus solely on that instead of on the fun of playing. Did I win? What can I do differently so that I win next time? Did a six-year-old kid really smoke me at Wii bowling? 
My brother-in-law would wander through every so often and provide advice to his children: “Just throw the ball up in the air. That usually gets a strike.”
When you watch the kids bowl, you realize he is right. They don’t care about straight lines or strategy, they don’t stand around trying to figure out the best way to swing the arm or the best stance for the feet. They just want to play so they simply aim in the general direction of the centre pin then using the Wii wand in their hand, fling the ball in that direction.
Fling is the operative word here. 
Strike! Or at least a spare. My oldest niece is a little more inclined to want to do things right but whenever she tried to line everything up, when she tried to take her time, invariably she rolled the ball in the gutter. She soon learned that the secret was in the fling.
So life lesson number one: Don’t plan so much. Just fling yourself in the direction you want to go. Even if you don’t get strike, you’ll always knock down a pin or two.
When George had to take a break to let his younger brothers have a turn, he flopped down on the couch next to me.
“We learned something,” he said to me. “You divorced the first guy you married.”
I told him that was true. 
“Didn’t you get along?” he asked.
“No,” I answered. “We weren’t compatible.”
Instead of asking me what incompatible meant, George said, “So you divorced him. Then you found Uncle Dwayne. Did you want him because he is a builder?”
I laughed gently, not wanting him to think that wasn’t a good question. “No, I wanted him because he has a big heart and he cares about people.”
“That’s good, too,” George replied.
Then his arms went up and he roared, “Oh, yeah! Good strike, Vinny!”
Thus endeth that lesson. Which kept me from telling George that I like the fact Uncle Dwayne can build things, too. 
Oh, there is one more lesson I learned from hanging out with kids and a Wii system: Don’t let an eight year old create your avatar. 


  1. Great observations and life lessons. I have observed the same things you have with my children (all raised on Nintendo products, courtesy of my wife who introduced me to them some 20 years ago). While I painstakingly explore the landscapes looking for puzzles and clues, my children barrel through them as fast as possible, taking delight in being fast and furious. At first it annoyed me because they weren't "getting the full experience." Then I mellowed out and just marveled at how amazingly quick and reckless they could be...the joys of youth! :)

    My youngest daughter is also the master of "the fling." Her shots never look like they should be successful because they are so rapid and (to my eyes) wild. It turns out she's a fine Wii bowler "despite" her disregard for physics and gravity. :)

    Thank you for an entertaining and insightful article.


  2. Andy, thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoyed the column. I think perhaps I should get my own Wii so I can learn to "be a kid" again -- without them witnessing my own disregard for physics and gravity!