Wii won’t let me go

This is my weekly column that was published in the Sunday, March 1, 2009 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece was used as an essay broadcast on 91.7 KAXE‘s “Between You and Me” program this past December.

Wii won’t let me go
By Aaron J. Brown

There’s a machine in my basement that knows my name, weight, BMI and favorite color. I haven’t gone to see it in a while but my wife says it keeps asking about me. This is starting to creep me out.

When I was a kid I wanted to play baseball. But wanting to play baseball and being able to hit, throw, catch, run and not trip over my own feet proved to be very different things. Later, I enjoyed riding my bike down country highways, over mine dumps, along railroad tracks and through old downtowns. And then I entered a “casual” cycling event after college and realized that my bike was slow, I was weak, and that faster, thinner, stronger people with titanium bikes and tight spandex could pass me with impunity. And, my God, these people are pretentious. Or so I choose to believe.

All that was to change. Late last year I bought a Nintendo Wii for my wife’s birthday after more than a year of discussion. She really wanted it, but bemoaned the price, and I really wanted to stop talking about it. From this common primordial marital stew came the Wii, and oh, what a wonderful Wii it is. See, we didn’t just get the Wii, which includes motion sensor controls that allow your body movements to control the games. We got the Wii Fit, which is a high tech fitness system that allows you to do weight training, aerobics, balance games and even yoga. Better yet, you can do all these things without the risk of actually falling off things or having to interact with 25-inch-necked bodybuilders talking about their delts, tiny people in jumpsuits discussing metabolism or free spirits using Klingon words to describe their taut bellies. Now, thanks to the Wii, I can attempt the tree pose multiple times without having a room full of vaguely attractive people judging me.

I’ve come to prefer other Wii fit games. I beat the bubble game. That’s a balance game where you navigate your character down a river inside a bubble without hitting the river banks … or the buzzing bee. Trust me, it all makes sense. There’s a hula hoop game, step aerobics, push ups, skiing and more. There’s even a running game that involves your character chasing after a female who remains distant and elusive. I don’t know if I’m good at that, but I am experienced.

I can only imagine what the deer think when the look through the window of our walk out basement to see me cavorting about in one place. They probably remark on their evolutionary superiority. Sure, deer might get shot every so often, but at least they don’t lurch around in one place while holding something called a nunchuk. It’s called dignity, the deer might say.

The first thing you learn to lose when playing Wii is dignity. That Wii Fit board is actually a scale that has the power to change the physical characteristics of the Wii character that you create on the screen. A bean burrito makes your Mii, as they are called, rounder. Your BMI is beamed back to you in a very large font. And that is perhaps why I have not been playing as much as I was around Christmastime. The Wii won’t let you forget, though. Even if you leave the Wii Fit board in the cabinet the Wii will remind you that you haven’t done your strength exercises in however many days. Or weeks. Or … a month and a half.

It’s reached the point where now my main reason for avoiding the Wii is the shame I will feel when it sees me. I promise, Wii. I’ll come back. When I’m ready. I did go for a run outside the other day. That should count for something, right?

Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His book, “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now. He’ll be giving a reading at the Lyric Center for the Arts in downtown Virginia this Tuesday night at 6 p.m. as part of the “Range of Arts” celebration.

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