Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Virtual Nonsense: Computer-Simulated Sport Is No Substitute for Reality, Writes Emma John

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Virtual Nonsense: Computer-Simulated Sport Is No Substitute for Reality, Writes Emma John

Article excerpt

It took several centuries for a pig's bladder to evolve into a spherical football. Bjorn Borg didn't come round to the idea of the metal tennis racket for ten years. By comparison, then, it hasn't taken the rest of us long to accept computers as the ultimate piece of sporting equipment, or to decide that the best way to develop an athlete is by hooking him or her up to as many machines as possible. Whether it's runners covered in skin probes, or football teams whose every moves are captured and analysed by ProZone, we now generally subscribe to the view that the only way for humankind to reach its physical acme is to train as a cyborg.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

And now we have the Nintendo Wii, which allows you to cut out the middleman altogether and enjoy the technological advancement without actually doing the sport at all. Some things gain traction so fast that you don't question them until many years later, normally on a retrospective TV programme with talking heads wondering: "What the hell was that?" I suspect this is what has happened with the Wii, which has quickly established itself--at least among many of my friends--as the crack cocaine of the otherwise wholesome family.

Now I'm not going to deny that the Wii can be a lot of fun. Nintendo has created a highly addictive form of entertainment, for which the public has readily forgiven the firm those Redknapp family adverts (I have a sneaking wish they would extend them into a saga, like the BT ads; a guest appearance by Jermain Defoe, perhaps, who pops by for a Sunday afternoon on Super Mario Galaxy). It's the Wii's pretensions I struggle with: the self-congratulating suggestion that it's encouraging people to be more active (I give you the Wii Fit) and not, say, persuading an increasingly obese nation to stay indoors and spend more time in comfortable proximity to the sofa. …

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