Thoughts on the Nintendo Wii

I've been experimenting with the Nintendo Wii off and on for a few months now. It's an amazing system but all the talk about gestural interfaces somehow being more intuitive is completely overblown.

Wii Sports is the only game I've seen that comes close to being intuitive. For just about everything else, it's insane. The party games are the worst, with unique interfaces for each minigame and multiple screens of absurdly complex instruction showing the player exactly how to wield the controller. Without the tutorials it's almost impossible to figure out what permutation of shaking, waving and tilting actually has any effect on the game play.

It wasn't until Dan and I were talking about his cello the other day that I finally put it all together. Playing the Wii is like playing a string instrument. With typical game controllers, there may be a dozen buttons, but they have a clear visual hierarchy that doesn't change. Most woodwind instruments are like that, but with string instruments the interface is more of a continuum. There are an infinite number of variations and that makes them tougher to learn. Same thing for the Wii.

Compounding the problem is the fact that although there are an infinite number of things you could choose to do with the Wii remote, only a tiny subset actually do anything in any particular context. With a regular controller, every button does something but with the Wii the controls are essentially invisible. You're left to blindly flail around for the magic combination that actually does something interesting--like learning to snap your fingers or whistle.

Don't get me wrong. Learning complex interfaces is a big part of the appeal of gaming. I love the gestural system on the Wii. But it's far from intuitive.

Jeremy Gutierrez
are you jeff howard from cedar grove christian academy? hi!
im jeremy! you know. the gutierrez. i like the wii too. give me ur e mail so we can write

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