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Wii Sports wasn’t just jiggling, it was an important gateway to gaming

Wii Sports Bowling
Image: Nintendo

The Wii is 15 years old, words that make this author feel like a little bit old. It was an era when HD was a bold new frontier in gaming, and Nintendo decided, “Nah, let’s just do something fun instead”. It’s extraordinary when you consider that the Wii and DS split the market and sparked a boom for Nintendo that even the current Switch success cannot replicate – two systems that both lead the field and redefine the definition of “gamer” design.

Some choose to set certain criteria and standards for “players,” an idea I don’t like. My mom is now retired but plays just as much games as I do, from everything in the Dragon Quest series to Animal Crossing: New Horizons and even Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. She has conquered RPGs that make me sweat and whimper in a corner and, unlike me, had the persistence not to just finish Hyrule Warriors: Age of Disaster but also jump into the DLC. Some games she will play on “normal” difficulty, others are downgraded to lower levels, but it’s fun.

My mom has conquered RPGs that make me sweat and whimper in a corner

My dad is retired too and doesn’t play much at all, however does own a switch. He doesn’t like complex controls or pressurized gameplay speed, but he likes titles like The room or Mars horizon, or maybe good ‘ol Toki Tori.

My brother and I, well, we play a lot of things, including a lot of new releases that have fast cars or gunshots. I particularly like action games and platformer, which treat lost lives as a personal affront to be avenged.

We are a family of gamers.

What made the Wii special, and forever one of the many factors that perpetuate Satoru Iwata’s legacy in the industry, was its way of bringing different people together with easy-to-understand and universal play; while forging new relationships between players and the joys of the game. Despite our very different tastes and styles, my family routinely gathered and lit the Wii for a bit Wii sportswhat was a magical thing.

Bowling was the ultimate group exercise, that was fun because we used to do it Strictly speaking Go to 10 pin bowling at the local center for the past few years. It was also the only place I could give my brother a competition as he was borderline professional-level in real bowling and my talents were somewhat, well, limited. Humourously, our bowling styles were translated from real alleyways to the Wii equivalent – my brother would use evil spin, I would try to use spin but probably be wrong, and my dad would bowl as fast as an arrow at surprising speeds. Not sure what my mom’s style was, I suspect it varied depending on the delivery!

A reference to Wii Sports Club: Golf on Wii U, which I also played with my father
A reference to Wii Sports Club: Golf on Wii U, which I also played with my father

Golf was the fun event and probably one of the most memorable for me. After the initial buzz and excitement, it was something I would play with my father in surprisingly competitive rounds. After all, it couldn’t be easier to play, but even in this original form the motion tracking was pretty decent, and we’d play “right” as if it were 1-to-1 accurate. I suspect my dad liked it because it was free from gimmicks, you could play at your own pace, and it was actually just a pleasant course to work around with.

And strangely enough, our playing styles were the opposite of what friends and acquaintances might expect back then. I came to be known as Padraig Harrington, a major winner at the time, known for being safe and steadfast. My father was a young Rory McIlroy, a little wild and brave with his shot choices. I remember a par 4 with a dogleg and a forest blocking the direct path to the hole. I took out the three iron, played an approach, and then dropped onto the green with a nine. My father insisted it was possible to get on the green in one by the trees, and at that age I played my “real player” card and told him it wasn’t possible. However, every time we played, he tried.

Then one day, probably months after our first round, it worked. I rolled my eyes at first, as the personification of young Rory, as predictably, pointed the direction of the stroke directly at the hole. An almighty swing, that pleasant “Swoosh” sound effect and the ball … went on through the trees. It landed on the green.

There was a small gasp, a high five, and a big-eyed surprise.

It didn’t matter that we were adults wielding a plastic remote control.

Wii remote control
Image: Nintendo Life

This is just one of many memories of Wii Sports that was not only a great game to enjoy with others, but also a crucial miracle of Wii gaming. Bundling it with the system (even though it wasn’t bundled in Japan) was an inspired move, instant access to cautious gamers who weren’t sure how this weird Wii controller was supposed to work.

The Wii is celebrating its birthday and it deserves a lot of love, but let’s not forget the included game that got the party started.

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