Sorry about the heading, I’m just not feeling particularly clever today.
A friend recently lent me his Nintendo Wii. I wanted to test-drive one to see if ‘wii sports’ would be helpful as a tool for keeping fit or warming up before I get into some real exercise. I was initially hopeful. The boxing game looked good. Reasonably intuitive and quite a good workout if you make the conscious choice to move your body as you play.
Then as the difficulty increased and the basic jabs, punches, ducks and weaves failed to be as effective against the stronger opponents, I discovered I needed to learn the other moves, hooks, uppercuts and combos thereof. That’s when disappointment set in. While the movements for jab, punch and dodging feel ‘natural’ (ie moving my body one way causes the same movement in the sprite), the other moves are more or less a matter of flicking the controllers sideways or upwards with the wrist – there doesn’t appear to be a natural correlation between an actual hook or roundhouse punch performed by me, and the same happening on screen. I worked out that I can flick my arm outward and that requires effort, but doing that for any sort of extended period is going to leave me with screwed rotator cuffs. No thanks. Still disappointed.
I know I can beat this game by working out when to flick my wrists around. That’s just pattern recognition and application of the appropriate response. If I want that, I’ll fire up the xbox and play gears of war. At least the sexy graphics, gunfire, blood and assorted mindless violence will distract me from the fact that I’m engaging in said pattern recognition.
I want to have to move. I want it to be an effort and I want there to be some semblance of parity between what I’m doing with my body and what happens on screen. Essentially, I want it to be shadow-boxing without the tedium. Based on wii sports, Nintendo isn’t getting my money yet. Maybe what they need is multiple motion sensors. Maybe you’d only need two to triangulate movement, I don’t know. One appears to be insufficient.
Since that disappointment, more and more I’m noticing other annoyances with the interface design. Using the controller to point at buttons and such is okay, but not great. Sure there are defaults, and they’re right most of the time, but when they’re not, I don’t want to dick around with pointing at precisely the right button that I do want. I’m not concerned with being particularly dexterous at that point, I just want to get to where I want to be. The buttons are ‘magnetic’, in that the pointer is drawn toward them when it reaches a certain proximity. That’s a nifty little feature, but surely using the corners and edges of the screen would still be faster.
Is the application of Fitts’ law such a stretch? It’s not bloody rocket science and it’s not like they’re new to interface design. It wouldn’t even be that much of a stretch to keep track of the four most commonly chosen options and automatically put those in the corners while keeping the others centered (or even on the edges, where they have unlimited screen real-estate in at least one direction).
Anyway – wii as a fitness tool? Not just yet, at least not with wii sports. Might be time to check out eyetoy kinetic.