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Great post. I've had exactly the same experiences with the Wii, including the wife-issue (hard to get free Wii quality time in this household) :-)

To me, Wii Tennis is a fine example of "Just enough is more" as opposed to the "More is more" paradigm which seems to dominate most current gaming experiences. The Wii literally creates a level playing field for all kinds of players, and this in itself is a great achievement by Nintendo.

BTW, did you know that in Wii Tennis you can serve without hitting the "A" button, just do an quick upward motion with the Wii remote...


I certainly agree - that less is more - or better stated by tveskov above, "just enough is more".

It seems that there is a "reductive" or minimalist push that is moving through all parts of society (for better or for worse).

In trying to control everything and display everything it seems that the other systems and other games forget that immersion isn't about being so saturated with information that everything that you could want to do, you can. Immersion is when you "just do", forgetting about the little things, like moving you Mii around.


"Part of the beauty of Wii Tennis is what they left out."

Arms? Heh, heh.

The Wii is brilliant in going in a completely different direction than the others (progressively more buttons, image complexity, etc.). I've gotta think that over time, the games will get better and better as developers become more creative and knowledgeable with the controls. Kudos to Nintendo.

Of course, Xbox and Playstation are pretty cool, too.


Steven, you have been in the habit of making grand statements lately! ("Playing Wii Sports Tennis for the first time was the most revelatory, breakthrough gaming experience I've had since I first saw Myst in the mid 90s. It's truly one of those transformations where you immediately think: this whole medium is capable of something radically different from what we've expected of it to date." -- as well as your first iPhone post). But you know what? I agree completely with both of these. Physical technology has been taking a backseat to online toys recently, but the iPhone and the Wii are both very stunning and revolutionary. And, more importantly, they both (to different degrees) are tapping into online material as well. Wii makes me think I could consider owning a gaming system again, for the first time in years. And the iPhone makes me think I could maybe spend $600 for a phone, which I never would have considered before. Brilliant.


great post

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Noah Brier

How's your shoulder holding up to all the tennis? My only complaint is that the Wii didn't come with a few ice packs.


I just may have to get one myself.. I was curious about your take on it.

Speaking of Sim City, I'm looking forward to having 3000 and Spore on my DS Lite.


This one apparently comes with Will Wright as the host. The Dual and Touch Screen really work here.

Alex Drelles

I was wondering when you were going to get around to discussing the Wii. For me the extraordinary moment came when my 4 year old picked up the Wiimote and started boxing. From there it went to golf and now it's on to tennis. All in the span of a month. The other amazing thing is that he's getting around the interface without my help. My wife, who also treated video games like the Ebola virus has used boxing as an exercise routine. This is pure genius on Nintendo's part. I agree with the post by pwb that things will only get better as developers get comfortable with the technology. The other detail that I think gets left out of the discussion is that Wii Sports is like those bite sized Dove chocolates. If you only 15 minutes between running to the grocery store and taking your 4 year old to a birthday party, you can always squeeze in a best of three against Saburo the (1700) pro.


Agree totally on the Wii - I loved it the moment I touched it but the revelation was when my wife couldn't stop playing.

One little quibble - I play XBox360 and much like your description of how you put topspin on - I always struggle to explain what I'm doing. I think these things just become automatic with practice.


I decided to give Zelda a shot because I loved Wario Ware and Wii Sports so much.

The first time I had to reach my hand up to the back of my shoulder to unsheath the sword that was carried there, I was in love.

This is a game where I don't hate combat, which is a first for me.


We just finally got our hands on a Wii three days ago. I love it, my kids (7 & 9 yr old boys) love it and my wife loves it. Brilliant strategy by Nintendo to not compete in the XBox360/PS3 arena and instead produce something anybody can use and enjoy right out of the box without years of "gaming controller experience".

I think I'll pick up Zelda on my way home from work.

Derek K. Miller

Jason Kottke makes a good point that drifting in Mario Kart has a similar "feel of it" vibe (which I've never quite mastered), but the Wii takes that much further.


I also haven't seen so many people laughing with a video game in a long time -- even people who are just watching, not playing.


The tennis is one of my favorite games in Wii Sports. Another aspect of it that really adds to the feel of it is how they make the remote rumble slightly when you make contact with the ball, and how the whooshing sound of the swing comes out of the remote. It makes it feel like you're actually hitting a real, physical ball, even though nothing's there and there's no resistance.

The possibilities with this system are endless. For them to LAUNCH it with something this revolutionary is amazing - I can't imagine what the industry is going to look like in 5 to 10 years.

Gary Patterson

I've seen video games become social games, but these tended to be the first-person shooters, and sometimes the party games.

The Wii has a lot more potential than any other system to bring more diverse people together to have fun. My wife (who plays a few games like Caesar IV) loves the Wii. Not a night goes past that we don't play a couple of games of tennis. She's good too - she's started beating me regularly. She has this killer return to my serve that I just can't get to, but I'm better at the net.

I completely agree with the point about how subtle body movements make the shots in tennis so different. It's hard to describe but easier to see in practice, just like real tennis.

I've got some friends coming over this weekend for a barbecue and Wii-off. We'll play tennis, some bowling, maybe something from Raving Rabbids - we're all looking forward to it.

Nintendo have got something special here - a game that brings anyone from any demographic in. I've seen people who don't game pick up the controller and have a go at tennis. I've heard a number of stories about people's parents and grandparents having a go as well.

All we need now is for the developers to really embrace the control. The first crop of games is a great start.


One other point about the tennis that I forgot to mention before - one of the best things about it (going along with the whole simplicity idea) is that you don't even need to hit a single button. The entire game can be played completely by motion.

The only time that hitting a button even enters it is when serving - you can tap A to toss the ball up and A again (I think) to serve. Even then, that's only optional, as you can do the same thing just by motion.

I think that's really the most remarkable part of it. Not even having to hit a single button really opens it up to people who wouldn't otherwise be interested.


I have to disagree in that the fact that I can't control my Mii makes me very frustrated with the game. There are times when he misses a shot where I feel like I'm just at the mercy of some random number generator in the code, rather than me not being good enough to return the shot. If I could control the movement of my Mii, then that would make me feel like I'm more in control of the game and that my actual skill at the game would come into play. As it stands, I can just sit on my couch and swing my arms and win the game. It feels like nothing more than a physical version of button mashing.


If I wanted athleticism, I'd play tennis. I don't get the Wii. I don't need a video game to tell me I'm not coordinated enough to play sports. I play video games because they're not real, and let me do things I can't do in real life.


Chuck gets it. Everyone still buying the Wii's so as to make them sold out in even the most remote locations on the globe -- they're the one's that don't get it. Yeah, that's it.


Nintendo has always approached video game making with pure family/friends fun in mind.

I grew up on Nintendo and for some reason I bought an Xbox instead of a Gamecube. BIG MISTAKE! The Xbox is now a modded media center, while I had to beg friends to bring over their gamecube to play Pikman and Monkeyball.

While the other consoles spit out countless clones of life imitation, Nintendo has always tried to make games innovative and fun.


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Susan Promislo

We've been talking a bunch about the Wii on our blog, and whether it has the potential to entice all sorts of folks, of all ages, to be more physically active without them being too terribly intentional about it. With the Wii, you don't have to want to exercise or be a sports person, you just play...but if you're hooked, you're gonna burn a whole lot of calories. Which, to a health foundation that is looking to reverse rates of childhood obesity (among lots of other issues), is pretty intriguing. I invite you to check out the discussions around that at http://blogs.rwjf.org/pioneer. Great blog - I intend to check back frequently! Thanks.


Where can i buy nintendo wii in Uruguay?

Nintendo Wii

I also agree that the Wii Tennis game for the Nintendo Wii is sooo much better than all the other wii sports games. However I do really like the Wii bowling game a whole lot. But there seems to be an edge to the tennis game!


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My Photo
I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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