Video games again change society

Published 10:00 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

The childhoods of millions of Americans will be forever linked to the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was, at the time and possibly still, the greatest invention of all time. Now, video games might be changing the world again.

With a Nintendo, I could point a plastic gun at a TV screen and shoot ducks, I could bang my hands on a pad to make my runner win a track and field meet, and I could have an all-night Tecmo Super Bowl tournament. And my parents couldn’t say the name of the thing I was playing. It was perfect.

The NES (not Pong no matter how people think so) began the video game revolution. It gave a generation or two worth of kids something to do on a rainy day, but the growing popularity of video games had plenty of negative consequences.

Basically, one or two generations worth of kids got lazy, fat and pale with poor social skills.

But many of us knew in our hearts that the video game, essentially, was good. More than 25 years after the release of the original Nintendo, the fine folks from Japan have given us all reason to believe again with the Wii system.

Until the Wii, the interaction between a user and the action on a TV screen was based on a controller with buttons and a directional pad or joystick. Nintendo’s latest creation uses a wireless controller that detects acceleration and orientation in three dimensions. So, actual hand movements control the action.

It may seem a simple change, but the uniqueness of the Wii is such that UAB’s Spain Rehabilitation Center has added the system to its rehabilitation devices.

“The Wii system provides a host of benefits to patients by improving physical skills, communication skills and coordination, all in the context of a fun game,” said Robert Brunner, medical director of UAB’s Spain Rehabilitation Center, in a press release.

UAB patients now have the opportunity to play tennis, golf, bowling, baseball, Wii fit, Guitar Hero III, Dance Dance Revolution, Endless Ocean, CSI: Hard Evidence, The Price is Right, SimCity Creator, Cooking Mama Cook Off and others. Therapists choose the proper game for each patient and tailor the game to his or her needs.

Video game fanatics have long been considered weird. But, now, the games are helping people get back to normal.

– Stephen Dawkins is the sports editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at