I owned a Nintendo Wii for less than 24 hours. For the uninformed, the Wii is Nintendo’s latest game system that seems to engage the non-gamer by using motion sensing technology. Basically instead of pushing buttons, you move the entire controller, much like a baseball bat or steering wheel. In short, it’s revolutionary.
I’ve been eyeing one of these systems since they came out in late 2006. But they’ve also been hard to come by. I’ve only seen them in the store once. Until Thursday night when we walked into Best Buy and they had four Wiis sitting on the floor. With a large pile of unspent birthday cash still on hand, I snatched up a Wii. I spent $330 on a Wii, an extra remote and an extra nunchuk (the controllers the Wii uses–it comes with one remote and one nunchuk, as well as the Wii Sports game), including tax. I planned to purchase one more game, Mario Kart, which was currently out of stock but would run another $50. So a $380 minimum investment.
We went home and played bowling, baseball, tennis and boxing (I think I might have lost every game, but that’s beside the point). The next morning when I woke up I was having second thoughts.
It’s not Wii, It’s Me
I wasn’t questioning the Wii’s gaming experience. I’ve played it several times and it is indeed fun. What I like most about the Wii is that it’s a great party game. It’s inviting for non-gamers and I’ve seen plenty of over 50 types, the kind who would never touch a video game, dive right in and have a blast playing virtual bowling in the living room. It also has some great online features which would enable us to play with friends across the country. That’s pretty cool.
My buyer’s remorse had little to do with the Wii itself. It had more to do with me.
Not a Gamer
First and foremost, I realized that I’m not a gamer. While I do enjoy playing video games, I don’t play them very often and I often feel guilty when I do play them. I find myself forsaking other activities so I can play a video game, often rationalizing my behavior just so I could keep doing it. There’s something a little off putting about sitting in the dark playing video games alone when there are other things you could be doing. I did that a lot in college. I realize the point of video games is to escape and be entertained, but I have enough escape and entertainment.
When we got a GameCube in 2004 (another birthday present) I was afraid the same thing would happen, though for the most part I avoided that self-destructive behavior. Instead I just didn’t play it very often. I kept most of my playing to social playing and I think we got plenty of use and enjoyment out of it.
I think I realized that I’m just not a gamer. I like video games, but they’re not the first thing I turn to for relaxation and fun. And that’s evidenced by how little I played the GameCube in the last few years.
Costs Too Much
Secondly, the cost of the Wii started to sink in. I’d already spent $330, which was already more than my actual birthday money. I planned to spend another $50 for a second game, so it would be $380 up front. That’s a lot.
Then I started to add up the continuing gaming commitment. You inevitably grow tired of your games and want more. The Wii has an online collection of old school video games you can play on the Wii, as well as Wii originals for download. But all of those cost more money. Plus the fact that we only had two controllers and would need two more to take full advantage of four player games. Money, money and more money. None of that is required, but it all enhances the experience and once you already own the Wii it’s that much easier to say yes and pony up the cash.
I’m pretty cheap. I tend to buy music twice a year, after my birthday and after Christmas when I have gift cards or cash to spend. We’re also in the midst of adopting and trying to cut back on expenses to help pay for it. Certainly birthday money is supposed to be spend on things you wouldn’t normally buy, like a video game system. But spending lots of money on something that will usually mean spending more money at a time when we’re trying to save money didn’t seem very smart.
A while back I talked about the desire to simplify my life. I had a hard time figuring out how a Nintendo Wii simplified my life. It really didn’t. While there’s nothing wrong with a Wii, it is another toy, another expense, another distraction in my already busy life. Sometimes distractions are welcome, but it’s not like I’m hurting for distractions.
What Do I Like To Do?
And the more I thought about it, the more I realized sitting in the basement with a video game system isn’t what I really like to do. I’d much rather take my camera and check out some art or a park or something fun like that. I realized upgrading my camera, something I’ve thought about for a while, was a much better use of my cash (OK, the camera is technically a business expense and that’s decidedly not birthday money, but that’s besides the point).
So on Friday afternoon we played another round of bowling, tennis and boxing (I won a few this time), and then I packed up the Wii and took it back to Best Buy. I walked out with a new camera.
Impulsive & Irrational
So in the end I think what I knew all along was pushed aside by the combination of money to spend and a Wii actually being in stock. How could I pass it up?! My rational side went out the window and I bought on impulse (though it’s worth noting being impulsive for me still meant standing around the store for 20 minutes thinking about it). Honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing. But it has been useful to think through these things and figure out what I really want.
I’m not making any judgments about people who own Wiis and I’m not saying we’ll never own one (my wife was pretty disappointed when I decided to return it). It just didn’t feel like the right decision. And now that I’ve taken it back, I feel good about it. Lesson learned.
(And let me just say that I feel kind of dumb blogging about this. I think it’s valuable to put down my rationale and share it, but it still feels kind of silly. I doubt many people are in the habit of returning Nintendo Wiis.)