The Nintendo Wii was released amid fanfare and the premise of revolutionizing gaming in 2006. The handheld, user-controlled interface of the Wii created a drastically different, more interactive gaming experience. Instead of a sedentary experience the Wii prompted users to become physically engaged, paving way to a sense of ‘astonishment’ as Gunning describes it.
Tom Gunning’s essay “Re-Newing Old Technologies” mentions John Onian’s essay “I Wonder…A Short History of Amazement.” The phases are as follows (Gunning):
1) A striking experience, usually visual, but sometimes aural
2) A consequent physical paralysis and
3) A mental reaction which results in something being learned which may be followed by
4) A new action
Fascination with the unfamiliar became coined as amazement and “…amazement as an adaptive behavior to new stimulus.” (Gunning) While the essay deals with what we currently consider ‘old technology’ as being new, newness becomes a relative term. Undoubtedly though, “Over the past two decades video-games have become an integral part of the new multimedia culture.” (Giannotti) As video games have grown, so has the amount of personal engagement necessary to be fully involved. The Nintendo Wii created a new experience—striking visually and physically. The on screen display was bright and modular, neat and coordinated in a grid style. Playing any game on the Wii required standing up and physically becoming involved. This was a new (and striking, as Onian would describe) experience for many.
Quite literally, the next step in experiencing the newness of the Wii was a physical paralysis. That paralysis ranged from confusion of how to handle or maneuver the sensitive Wii-mote to vocal loss of words (of awe or frustration). The experience of such an interactive interface was new and pivotal the entire family, from the children to the grandparents.
After a bit of practice and repetitive actions, “Even the astonishing becomes familiar.” (Gunning) As with anything, the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’ clearly applies, as with repeated use of the system, the user becomes familiar and more comfortable. In terms of Onian’s essay, the user has formed a mental reaction which results to their learning. Surprisingly, the mental reaction and learning spurred an opportunity for medical professionals to utilize the game system for more than its original intention. “The influence of a systematic laparoscopic simulator performance,” was studied, showing that the Nintendo Wii assisted doctors in learning computer-controlled nature of laparoscopic techniques (Giannotti).
“Every new technology has a utopian dimension,” where the future is seemingly changed because of the creation of said technology. When the phases of amazement pass, a new action is learned and the technology quickly becomes familiar. While the technology itself becomes familiar, the use for the technology may continue to evolve. In case of the Wii, when the entertainment value of the console declined and the newness was subdued, the Wii as a tool for rehabilitation emerged, creating a new process of amazement. Wii gained “potential to be an effective component of exercise programs,” changing the intended purpose and audience, therefore prompting newness and amazement in other categories of use. (Hsu)
Giannotti, Domenico, et al. “Play To Become A Surgeon: Impact Of Nintendo WII Training On Laparoscopic Skills.” Plos ONE 8.2 (2013): 1-7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.
Gunning, Tom. (2003) “Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, SecondNature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of the Century”. In D. Thorburn and H. Jenkins (eds), Rethinking Media Change:The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp 39-60.
Hsu, Jason K., et al. “A ”Wii” Bit Of Fun: The Effects Of Adding Nintendo Wii®® Bowling To A Standard Exercise Regimen For Residents Of Long-Term Care With Upper Extremity Dysfunction.” Physiotherapy Theory & Practice 27.3 (2011): 185-193. Academic Search Premier. Web. 28 Jan. 2014.