I'm not so good with buttons, especially those that control video games. When I play, it's a full-body experience with a lot of arm movement as I try to move my little guy on the screen.
The physical activity does nothing to influence the game, but it's good exercise and provides plenty of amusement to my brothers, significant others and anyone else watching.
Now, though, there's Nintendo Co.'s Wii console with its motion-sensitive controller: Finally, the arm-flailings of novice gamers aren't mocked. They're embraced.
Punching the air with the controller is easier and a lot more fun than holding down three buttons simultaneously while pressing the fourth - and remembering to do all this as your burly virtual opponent pounds the living daylights out of you.
Nintendo has built its marketing campaign around painting the Wii as fun for everyone, both expert gamers and those of us who more or less gave up when games started going 3-D.
Nonetheless, I still eyed the box suspiciously: It came with an assortment of sports games that are included with every system. For this reviewer, Nintendo also tossed in Excite Truck, which retails for $49.99.
Sports? Trucks? Me? Suddenly, reviewing the Wii was sounding a lot more like work and a lot less like fun. It's not that I hate video games, or sports, but the idea of playing a sports video game is not my idea of a fun afternoon. And I do kind of hate trucks, exciting as they may be.
So the box sat unopened for a while, until I got home one night to find my roommates Mike and Chris and our friend Will grinning like little boys and jumping excitedly around the TV. Actually, Mike was sitting on the futon, looking spent and sweaty.
They had set up the Wii and descended upon it like vultures.
The console's cute design, even the color, is reminiscent of the iPod, and the controller - remote, to be exact - looks clean and simple with thankfully few buttons. There is also a "nunchuk" - sort of like a miniature joystick - that attaches to the remote so you can play the boxing game and others that require two hands.
To play, we had to synch the wireless remote to the Wii and to a sensor that we placed on top of the TV set. Navigating the system with the remote didn't take too long to figure out.
The first sign that this was going to be something entirely different from my oft-frustrating video game experiences was the strap on the remote. You secure the remote to your wrist so you don't accidentally chuck it at the TV (which is actually much easier to do than it seems).
It turns out I shouldn't have worried about Wii Sports. It's not so much sports as fun.
With four video game nerds as onlookers, I strapped on the remote, attached the nunchuk and got ready to box. To play Wii Sports, we were advised to watch out for surrounding objects and people. This is serious advice and should not be taken lightly. During a particularly grueling tennis match I nearly knocked out my cat, but thankfully she jumped out of the way and I whacked the couch instead.
The remote seems sturdy enough, considering the beating we gave it over the past few days, but I do wonder how it would hold up after a few months of playing.
The cable attaching the nunchuk to the remote sometimes got tangled up, and some of us chucked the nunchuk at the TV, because that doesn't come with a wrist strap. Perhaps it should.
Unfortunately, the Wii, which retails for $249, came with only one remote and nunchuk. Buying another remote ($40 at Best Buy) and nunchuk ($20) seems a small price to pay to take out my aggression playing the boxing game with my boyfriend and various family members.
The next day, I woke up sore. Not just a little sore. My back, my upper arms and my shoulders felt as if I'd worked out for hours. I took a break from the sports games that day and gave Excite Truck a try.
The truck moved with me barely tilting the remote. I whizzed past all the other trucks, got all kinds of stars and things and placed second in the race. While I needed to press the "A" button on the controller continuously to accelerate, and press "forward" for a turbo boost that sent my truck flying, the rest was basically like driving, or at least guiding the truck through the crazy off-road track.
Maybe a little more fun than driving. When I crashed into a tree I got a star for a "nice crash," and I could boost my truck back to life by pressing the "A" button continuously for a few seconds. No "game over" for me.
For about $5 to $10 a game, anyone with a Wi-Fi Internet connection can download old Super Mario 64 and other vintage goodies (from back when games were 2-D) for a trip down nostalgia road.
Whatever the games, probably the best thing about the Wii is that it creates a social experience that's improved vastly by a group of friends cheering whether you win or lose.