Thinking OT

Thoughts from Harrison Training and the occupational therapy world

Is The Wii Useful?

with 3 comments

There is an article in this month’s OT News magazine (click here) discussing a pilot scheme using the Nintendo Wii games console with individuals who have mild learning difficulties.

It is an interesting article even though the pilot scheme was unsuccessful.  There were only eight proposed members of the group, only six turned up and, of those, only one turned up regularly.

The experiences of the group, or rather those who were leading it, highlight some serious shortfalls in the Wii hardware.  These are not critical, I think, but do need to be recognised.

The Nintendo Wii has caused quite a stir with it’s motion sensitive controls.  Rather than pressing a button to control an on screen character, you physically move and manipulate a controller held in your hand.   Other developments include the Wii Fit board which measures weight, balance and shifts in balance.

There are several games including the ubiquitous Wii Sports which are designed to be played in a more physical fashion, even standing up and leaping around your immaculately tidy and hyper-lifestyle designed living room if the TV ads are to be believed.

This physicality has led to the Wii being applied in various settings to motivate individuals to become more active.

The current project though failed on a couple of fronts.

Users became frustrated with the time it took to swap between players using the Wii Fit program.  It is a time consuming task which entails clicking through several screens.  This can sometimes take longer than it takes to play the activity itself.

Wii Fit is largely an individual system, which may well be better suited to one on one sessions.  The sequel, Wii Fit Plus, has got usability improvements which remove some of the time taken to change between participants which might alleviate issues within group sessions.

The other problem which the Wii presents stems directly from the motion control technology.

The promise of direct control over your on-screen character is an abstracted illusion.

By this I mean that you do not, despite all the hype, have direct control over your character, but only elements of their actions.

Take the famous tennis game from Wii Sports, for example.  You cannot direct where you hit the ball by changing the angle of the controller, as you would with a tennis racquet.  The direction is, instead, determined by how early or late you strike the ball – early plays it to the left of the court, later to the right.

For those of us who game as a hobby this is not a problem, but non-experienced gamers will perceive that they are being offered direct control.  The result can be very frustrating.

Again, the Wii technology continues to evolve and you may well well want to look at the Wii Sports sequel called Wii Sports Resort.  This comes complete with a new widget to attach to the original controller which brings your physical actions closer to the on-screen representation.

A word of warning though;  Do not get started on the Table Tennis service return game.  It is incredibly, marriage threateningly, addictive!

Another problem is highlighted by the original article, namely frustration at a perception that “The machine is not working properly.”  The controls on the Wii, and especially the Wii Fit balance board, are incredibly sensitive and actually require quite a high degree of balance shifting, stability and control.  This can be underestimated.

The Wii should not be abandoned as a possible device for therapy or motivation activity.  Once its limitations are recognised, acknowledged and accommodated the Wii can be great fun, social and energetic.  This will require practitioners to become fully familiar with the system before introducing it to service users, but, hey, there are worse home work assignments.

Do be aware that Sony and Microsoft are both bringing out new motion sensing systems for their Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 which might provide a more seamless interface.

Also be sure to read this excellent blog, albeit not updated since March on WiiHabTherapy.

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hi! After you left a comment on my blog I followed the link here and found your wonderful blog! I read the most recent post about using the Wii in OT and thought I’d also share the link to two articles in OTNow (the Canadian practice journal) about Jonathan Halton’s work using the Wii in post-stroke rehabilitation.
    The more recent article is only available to members, here is the link:

    I also found the Wii useful in my own transition to moving to Canada from Australia. After we arrived winter set in and did not depart for about 8 months! Thanks goodness we had the Wii and then the Wii fit! Our children made Mii avatars of all our family members in Australia and also invited each new friend to make their own Mii and become part of our new family. Every time we played baseball we had a family member (or 4) on the team, and in a tiny way it made us less homesick.

    I will read more of your blog later… I’m so glad you led me here 🙂
    cheers, Anita.


    June 3, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    • Wow, thank you for commenting and for the warm encouragement on the blog, I am really glad it is of interest.

      Thank you also for sharing the links to the use of Wii in Post-stroke rehab which I hope other readers will find useful.

      I too have a Wii at home and agree with you that it is a great family resource. That’s a great story to share about using the Mii’s to minimise the homesick blues.


      June 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  2. Just to let you know that as a research proposal I explored the use of a Wii sport group to motivate clients with enduring mental health disabilities to engage in light exercise. and eventually we piloted the group on an acute adult psychiatric ward and it works beautifully to this day, that was a year ago, with an average of 6 people attending the group with 4 handsets – this encourages turn taking, socialisation,negotiation not to mention the other points when doing activity analysis.


    June 11, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: