Since its introduction last year, the Wii video game system from Nintendo has won praise from some health advocates for getting its users up off the couch, and at least getting some exercise while playing.
But some especially active users may be getting a little too much exercise, resulting in what can only be described as sports injuries.
After a few rounds of Wii Boxing, Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling, I started to really feel sore in my right tricep and my right thigh muscles, said Jared Brickey, a student at Middle Tennessee State University. It wasn't so bad that night, but man, was I sore in the morning.
Player warnings, in fact, are incorporated into game manuals such as the Wii instruction booklet, which advises, "WARNING Repetitive Motion Injuries and Eyestrain. Playing videogames can make your muscles, joints, skin or eyes hurt.
Wii Sports, the game package that features the boxing, tennis and bowling games that gave Brickeys muscles such a workout, has been the culprit of most injuries seen on gaming Web sites that report injuries by users. In spite of the muscle strain that playing the system inflicted, however, Brickey said he intends to keep utilizing the Wii gaming system.
I really do consider most Wii games to be more exercise than just about anything, at least with Wii Sports, he said.
Some videogamers, though, are quick to concede that they wound up on the wrong end of a Wii controller and sustained injuries they dont care to repeat.
Further, a perusal of gamer Web sites such as www.wiihaveaproblem.com reveals pictures of injuries endured by players as a result of indulging in videogaming, including photos of injuries sustained by players who said they overexerted themselves while playing, became too involved in a particular game, and ignored their physical limits.
One Nintendo Wii gamer known simply as Fred, for example, relayed his gaming-turned-injury story via wiihaveaproblem.com, saying, "My left foot slipped mid-swing, and my body was being twisted at (that) time and my whole body weight went onto my right ankle!"
Admittedly, wrote Fred, he was playing Wiis Homerun Derby game in his socks when he tried swinging the remote "as hard as I could." Consequently, he lost his balance and his ankle paid the price, but its not as if the consoles creators dont warn players to guard against overexertion.
Aside from the "take a 10- to 15-minute break every hour, even if you don't think you need it" precautions outlined in user manuals, the Wii Sports games feature a pause menu that encourages players to take it easy, with a "Why not take a break?" message. Still, many do not.
Brickey, for instance, said he never pays attention to the break messages that appear on game screens.
I'm going to play for five straight hours in Zelda when a game is that good, said Brickey, whos been an avid gamer for 15 of 21 his years.
Meanwhile, Shandora Dorse, a physicians assistant at MTSUs McFarland Health Services, said that college-age gamers such as Brickey whove played for years may be able to handle physical videogames better than older players, but its important for individuals to know their own limits.
Let pain be your gauge, advised Dorse, who said any stretching related to the upper body, neck and shoulder muscles can help reduce the risk of soreness or possible injury during gaming.
The video game industry as a whole has progressed far beyond its initial stereotypical skate punk in the basement playing Doom and continues to rival the popularity of TV. In 2001 for the first time ever it generated more revenue than did Hollywoods box office.
Hollywoods definitely paying attention, said Dr. Bob Kalwinsky, assistant professor of electronic media communication at Middle Tennessee State University, who says gaming offers an experience users dont get from other media.
Its a social experience, and were social animals, Kalwinsky said. We want to interact with others, but gamings appeal goes beyond the interactive aspect. With gaming, you can explore an environment thats different each time you play it and you have a great degree of freedom to explore.