Virtual Insanities: The Real Dangers and Possible Consequences of the Wii

I have something really special for you this week. We have all heard horror stories surrounding the Wii and how dangerous it can be. It looks like Nintendo’s newest console can be responsible for black eyes, bruises, broken windows, bloody hands and even injured animals. Most cases look legit, but some of them have also been deemed fake. What’s the best way to know how dangerous a video game console can be to your health? Interview a doctor!

Unfortunately, a doctor is pretty hard to come across in Montreal if you don’t really need it. However, I have the next best thing. My brother happens to be a medical student, and we live under the same roof! Now that’s both convenient and useful. I spent about an hour asking him questions about the risks of the Wii, how dangerous it is compared to other video game systems and finally, I asked his future doctor’s opinion about the dangers of video games in general.

Nintendo Wii: The Real Dangers and Possible Consequences

*Please note that my questions will be in bold, and the interviewee’s answers will be in plain text.*

Hi, this is Guy Desmarais, and I am here today with Marc Desmarais, brother and medical student. Mr. Desmarais, may I call you Marc?

Go right ahead, I don’t know how it’s going to differ from what you have called me for the last twenty-one years.

Marc, can you tell us exactly what you are doing that has something to do with being a doctor? I just want to lend this piece a bit more credibility.

Well, I am a medical student who has nearly finished his first year, soon to start his second. I already did a couple of small internships in different hospitals in Montreal.

Thank you. Now, let’s start with the subject I am here for today. I’m sure you have heard all about the terrible stories about how dangerous the Wii can be. Are you familiar with the console itself?

Of course, I regularly step into your room to play with the Wii. You know the only reason you finished Twilight Princess first is because I have tons of school work. University is pretty hard.

Please, we are not here to discuss gaming records. I would like to start with the device that is responsible for most Wii-related injuries. Is the Wiimote really that dangerous?

From what I have seen, yes, the Wiimote can be a quite dangerous. If used with enough force, it can be a lethal object. If someone is hit in the trachea with the controller during a game of Wii Baseball or Wii Tennis, we’re talking about collapsed lungs depending on how bad the swelling is. We can also be sure that if a flying Wiimote can break a television screen, it would have no problems breaking bones, maybe a skull. Let’s not forget that a plasma screen being broken is okay, but a standard TV screen is full of compressed gas. If it’s broken, it could possibly explode and send dozens of tiny glass shards in someone’s eyes.

So the Wiimote can even be a risk to someone’s eyes?

Yes, and in a lot of way. If someone is hit hard enough with it, we could observe the same thing as in Rocky 5. Retinal separation can possibly lead to blindness. Speaking of movies, I think the industry should get nervous about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie coming in March. The nunchuk attachment will probably lead impressionable kids to imitate Michaelangelo. I see a bloodbath on the horizon.

Good thing you’re talking about the nunchuk, because it was going to be my next question. What about it? With a pretty solid wire connecting it to the remote, do you see a lot of possibilities for injuries?

I can definitely see someone being a bad loser and strangling his gaming partner with the wire.

I know the next question could be touchier, but what about hanging? Could someone hang himself with it?

I don’t think the nunchuk is strong enough to support a normal adult. The same thing would have applied to the Wiimote’s strap, but I haven’t tested the new model issued by Nintendo during the holidays, so everything is possible at this point.

Just like most electronic devices, the Wii contains a lot of small, detachable pieces. Could it be swallowed?

The battery door could be swallowed by a big enough baby, but it would need to be big like some of the fat kids that are shown periodically on the Maury Show. There’s also the spaghetti phenomenon. If a child is trying to chew on the Wiimote strap and sneezes at the same time, the strap could be either inhaled or expulsed through the nose. It can cause irritations of the respiratory system in both cases.

Let’s talk about things less physical, but potentially as dangerous. Can the infrared rays sent by the Wiimote and the sensor bar be damageable to humans?

According to the studies I’ve read, there is no risk when it comes to infrared. Infrared is nothing but concentrated heat, and the opposite frequency of ultraviolet. That means that it is not harmful, and that it can go through the human body without causing problems. Still, if we want to push things further, the US Army has developed a ray that can cause a sensation of intense heat when directed on a human subject. A mechanism made of multiple Wiimotes or sensor bars with a parabolic antenna attached to it could produce the same results. However, the machine is not ready yet, I’m still working on it in the basement.

What about Bluetooth and Wi-Fi?

There’s no danger, at least from what I have read.

If you remember that The 3 Ninjas movie we used to watch when we were younger, it clearly showed the young martial artists throwing CDs with deadly precision at the bad guys, to the point of making them fall on their ass. Can a game disk really be this powerful?

It is clearly impossible to hurt someone by throwing a CD or DVD. However, we can assume that the 3 ninjas probably possessed incredible strength if they could hurt someone with a disk, which means they would probably kill someone by hitting them with a Wiimote. Now imagine what they could possibly do with an X-Box.

What about a broken CD?

It does become sharp, and while it can’t cut like, let’s say, a broken bottle, it can scratch pretty damn badly. It can probably draw blood too if you try hard enough, or long enough. I guess the same goes for most plastic objects, though.

A couple of weeks ago, a video was seen on the Internet called “Wii Sex”. In it, a girl stimulated herself with the rumble of the controller, and the clip ended with the man shoving the remote up his butt. We all know it was a work of fiction, but could someone who might be a bit too adventurous hurt himself while trying?

I have seen hospital reports of people coming in with a lot of different things stuck in their anus. Beer bottles, coke bottles, potatoes, lots of different vegetables… If they can try to have fun with that, I am convinced we’ll eventually see the Wiimote make its way in the emergency section of many hospitals.

With games like Wii Sports, the player is supposed to repeat the same movement again and again. With Red Steel, the player can have to hold his arm in the air for a long time to shoot bad guys. Is there any real risk of injuries related to repetitive movements?

I guess a tennis elbow is plausible, maybe a carpal tunnel syndrome. The repetitive wrist movement can compress the median nerve in the tunnel, thus causing the syndrome. I’m guessing that if someone tries hard enough, a bursitis could also happen.

What about someone tripping in the wires? That sensor bar has about 13 feet of cord.

Anybody strong enough would rip through the wire and unplug the bar, but someone with a weak balance, like a senior citizen, could fall and break a hip. This is all hypothetical, of course.

If you compare the Wii to the other next-generation consoles, which one has the strongest potential of mass destruction?

Probably the X-Box 360. I’m pretty sure it can break through anything it’s thrown at, be it a wall or a bone. It can also cause car accidents if it’s thrown from a bridge. The biggest danger the PS3 presents is being able to finally make Sony some money and finance another model of PSP, and nobody wants that.

Let’s be more serious for a moment. Is there any real danger we can face by playing video games regularly?

No. The danger isn’t the game, it’s the person playing it. It’s just like everything else in life. Some people like to shoot guns in shooting ranges, but not everybody who owns a rifle goes on a killing spree. It takes someone with a personality problem. Also, it is not because you play video games that you are going to neglect your family or your girlfriend. Someone who is addicted to video games could be addicted to something else: alcohol, drugs, gambling or cosplaying. The real problem is the personality type.

I know that people also blame gaming as a cause of obesity. The truth is that the real problem is a lack of exercising and eating too much. You can play as much video games as you want, as long as you have a healthy lifestyle to go with it.

Another problem that has been associated to gaming is myopia. However, a recent study has shown that it’s just the opposite. Gaming can stimulate the sight portion of the brain in a different manner. It trains the brain to process images rapidly, kinda like Japanese animes. However, it is a really recent study, so the whole subject is still controversial. Finally, video games can help develop dexterity, motor skills and hand-to-eyes coordination.

The moral of the story is that just like alcohol and masturbation, the secret is in the dosing.

Marc, thank you for your time. This has been really informative for all of us.

Can you get out of the bathroom now?

In Closing

I hope you all liked the interview. I guess it is necessary to mention that the totality of the article has no real scientific value and must be taken as an entertainment piece. Of course, some of the stuff we said was true, but it would be too hard, or too long, to go through everything and distinguish the real stuff from the jokes. Some people call it laziness; we prefer to call it judicial anxiety.