Who's Gaming Now? Seniors Turn To Wii Bowling The introduction of the Nintendo Wii and its sports and fitness games has greatly expanded the appeal of video games — especially among senior citizens. From California to New York, dozens of teams and more than 1,000 bowlers are in the throes of a virtual Wii bowling competition.

Who's Gaming Now? Seniors Turn To Wii Bowling

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

And now it's time for All Tech Considered.

(Soundbite of music)

Today, technology that is inspiring and inspired by seniors. In a few minutes, our tech expert, Omar Gallaga, will tell us about a number of new technologies that are helping seniors, from social networking, to virtual doctor visits, to robotic companions. But first, a video game is sparking fierce competition at senior centers all across the country. It's Nintendo's Wii bowling.

NPR's Joshua Brockman donned his bowling shirt and headed on to Arlington, Virginia, where the National Senior League's Wii bowling tournament was in full swing.

(Soundbite of bowling)

JOSHUA BROCKMAN: Its 9:30 on a Monday morning at a rec room inside the Langston-Brown Senior Center: on one table, coffee and Danish, on the other, four Wii controllers. Sofia(ph), Mary(ph), Violet(ph) and Willa Mae(ph) reach for the controllers and turn towards the large-screen TV.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman: Getting ready.

Unidentified Woman #2: Ready.

BROCKMAN: They're each wearing handmade tie-dyed T-shirts, emblazoned with the team's name: L-B-S-C W-i-i. And they're not the only seniors taking Wii bowling seriously: 186 teams are in the throes of competition from California to New York.

Mr. REGGIE FILS-AIME (President, Nintendo America): I think what we were able to do was to make video games fun, accessible, for a group of consumers who never had thought of themselves as video gamers before.

BROCKMAN: Reggie Fils-Aime is president of Nintendo America, the company that created the hardware and software that's behind Wii bowling.

Mr. FILS-AIME: You line up the ball, move a little to the left, a little to the right, line up the pins and let it go, try and get that hook going. Here's what that sounds like on the Wii.

(Soundbite of Wii bowling)

BROCKMAN: It may be a virtual game played on a large flat-screen TV, but when Sofia Henriquez(ph), lunges forward and releases the invisible bowling ball with the hand-held controller, the emotions are 100 percent real.

(Soundbite of cheers)

Unidentified Woman #3: Langston-Brown, Langston-Brown.

BROCKMAN: The team's captain, 81-year-old Willa Mae Graham, back in the day she used to be a 10-pin bowler.

How is it different bowling on the Wii?

Ms. WILLA MAE GRAHAM: Much different, much different, because you don't stand as close to the television, you know, as when you're bowling with the ball.

BROCKMAN: Her teammates cheer on, shaking a plastic soda bottle filled with pebbles.

(Soundbite of scream)

BROCKMAN: And Willa Mae gets highest score: 197.

(Soundbite of Wii bowling)

BROCKMAN: Since their competition � a team in Seattle - wasn't actually in the room, they didn't know that the match was a real nail-biter. Days later, after entering their scores online, Langston-Brown learns that they won. But Eva Mayor, the center's senior coordinator, knows there is still some competition ahead. Are you concerned at all about Panther Valley Old Fogies?

Ms. EVA MAYOR (Director, Langston-Brown Senior Center): Well, I really don't know, but I think we have a good team. We have a good group.

BROCKMAN: Sure enough, Langston-Brown is a strong contender this season and even though Wii bowling is scheduled three times a week, many show up to practice every day.

Joshua Brockman, NPR News.

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