Thursday, 29 May 2008

A new malady

Long time readers may recall my previous bout with what I call "Nintendo Thumb". Back in December of 06, when Zelda:Twilight Princess came out, I settled in for several weeks of Nintendo-induced bliss, followed by some days/weeks of seriously Nintendo-induced pain. This came from swelling in my right first (thumb) carpo-metacarpal (where the base of the thumb meets the wrist) and metacarpo-pharyngeal (where the thumb meets the hand) joints. Supposedly due to repetitive stress injury resulting in tendinitis (according to published descriptions of similar maladies, and which I think should be spelled 'tendonitis', but nobody consults me about these things), it comes from mashing buttons or control sticks with your thumb for hours on end.

The new Wii has added a new twist to this, which I am going to call "Nintendo Wrist", which I felt the beginnings of last night and decided to give it a rest. The wireless controller for Wii games has a bunch of accelerometers or something like that in it, such that depending on the game, you can point the controller, swing it, or shake it, to accomplish various things. In Super Mario Galaxy, you both 'spin' Mario and make Mario 'throw' (things in his hands or, properly powered up, fireballs). Both are critical moves at various points in the game.

And if you're like me, you get stuck at anything requiring what you might call timing or skill, so you have to do them over and over again until you get it right and hopefully you don't have to do them again for a while.

Motor learning tells us that if you practice these things for a while, sleep on it, and then try again, your brain magically rewires your systems for all the control you were trying, unsuccessfully, to master during your first practice. So the logical thing to do, when you get stuck doing some combination of things in a game, is to practice a few times, work out what you want your body to do, and then go to sleep. It should be easier the next time you do it.

So last night, when I was stuck on a desert level, where you have to spin out of whirlwinds and fly, helicopter-wise, short distances, then jump up walls and spin yourself out of launch stars and then do it all again, I started to feel a funny twinge in my right wrist.

The smart thing to do would have been to save the game, quit, put the controller down and go to bed. But that isn't how Nintendo Wonks work.

So I kept at it, sometimes having to spin/fly/jump/fall/jump/climb/jump/spin through the same combination probably a dozen times when I messed up on one maneuver (sp?) or another, all the while wondering what damage I was doing to my wrist.

Well, in the end I managed to finish the level, and today my wrist doesn't seem particularly worse for wear. But I should probably take a break from stressing it for a while. Maybe next week, when I'm on the road anyway....

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