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Nintendo Wii’s Niche Market: ‘Wii-hab’ for Physical Therapy Patients

Video games aren’t just for the whippersnappers to entertain themselves anymore!

Case in point: I have performed “Wii-hab!” Wii-hab is a nickname for a therapy concept that has benefited numerous nursing homes, hospitals, and schools for special needs children. Nintendo’s Wii video game system is becoming a craze in rehab therapy for patients recovering from conditions such as strokes, broken bones, surgery, and even combat injuries. You have probably heard of Yoga video games, as well as a couple exercise-influenced video games for the Nintendo Wii, but I don’t think many people thought they would see the day when video games would be used the health care setting and be beneficial!

Wii-hab

The Nintendo Wii makes daily exercises more manageable for patients.

Nintendo’s genius was not just in the invention of this interactive game console, but in the marketing they used to convey just how beneficial it is and how easy it is to use. Being the daughter of an Occupational Therapist (OT), I have had a lot of experience working in the therapy field (I was a therapy aide for half a decade). For the record, if you have never participated in Physical Therapy (PT) or Occupational Therapy (OT), then let me tell you, it is no cake walk. It takes a lot of determination and strength for patients to accomplish goals and gradually get better. After a long week of exhausting exercise sessions, it was always our intention to mix it up a little bit. We were able to accomplish that with the Nintendo Wii! Every Friday we organized a group therapy session, and it was my job to make creative stations for the geriatric patients to be able to not only work out in a beneficial way but also to have fun! I remember when the system first came out and the facility I worked for purchased one — we had our share of skeptics. So needless to say, when we received our Wii at the facility due to increased reports about the usability of the system, we were all thrilled to see how it would pan out.

At first, using the Wii was very tricky because we had both demented patients as well as extremely cognitive patients. So, of course we had to plan activities that both parties could enjoy. The therapists were excited about using the Wii, but also hesitant; it was a new piece of technology so we were unsure of the outcome of using it. Having used the Wii, I assured them that it was marvelously equipped for ease of use while still being challenging and beneficial. We hooked it up and brought up our first patients to try out the bowling game for the Wii Sports game. The patients were hesitant at first (they grew up without EVER playing video games) but they gave it a whirl. The first patient played for a few moments, while their motor function and gait (a person’s manner of walking) was being observed by the PT, and the results were staggering. This patient hadn’t stood longer than two minutes in over 6 months, but here they were: having a blast standing and playing video games! Needless to say, anyone in that room who was previously unconvinced of the Nintendo Wii’s benefits certainly changed their tune after that!

Here’s an informative news report on the Wii in regard to physical therapy that you may want to check out as well:

After seeing for myself how well the Nintendo Wii works for patient rehab, here is why I believe their design was created so well. They had to design a game that was different and interactive in way no other game system had ever been, but in order to increase their market to everyone they had to design games and a system so user-friendly it would grasp both inexperienced and experienced users while still challenging the video gamers of the world. So with innovation, they created a game system that is completely underestimated in its ability to benefit hand-eye coordination, gait function, occasional cardio, appendage strength, and brain function all wrapped in one!

Even though using the Wii in a therapy setting was not necessarily Nintendo’s intention, they created and marketed something so well that it caught on like wildfire! There are even patients who purchase Wiis for their homes after using one in a therapy setting to continue on their path to wellness. Now that’s great marketing, both on Nintendo’s part and via word-of-mouth!

So what do think, have you ever found the Wii to be beneficial, whether it was to get your kids moving around a little more, or for yourself? What are your experiences with the Nintendo Wii game system? How do you feel they market themselves effectively?

Image credit to CokeeOrg and edans.


Serenity Morris

Serenity is on the support staff for Quality Logo Products. Cynical and straight to the point, this no-nonsense gal is loveable and passionate about her various nerdy interests. When she is not geeking out about music, British television, and politics she is usually doodling her troubles away! Her artistic abilities are often commissioned for internal and external QLP promotional materials. You can also connect with Serenity on Google+.

Comments

  1. Jill Tooley

    This is really cool! See, video games can be beneficial if they’re used in innovative ways like this. It was funny to watch elderly people play video games for the first time…I expected them to oppose the idea but it seemed like they were all having a good time! Wii Sports is a lot of fun, and so are the games for the Kinect (Kinect Sports, Dance Central, etc). The Wii is definitely better for people who may have injuries, though, because there’s just the right amount of movement required. The Kinect gets pretty intense sometimes (as you know)!

    Awesome post. Gotta love it when products are used for entirely different purposes than the original! :D

  2. Cybernetic SAM

    Yes, I am very aware you can go overboard with these interactive games (boy do I)! As for the genius of this system, what marvels me is that this was not their intention but others saw it for its capabilities and the product (simply by word of mouth) began to market itself! I guess it all goes to show that with a little innovation and a great product, a brand can really go far! I see the trend with systems trying to one-up the Wii’s first design and it is still kind of cool that Nintendo set the trend for these video games, I was more than on-board when I heard about this. I always felt children need to be a little more physically active and when this system came out it was revolutionary!

  3. amy

    I had no idea that rehab centers could benefit from having a Wii in their facilities. After reading though and watching the video, it does make sense. I love when products can have a different use than what it was originally intended for. Very cool stuff, Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! I wouldn’t have believed it myself had I not actually witnessed it! Nintendo was very fortunate that it caught on the way it did. I believe it will hold the market for a while too, as I have used the Kinect for Xbox and it is a little too complex for this purpose. So, go NINTENDO!

  4. Jen

    My brother got a Wii for Christmas a few years ago and we played with my grandpa (who also had never played a video game in his life) and he loved it. It’s a great gaming system for the whole family and brings everyone together. My grandpa dominated all of us grand kids in bowling on several occasions.

    I totally see how this would be beneficial for anyone going through rehab. It really makes the workout fun and not so much a chore.

    Great post Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks Jen! Yes, I like that it is not too complicated for those who are not as game savvy as the rest. I am one of them — I remember when I first used it, I was intimidated because I am not video-gamer but I was soon addicted! I loved playing it every time I went to a friend’s house!

  5. Mandy Kilinskis

    I wonder if Nintendo had any idea that their products could be used in this way when they originally pitched the idea of the Wii. Regardless, though, the use of video game consoles for rehab is really taking off! I know that Xbox has big plans to use their Kinect for an addition to physical therapy.

    Great post, Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! As I was saying to Jen, I think Xbox would have to come up with a program that is a little less sensitive for it to work for rehab. Having worked with the patients that I have, it’s not easy for all of them to have a steady hand while the options load. Which is why I think Nintendo is still in the lead with this, they use a Wiimote and it is not as touchy as using your hand in the air — though it does have its pros, too.

  6. Alex Brodsky

    I wish I’d had a Wii when I was going through physical therapy. You’ve gotta love it when you have a legitimate excuse to play video games.

    Great Post!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thank you! Absolutely right about loving an excuse to play games for therapy! We were not sure how our elderly patients would adapt/react to us making them play video games, but surprisingly they were very open to it.

  7. Amanda

    I am so glad to see the Wii make a real difference in people’s lives! It’s so neat that this system can get almost everyone off the couch and moving around. I am not a video gamer at all, but when we’re at a friends house, we always play Wii. It’s simple and fun. Not too many buttons or rules to learn. I love the ping pong and tennis the best. =) Great post Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thank you, Amanda, for the idea! I still never would have thought to write about this even though I have done it! So thank you again! :)

  8. Juliette Vincent

    I actually just got a Wii last week. (hooray for online sales?) Since my mom was visiting we went ahead and played some bowling and even broke out the Michael Jackson Experience game that I’d picked up in anticipation of the Wii playing.

    I can totally see how it would be helpful for physical therapy having gone through it a few times myself (and still supposed to be keeping up certain exercises). I like the fact that many of the “fitness” games can be played with just a single remote rather than having to buy expensive add-ons. It’s now a totally fun part of my evenings to play a game or two on the Wii and then end by dancing like Michael Jackson. :)

    I’ve never tried the kinect or move for the Xbox & PS3 but I do like the way that the Wii was originally built for motion control rather than having it added on like the other two systems. It’s come a long way since the days of that crazy Sega Genesis motion sensor that went in a sort of circle on the floor. (I think i still have that somewhere)

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Whoa whoa whoa — there is a Michael Jackson GAME!?!?!?! Why don’t I have this!?!?!? Anyway, I also like the feel and the way the Wii handles as far as game remote control; it is simple and easy to use for all ages. The Kinect is a little more sensory controlled and takes a bit more coordination, but it is still really neat, especially for the ultimate gamer. Thank you for sharing, Juliette! And I am totally with you when it comes to Micheal Jackson moves. Ah! SHAMONE!

      • Juliette Vincent

        There really is a Michael Jackson dance game. I bought a copy of it before the Wii even arrived. :) It’s pretty cool to dance like MJ, a backup dancer and you can even get up to 4 players involved. Not to mention it’s got a great selection of songs to dance to and training videos that you unlock by earning stars on the dancing. (don’t mean to plug it but it is pretty darn cool!)

        I’ll have to find a local friend who has the kinect thing so I can give it a try. I’m kinda curious about it too!

  9. Eric

    I’ll always give credit to Nintendo for really stepping up their game and coming out with a video gaming system that made it a physical activity. I’m not a gamer, and even I’ll admit Wii Sports are a pretty damn good time. Games like those are simple, easy to learn, and almost anyone can pick up the remote (Wiimote? Whatever the heck the kids are calling it) and go from never having played, to being a regular player. Good article, Serenity. Having been someone who’s been through physical therapy myself, I can only imagine how this has helped take something usually frustrating and mundane, and made it something fun you may even look forward to. Up high, Ninetendo!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks! Yes, I too have never been a gamer and was actually pretty opposed to them. My biggest complaint involved the kids who do nothing but sit around and do nothing but play video games. I am a huge activist for “No Child Left Inside” so I am very much for kids playing outdoors and being physically active, and by Nintendo coming out with this they solved at least one of my primary concerns!

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