WASHINGTON—Concerned parents are again blasting the Nintendo Wii for an incident of effeminate violence following a 13-year-old boy's limp-wristed attack on three of his classmates at a Cleveland-area middle school Tuesday.
The incident—the sixth of its kind in as many months—has left parents searching for answers and struggling to comprehend the dainty assault, which left the necks of two sweaters severely stretched out and countless fingers stubbed.
"These games are a prissy little menace to our society," said Linda Roberts, 35, a mother of three and founder of the group Parents Against Wii, which is suing Nintendo for $52 million in damages from two recent swattings. "One of these days, the red marks on our children's arms might not just go away after five minutes."
The Wii, now the most popular gaming system in the country, most recently came under fire last month, when 15-year-old Los Angeles student Brian Strickland, who reportedly plays Wii Sports tennis, was expelled for flicking his wrist back and forth at a fellow sophomore's head. And in January, 12-year-old Boulder, CO native Andrew Conner, a fan of the WarioWare: Smooth Moves game, was hospitalized after swinging his arm like an elephant trunk into members of the eighth-grade boys basketball team.
"The Nintendo company is knowingly exposing our children to disturbing acts of foppishness right in our living rooms," said Roberts of PAW. "Even more frightening, the motion-sensing technology teaches them that the only way to resolve conflicts is to flail their arms in acts of fruity aggression."
Wii's critics claim that the sissified games use disturbing pastel imagery, graphic representations of adorable characters, and disorienting kaleidoscopes of color to prey on children's basest flaming instincts. The game Dewy's Adventure, in which children control a cute droplet of water who must return fruit to a magical tree, is often cited as one of the worst offenders.
"Three years ago, our children were not prancing after their peers and brutally flicking each other on the playground," Roberts said. "They were well-behaved wimps who spent their recess periods hiding from bullies. What are these terrible games doing to our country's sallies?"
While no scientific link has ever been established, a report to be released by PAW later this month indicates an alarming correlation between Wii's growing popularity and a shocking 200-percent increase in wuss-on-wuss violence. In addition, the group documented 634 incidents of fussy skirmishes, all of which ended in tears.
According to the American Psychological Association, prolonged exposure to cutesy video-game violence can increase aggressive frolicking and angry fluttering in children. Paula Greer, co-chair of the APA Committee on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media, warned that Wii games reward players for explosive girly behavior rather than enforcing proper negative social consequences.
"The Wii's fluffy flowers and bright peach-colored sunlight glorify chasing precious talking rabbits with plungers," Greer said. "What kind of message is that sending to our children? That it's 'cool' to act like some kind of electrical elf or banana fairy?"
The APA is working with the Entertainment Software Rating Board to update its rating system to reflect the perceived influence of Wii on children's behavior. According to suggested guidelines, games that contain insipid language, vigorous paint scrubbing, and mild to moderate bell-ringing will be rated P for Pansy; those that include simulated sand-pouring and intense lily-pad racing will be rated NP for Namby-Pamby.
But some believe critics of the Wii are overreacting. Benjamin Warren, a First Amendment lawyer based in New York, defended the video game manufacturer, claiming it alone did not invent priggish hostility.
"Limp-wristed flapping has been around for as long as children have had wrists," Warren said. "Our society has always blamed whatever new trend comes along, be it windmills, knitting, the harpsichord, or Jazzercise."
Added Warren, "Wii is just the latest target—a fuzzy, pink, cuddly little target with big eyes and a squeaky voice that just makes you want to eat it up."