First Newsweek's Stephen Levy alleges that Guitar Hero is "dumbing down musicianship," and now this. NPR commentator Kelly McBride recently aired her fears that Wii Sports is artificially inflating the self-esteem of her Wii-playing children.
According to McBride's logic, children used to effortless success with minimum effort in Wii Sports tennis will be frustrated when they pick up a real tennis racket and aren't immediately experts. She has a point -- mastering a video game simulation is often much easier than mastering the real world activity it mimics. Just ask a fighter pilot or a world leader.
But while the barriers to success are lower for many video games, the rewards for success are also lower. While schooling someone in virtual basketball might let you hear your opponent's moan of defeat over a headset, the real look of anguish when you take someone down in a hard-fought game of real basketball is infinitely more satisfying.
There's something about the physical exertion and human interaction of real sports that makes it compelling in a way that's totally different from sitting alone playing a video game. Even jumping around and playing Wii Sports with friends isn't quite as interesting as taking them on in a real sport (though it's often more practical). This is why paintball hasn't gone away even though Halo is popular and people continue to ski even when Alpine Racer might be available at a nearby arcade.
Sure, children will often be more interested in the instant gratification of a simple game than the complex rewards of real competition, but as they get older most mature adults will come to realize the importance of sticking with something and attaining new skills in the real world.
Video games aren't a replacement for real world activities. They never have been and they won't start to be now just because Nintendo lets you move your arms a bit while you play them.