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“The bowling ramp of the digital age”: From Video Conferencing to Gaming, the Way We Interact with Technology is Changing.

Marti Stelling looks at the way technology has changed our lives.

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Image Credit: Dan Schleusser from Unsplash

When Skype was first introduced, it was revolutionary. It changed the way we communicated by allowing users to connect globally without the hefty mobile phone bills. Now Skype is regarded as ‘basic’ when compared to other platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which offer more features and capabilities. The same is the case for consoles. As companies launch new generations different from the last, older models are made redundant. As consumers, we require technology to evolve with us, offering capabilities that suit our changing needs.

Let’s take the example of the humble Nintendo Wii. This device has lasted the test of time and is still found on the TV stand of many homes, despite it being discontinued in 2013. One of the accessories that came with the Wii console when I got mine back in 2011 was the wheel. The Wii remote sits inside of the accessory, turning the controller into a wheel. The Wii was marketed as a console for all generations; however, its primary target audiences are now older Gen Z and younger Millennials. For some context, I was five years old when the Wii came out in 2006; my younger cousin is now six and is better with technology than I will ever be. His response to me giving him a wheel in Mario Kart was that he didn’t need one. Children of this generation are born in a post-internet world, surrounded by tech their whole life. However, for older Gen Z and Millennials, technology became part of our lives at a later age, requiring us to need visual clues to understand how technology works. For children, the Wii remote itself could represent a wheel, golf club, or shotgun without looking like one.

I’m not saying that anyone over the age of 20 is incapable of the abstract thought of a six-year-old, but the thought process isn’t as instinctive. For me, the Wii wheel is the bowling ramp of the digital world. Before I was strong enough to throw the bowling ball, the ramp allowed me to join in with the game while making it feel a little easier. I know that I can play without it, but it’s a crutch. The physical Wii wheel helps us convert the rectangular shape of the controller to an object that needs to be steered, therefore transforming our living room into a racetrack. These visual clues are becoming less necessary for younger generations, proving the ever-changing relationship between technology and its customers.

Technology is constantly adapting and improving to suit the needs of its customers. Before you laugh at grandma for not understanding Zoom, remember that soon it will be your grandkids laughing at you for not being able to operate their computers. Let’s dread the day we get asked “What was the Wii, anyway?”

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