0

Learning the vices and virtues of the virtual life

Paris and Nicole led "The Simple Life." My grandparents are experiencing the bliss of the afterlife. But after a few decades of hassling with real life, my family and I have decided that we're going to live The Virtual Life.

Yep, that's right: We're opting out of reality altogether and, from this day forward, we are going to experience life via remote control.

In the past, I haven't been a fan of electronic diversions. Actually, that's a bit of an understatement. As the mother of two daughters, I usually roll my eyes whenever a guy extols the virtues of electronic gaming.

Every time I see a can't-make-eye-contact kid hunched over a Game Boy frenetically attacking some electronic nemesis, I want to scream, "Super Mario is not a real person! For god's sake, wake up and join the real world, you antisocial little twerp."

But now that I've discovered the Wii and the thrill of virtual bowling, my holier-than-thou attitude is over and I'm as addicted as my next-door neighbor's four teenage boys.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Wii phenomenon, it's a Nintendo gaming system that hooks up to your TV. However, unlike other sedentary games that keep you parked on the sofa clutching a joystick, the Wii gets you off the couch and into the action.

Whether it's swinging a golf club, shooting a pool cue or casting your fishing line, you do the physical moves and, by some techno miracle, the screen mimics your actions. (And yes, you can work up a serious sweat.)

However, as smart as the Wii sensor may be, it can't seem to discern that you're fat, out of shape, and haven't held a tennis racket in years. Get the right angle on your shot, and even a chubby, middle-aged mom can smoke one past a seasoned player.

Case in point: My husband usually beats me quite handily on a real court. But now, thanks to hours of secret practice on the Wii, I'm no longer the loser who can't lob; I'm the Venus Williams of my living room.

At first, I fantasized that my string of stunning victories might propel me from the Wii to Wimbledon. But now I'm so enamored with my Wii that I have no further use for real sports - or real life - at all, and I'm never leaving the house again.

My kids and I pushed the coffee table into the foyer, and our living room has now become a virtual bowling alley, pool hall and boxing arena.

At first, it was a little unsettling to see my sweet, sedate 10-year-old daughter pounding away at an invisible opponent. But she's stunned us all with her ferocious left hook and, after three knockouts, I'm perched ringside on the couch screaming, "Pound him, baby girl, pound him!"

My husband, who no longer has the time, energy or disposable income for golf, can take the back nine and hit a few birdies before dinner, something he seldom did on a real golf course.

I'm shocked that the Wii actually worked on my 15-year-old television but, now that I've discovered how exciting the virtual life can be, my next adventure is to become a rock star via Guitar Hero, and I'm thinking of taking up deep sea diving with Wii's Endless Ocean.

My children have expended our virtual family by adopting three electronic pets. Unfortunately, our two very real cats haven't gotten with the virtual program and are stubbornly refusing to transform themselves into holograms.

Further proving that the virtual life is easier, cleaner and less smelly than real life.

In fact, I rather like commanding the world with my remote control. No back talk, no spills, no mess, no whining. Just obliging little characters that respond to your every whim with the push of a button.

Hmm, I wonder if a virtual husband constitutes polygamy?

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.forgetperfect.com.