The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Just got a Panasonic 42" Plasma, and noticed that video games are just FAR more immersive. Playing Grand Theft Auto IV, Resistance (I love playing Co-Op with Tananarive. The orignal Medal of Honor was about the only game I ever played all the way to the end, and that was purely switching from me to her or back every time one of us got killed.) Looking at where the games are going, I'd bet GTA will be wedded to Rock Band by the end of next year: you'll have a fully functional city with multiple career opportunities, including playing in a club.) Add photo-realism (GTA is almost there) and Sim-like ability to build your world and trade goods, services, and's probably on-line in a primitive state now. The future is looking sedentary...unless you add some Wii-action, of course.


I've actually heard of Wii-injuries. I wonder if the problem is warm-up, cool-down, the exercises themselves, or whether unfit people are just trying too hard. The phenomenon of sensory motor amnesia is a very real thing, and people can actually forget how their bodies work. Going from couch potato to exercise fiend without a stop at "Proper preparation" can lead to lotsa sprains and twists. The terrible thing is that there will be a part of you totally happy with that result. "I can't work out? Well, I tried!" and back you go to the couch. It's sad. But Wii sounds like a healthy, positive development, and I hope it grows...


The 10,000 hour threshold is a great rough measurement. If someone says they want to be a writer, I ask what they've written, and whether they're willing to spend a million words to get the crap out of their system. That's probably around 10,000.

Look, I'm not saying that there aren't some people with greater natural ability than others. What I'm saying is that the concept of "natural ability' has never seemed particularly useful to me. In fact, I've only seen it hurt people: either they don't try, or they don't practice. The people who make it tend to have an ego shell around some basic insecurity about their abilities. In other words, they are tough enough to shuck off the negative input, but insecure enough to work long and hard after others have gone home. I think that, for 99% of people, 10,000 hours would put you into the top 1% of people who approach your skill. That's not gonna make you Einstein, or Baryshnikov, or Shakespeare: but it will make you a Math professor, a fine fine dancer, or a working writer. Yes, I've met people who put in hours and never get better: but they don't listen, or they listen to the wrong people. In other words, they are practicing mistakes, and won't go to people better than they are for advice.

Big mistake. You should spend about 1/3 of your time with people better, smarter, more skilled than you in your specific area of interest. What if you're already world-class? Break the skill into its component pieces. Let's say you want to get better at archery and you're already State champion. Gonna be hard to find people to hang with who are better than you. But the component aspects of archery include, for instance, concentration and remaining utterly calm under tremendous pressure, so that you can execute extremely fine motor skills again and again with perfect precision. While you may be better than anyone within a thousand miles at archery, you can easily find experts at Zen meditation and yoga who can help you take your mind to the next level.

Only ego puts you in the "I'm so good, I don't need to listen to experts" category. Inevitably, people who think this about themselves are doing something almost entirely subjective ("I'm already a great poet, and I don't care what anyone says!") or you fish in a very small pond ("hell, I took the West Side championship in freestyle pogo-sticking...") which enables you to hide your insecurity inside the armor of ego to an unhealthy degree.

10,000 hours? I don't see how looking at that as a measurement can hurt someone. If you aren't willing to invest that much time, you aren't really interested in being good at it. It's just a dream, not a goal. Goals are worth fighting for, planning for, working for. Dreams dissolve as soon as you wake up.




Michelle said...

Merry Christmas!

While some Wii games a sedentary...most them encorage you to move about in ways that you might not expect. The Zelda game for you learn sword techniques you find you cannot sit down and perform them all in rapid succession. You find yourself standing to parry and thrust, and finding a balance to do so.

I bought Wii fit last summer and that has been great. One of the games includes sitting still...and ignoring all's the hardest and last unlocked in the game. I spend a lot of time on the yoga and strength training. but I tell you what, if you can't hula hoop in real life, you can't on the wii either.

This Yule I received no less than two other exercise games. One is completely aerobic in nature, the other seems to be more strength oriented. I'm tempted to buy Raving Rabids 3 after the holidays...I admit that playing a game with your butt has a certain appeal. And yes, I hurt my elbow trying to toss the cow in the first game.

My work place is getting a Wii Cube this year. This is a Wii setup for Recreation centers and medical institutions which allow 16 players at once.

We'll be offering Wii Camp for kids, as well as various Sports & Fitness classes with it.

thrrrnbush said...

I adore my Wii and Wii Fit especially. Like anything else you get out of it what you put into it. If I stick to it I see results in BMI and game scores and if I ignore it for a couple of weeks, or more, I see those results too. Like any exercise program it requires the discipline to warm up when appropriate and it's a choice to do my honest best and not cheat myself out of meaningful progress when there's a shortcut to a better score. Such is life.

One of my favorite things to do with my Wii is ride my stationary bike while playing Mario Kart. Of course the game is in no way effected by how fast I pedal, but there's a part of my brain that doesn't know that. I can get in twelve miles a day just catching a few races between chores. I agree with the other stuff you said too, but I couldn't resist gushing about the Wii. I think it's the best material gift my family has ever given me.

Sean said...

Steve -

Safe and Happy Holidays to you and the family!

I really enjoy reading your blog and following your work and wanted to drop you a line to thank you for it.

Hope your 2009 is ridiculously successful - ALL of your definitions of success :)



Marty S said...

Funny thing happened at the family Christmas party. We were talking about successful people and my nephew brought up the 10000 hour thing. We ended up having a spirited discussion on it that mimicked the one here.

Josh Jasper said...

Thought you might appreciate this link.

It's on Obama and his dedication to fitness.

Obama, who favors a post-workout snack of a protein bar and organic iced tea, has already disclosed some of his own plans for his new home. He wants to build a full basketball court where he can hold games on the White House grounds, and to maintain his usual routine of exercising at least six days a week.

It's a schedule he started as a 22-year-old student at Columbia University in New York, and it immediately transformed him. In his 1995 autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," Obama said he was a casual drug user and an underachiever until he decided to start running three miles each day. He stopped staying out late, fasted on Sundays and became a voracious reader, spending most of his time alone in his apartment reading classic literature and philosophical texts.

If the speculation about how his marriage really is as healthy as people think is correct, he may fit your triangle of mental, physical and relationship balance perfectly.

Scott Masterton said...

Merry Christmas Steve. All my love to you and your family.


joycemocha said...

I also think that some of the Wii injuries may come from changing different activities. Skiers I know do speak highly of the Wii.

As for the 10K hours to master something--I think it also makes a difference as to what you're doing within that activity. For example, the changes within disciplines for horseback riding can sometimes end up causing more soreness and such--like when you change from Western to hunt seat English, and add two point posture, posting to the trot, and jumping over fences.

Myself, I was really sore after my first session skiing--but most of that is due to my playing with trying to do 360s which requires the use of different muscles in different positions than just plain vanilla downhill skiing.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

So far as Wii injuries as concerned, there's something about computer games which make it easy to trance out and ignore clues you'd normally get about stopping. In that sense, wii injuries are not different from injuring your hands with the more usual games.

Also, I haven't used a wii, but I wonder if the movements are more simplified/repetitious than you'd get from a normal sport.

Steve Perry said...

Problems with Wii games is that people start to think they know how to do the real thing. It's like watching Japanese samurai movies and internalizing the subtitles so that you think you know how to speak Japanese.

The mechanics of bowling, hitting a baseball, or playing guitar aren't those of waving a computer control hither and yon. And the computer game, while it might be fun, entertaining, and even offer a modicum of physical activity, is no way comparable to the real thing. I find it amusing to see all these folks buying expensive fake instruments for what amounts to a high-tech version of air guitar ...

Christian M. Howell said...

I guess the key to the 10000 hours is the fact that there are 8760 hours in a year and some people actually work 4000 hour years. I do.

mjholt said...

Merry Christmas and a Successful New Year to to all.

Steve, why would someone better I am at something work with me? What is the quid pro quo?

I do believe you are very correct about spending your time with people smarter and better than you are. My question is a sincere one, and in no way self-deprecating.

I completely agree with your 10K hours. That is about the length of time for an apprenticeship.

Steven Barnes said...

If you should ideally spend 1/3 of your time working with people better than you, 1/3 with people you can beat, and 1/3 with people about on your level, then experts need you almost as much as you need them. In martial arts, for instance, you get to work on "iffy" techniques you would NEVER use against a top-quality opponent. Also, it can give experts a chance to work on fundamentals without killing pressure. And some people just love teaching.

Steven Barnes said...

And so far, Obama fits my "body mind spirit" triad better than anyone I've seen in national politics. Of course, Bush fit it pretty well, too, and look how that worked out.

aa said...

Hi Steve, My wife and I like to play co-op offline spitscreen. I'm able to justify the time if she's playing. We have an Xbox 360 and just finished playing Gears of War 2 and had a great time. We played Halo 1,2 & 3 together. In February Sacred 2 is coming out. An RPG with Coop offline. Hopefully they deliver. The best Website I've found giving Coop info is It give specific game info for Xbox 360, Playstation & Wii and offline online play. Happy Holidays. Anthony

aa said...

Hi Steve, My wife and I like to play co-op offline spitscreen. I'm able to justify the time if she's playing. We have an Xbox 360 and just finished playing Gears of War 2 and had a great time. We played Halo 1,2 & 3 together. In February Sacred 2 is coming out. An RPG with Coop offline. Hopefully they deliver. The best Website I've found giving Coop info is It give specific game info for Xbox 360, Playstation & Wii and offline online play. Happy Holidays. Anthony

Michelle said...

The Wii waggle is exaggerated by the reviewers SP. When you bowl on Wii you aren't going to win if you don't know know how to bowl already.

The hula hoop game on wii fit is impossible if you can't already hula hoop. I've been teaching my daughter outside so she can play the game. No dice my daughter didn't get my hips. :)

I got to try the Jillian Michaels game over the weekend. After filling out the profile I choose weight loss as my goal. The game then chose a fitness routine for twenty minutes (the length of time I choose to work out.)

Boy that was tough. Alternate walking in place with squats, rowing with weights, aerobics and various arm movements. It definitely got my whole body working. (this game uses the wii fit board as well.)

Raving Rabbids play the game with your butt gimmic makes your butt go numb after awhile but dang.

I also got My fitness coach, which not only has a 30 minute profile section, in which you also list what workout equipment you already have (I have a weight set and a ball thingy). The game doesn't use the wii board, but puts you through the paces on a schedule that it came up with base on your profile. It has me working out 15 minutes a day. I can either go through the program it has put in for me or put in for credits.

That's good, cause on weekends in the winter I'm skiing, not working out :).

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