Wii game helps groups strike up conversations

Marianne Hale

Terry Shoemaker doesn’t want to see WKU students bowling alone.

That’s why Shoemaker, program coordinator for the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, created Wii the People.

Wii the People, as Shoemaker describes it, is an attempt to use electronics to promote civil dialogue for civic engagement.

He was inspired by Robert Putnam’s book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of the American Community.”

The book describes how Americans have basically become disconnected in every aspect of life, even down to the fact that people are now bowling alone.

“We’ve decreased our association,” Shoemaker said.

Since mid-March, ten teams representing different campus groups have been meeting in Garrett Conference Center, Room 109 to face off in Wii bowling games.

The teams play the last games of the regular season tonight starting at 6 p.m., and the top two will battle it out in the championship game on April 12.

But they aren’t just bowling; they’re discussing issues, working together and trying to find common ground, Shoemaker said.

“There’s been a lot of camaraderie found,” he said. “There’s been a lot of storytelling.”

At each meeting, the groups work on an activity, Shoemaker said. For example, last week, they had to balance the national budget. Two teams collaborated on a worksheet and had to make some sacrifices.

Ashley Fitzsimons, a self-proclaimed bad bowler, is bowling with a team from We the People, a group trying to engage the campus community to work toward change.

Fitzsimons, a San Diego junior, said balancing the budget got heated when her liberal-leaning team had to work with a more fiscally conservative team. They didn’t finish their worksheet.

“I think I just realized why things don’t always get done as quickly at a national level,” she said.

But there were some similarities on all of the worksheets, too, Shoemaker said.

The groups agreed that the U.S. should speed up the removal of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many agreed there needs to be more tax reform.

Peewee Valley junior Kathryn Crimm said she gained more insight into the war when her group from the Baptist Campus Ministry was paired up with the Student Veterans Alliance.

“They had huge depths of knowledge about what’s going on in world conflicts,” she said.

Shoemaker wants to expand to more Wii the People teams next semester.

“By coming to WKU, you’re introduced to a whole lot of diversity – ethnic, race, ideological,” he said. “We really want to get that spectrum of diversity here bowling.”

Anyone interested in starting a Wii bowling team next semester can contact Shoemaker at [email protected]