For many teens, the final days of summer break are for sleeping in and kicking back before school, homework and extracurricular activities take over. For South Hill teens Greg and Sean Gormley, Labor Day weekend was all about the Wii – spinning hula hoops, racing go-carts, grabbing coins, swishing basketballs and knocking down virtual bowling pins.
But the brothers, ages 16 and 13, weren’t just hanging out at home playing video games. They were in Redondo Beach, Calif., battling the best Wii players in the country at Wii Games: Summer 2010, Nintendo’s first national Wii competition.
They placed second overall in the teen division, winning trophies, medals, new Wiis, Wii games, a one-year subscription to Netflix and, of course, bragging rights.
After school recently, the brothers demonstrated their skills, eyes focused on the TV screen, shoulders relaxed as they shook, flicked and jerked their Wii remotes, while explaining their process with the confidence of experts.
Though they’ve played Wii games since it first was released, the brothers said they didn’t increase their screen time much. “We didn’t spend a lot of time practicing – an hour or so every few days,” said Greg.
After years of playing together, their teamwork is fluid, each giving the other tips and instructions. “Back up, back up,” Greg says. “Spin him, Sean.” Before he can finish speaking Sean is backing up, spinning and winning.
And it feels good to be winners. Out of more than 200,000 competitors from across the country, only 200 finalists, 16 teams in each category, qualified for the national event. Greg and Sean placed first out of 89 teams in the teen division at a regional competition in August, at Seattle’s Northgate Mall.
Going into the regional competition, Greg said they knew from watching the leader boards that they had to crack 18,000 points for a chance at making the national championship games. When they scored more than 19,000, beating all the other regional winners in the teen category, they knew they’d done well but still didn’t know how they stacked against their competitors in Seattle.
“We had to wait a week before we knew we won,” said Greg. That win earned them and their parents an all-expenses-paid trip to the competition at Six Flags in California.
It was like going to the Olympics, they said, describing a festive atmosphere filled with excitement. In fact, as a Wii games ambassador, Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson played hula hoop with the competitors.
Decked in blue jackets that say “Wii Finalist,” the brothers played games that haven’t been released yet but spent most of their time and energy focused on the competition. “They were very serious,” said their mom, Anita Gormley.
But it was serious fun. On a scale of 1 to 10, Sean said the tournament was “eleven.”
Through the competition, the brothers said they concentrated on working together, just like they did while practicing. But the first day was tough.
“The first two rounds were not too good, to be honest,” said Greg, explaining that they fell behind while playing basketball, though they still placed in the top four. “They were good teams.”
Still, the brothers focused on their strengths and Sean’s 313 rotations in the hula hoop gave them a boost. Then they played Mario Kart and moved from fourth place to second.
Finally, when the competition was whittled to the top four teams, the Gormleys played their rivals on stage in front of a cheering crowd, with the games projected on an enormous screen behind them.
“We didn’t notice the people cheering,” said Greg, shrugging. “We focused on playing the game.”
After an impressive second-place finish, the boys are ready for a rematch next year, when they hope more competitors make the games even more challenging. But for now, they’ll keep playing the same way they’ve always played, the way they suggest other kids practice for the competition.
“If you want to practice,” said Sean. “Put your heart into it.”