Back Friday

Yesterday was Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year in the U.S. Thanksgiving — a holiday centered on gratitude and sharing with family — always falls on a Thursday, and many people also have the following day off. Given the nearness of the year-end gift-giving season, this “free” Friday is the perfect day for many to go shopping. Having long recognized the opportunity, retailers offer attractive discounts to spur buyers.

The result is a potent mix of three things I dislike: short-term thinking, mindless consumption, and crowds. So I avoid stores on Black Friday. But this year, my family and I went one better: we took something we’d set aside but hadn’t yet discarded and brought it back to life. We did it as a group and had a lot of fun. I’d love for this to become a new tradition for us, so I’m giving it a name: Back Friday.

We celebrated Back Friday by bringing back our old Wii console. I’ve owned this device for well over a decade, since before my first child was born. It’s been obsolete for a long time, and its graphics are embarrassingly poor for 2019. But it’s also a blast. And it’s especially fun to play as a family. While other video games call for intense individual concentration, the Wii’s game mechanics (especially those of the bundled game, Wii Sports) accommodate multiple players with varying skill levels and engage more of the body than just the eyes, ears, and thumbs.

We’d retired our Wii years ago when my son — a toddler at the time — inserted a disc into it while there was already another disc inside, damaging the drive mechanism. Afterwards, our Wii could still play some non-disc games, but it wasn’t as much fun. As happens with so many “kinda-broken” electronics, the device went into a large plastic box along with its games, controllers, connectors, etc. It sat there taking up space and gathering dust — until yesterday. While hiking through a local park, we reminisced about how much fun we’d enjoyed playing video games over the years. We talked about the Wii, which my kids remembered being lots of fun. “What if,” we said, “we could fix it?”

When we got home, my son and I dug out the old plastic box. I got my tools and called up iFixit on my iPad. He sat next to me and helped me keep track of the tiny, varied screws. We had fun taking the thing apart while talking and listening to music. I’m not a mechanical or electronics expert, and we knew there was a chance we wouldn’t succeed. We approached it as a fun experiment. But after a bit of tinkering, we got it working again. (For the sake of transparency, this wasn’t my first time opening the Wii; I tried fixing it when it first broke, with mixed results.)

In any case, our effort resulted in a fun evening of Wii Sports. I expect it also gave my son a redemptive arc, since the story of how the console broke had become part of our family lore. More importantly, I hope the experience instills in my kids the spirit of caring for and enjoying the things we already have, rather than pining for new things. It’s a good way to emphasize gratitude and togetherness through stuff — more in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday than frenzied shopping. I plan to bring back Back Friday next year.