Sunday, March 29, 2009

What's up with the Wii?

I'm constantly amazed by the number of people I know (family, friends, etc.) who are becoming proud owners of a Nintendo Wii. You have to find some excitement in the fact that the Wii has such mass appeal that it is being sought after by people who don't play video games. Most people just don't think of it that way. For example, my father isn't "playing video games" when he boots up Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection. He's playing Wii.

This past weekend, a friend of mine invited me over for "Game Night", which has traditionally been all about socializing over board games. However, When I arrived, several of them were excitedly tearing each other’s castles down in one of the multiplayer modes of Boom Blox.

We ate pizza, guzzled soda, caught up, played Speed Scrabble, sipped some coffee, and got mildly inappropriate (all while remaining sober, mind you). A good time was had by all. However, the night didn't reach its climax until an epic game of Mario Kart Wii.

Going into such a competition, I fully expected to dominate: not because I’m a hyper-competitive bully, but rather because I play more video games than any of them. But what I found was that the hundreds of hours that I’ve spent on games like Need for Speed and Burnout during my formative years don’t count for anything when you put a Wii Wheel in my hand. I barely managed to win, which I would attribute to being slightly more familiar with the tracks (I usually play with the nunchuk attached, affording a control scheme that I’m more accustomed to).

My initial reaction to such a narrow victory was minor disappointment. I’m a gamer. I should be better at games then non-gamers. But then it hit me: if we had all been playing on my turf, I would have a natural (and therefore seemingly unfair) advantage over everyone else, and no one would have had fun. The beauty of the Wii’s intended control scheme is that it puts everyone on a recognizably even playing field. Driving in Mario Kart Wii is a simplified version of driving in real life, playing golf in Wii Sports is a basic representation of golf, and boxing in the upcoming Punch-Out!! will assuredly be a scaled down depiction of boxing.

Kudos to Nintendo for making something as uniquely fun as the Wii.

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