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Wowed by the Wii

So, David found a Wii last week, and brought it home.

What an amazing little machine. What a paradigm shift in consumer level interaction with a computer.

I've been slow to return to consoles. I was an Atari kid and a NES college student. I loved Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda. However, after I got a computer, it became hard to justify a console purchase. Why would I buy a console when my PC's video card offered superior graphics and could do so much more besides? My husband got a Playstation and Playstation 2 because he loved the Final Fantasy series, but after playing a little Tomb Raider and Bushido Blade on the first platform, I was done. The GameCube piqued my interest, but I never quite got around to it. There were just too many good titles for the PC that engaged me and fit my play style better. For many years, there just wasn't much that consoles had to offer me. I didn't like games that felt "consoley" whether they were ports or not.

Until the Wii.

Do you remember the first time you used a Mac? I do. I had used DOS for over five years at that point and was reasonably conversant, but DOS was very demanding. It insisted upon absolute perfection from you all the time, or else it would not reward you by retrieving the requested file. One little typo, and it would smack you down with a "Bad command or file name," response. You could almost hear the sneer. Bad user, no biscuit! it reprimanded as you meekly complied. DOS was not much for positive reinforcement.

The difference between the Wii and previous console experiences feels almost as dramatic as the "Whoa!" moment I had the first time I used a GUI courtesy of a tiny Mac in the University of Georgia's computer lab after having used a command line interface forever. I remember the little smiley face that displayed when you booted up one of the original machines. It seemed to communicate comfort and reassurance, subliminally saying: "Hi! I'm a Mac! I won't punish you! Would you like a comfy pillow?"

The first time you swing the Wii Remote and see your virtual tennis racket connect with the ball ... the first time a gesture of yours corresponds to an action on the screen ... the first time a real world action causes a virtual effect ... I've been gaming since I was 13 years old, and it's been a while since I've had a moment as exhilarating as this. The gesture recognition technology used for the Wii makes me feel as though virtual interfaces like those in Johnny Mnemonic and Iron Man aren't so far away, after all.

The elegant, clean design of the Wii seems so much more refined than the Xbox 360 or the PS3. I think I've also always been a little charmed by Nintendo's friendly attitude, too. Frankly, their approach always seemed better socialized and fit for company, as it were.

At E3 2001, I witnessed a dialogue between Nintendo's Peter Main, Sony's Kazuo Hirai, and Microsoft's Robert Bach. Hirai came across as incredibly arrogant, as if it were simply a given that Sony would own the marketplace for all time, and that participating in this interview was beneath him. Microsoft was the upstart with the Xbox, brimming with confidence that their leverage would make the Xbox the console to beat, while Peter Main was just as pleasant as he could be, expressing Nintendo's position while remaining detached from the Hirai/Bach rivalry. I'm certain that neither of the aforementioned industry leaders would thank me for saying this, but they both came across as insecure gamers peeing to mark their territory, while Peter seemed the mature, friendly grandpa you'd want to have come over and play. I'm sure they're all very savvy business professionals, but those were the impressions I had, and apparently, I was on target: a little research after the fact indicated that Main, now retired, was very positively perceived by many as a kind man with shrewd marketing acumen.

I mention all that because the Wii is Nintendo's friendliest, most approachable entry ever. It has a warmth I've only ever previously associated with classic Apple products. It wants you to have friends over to play. Wii marketing = togetherness. The others still feel like they want you to dominate your friends.

The Wii offers a gaming experience that I cannot get on my PC. Don't get me wrong: I'm not leaving World of Warcraft. Indeed, I rented The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the Wii, and didn't like the sense of being on rails. At this time, I simply prefer the way RPGs and MMORPGs are executed in the PC environment. However, for other kinds of games, games that make me move, the PC will have to slink quietly away. I want more gaming experiences that make use of gestural input.

If you'll pardon a bit of anthropomorphization, the Wii knows it is different. It wants to do different things, and its users are looking for experiences that differ from those available on traditional gaming boxes. Wii Fit sold out before a single box landed on a retail shelf in North America. Amazon is no longer taking preorders at this time because demand simply exceeds supply.

I've been doing some research on Wii games, and think the following sound like they might have some potential:
  • Boom Blox
    It didn't look that interesting from the video, but I hear it's a top seller. Have any of you played it?

  • Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party
    I have wanted to try DDR ever since I interviewed someone who played competitively.

  • Endless Ocean
    I can't decide if this looks boring, or whether it would have a relaxing exploratory appeal, like being inside an IMAX movie. My nearest Blockbuster doesn't have it available to try, unfortunately.

  • Rock Band
    This looks like so much fun! Want! But I'm sad because David has said he won't play it with me, and half the fun of this one is playing it with other people. It's a social game. I know, I know, I married an introvert, but ... *wibble* :( If I buy it, will someone come play it with me?

  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl
    My Warcraft guildies love this one. We have a borrowed copy that I need to try.

  • Trauma Center: New Blood
    Being able to perform virtual surgery sounds like a promising use of the Wiimote.

  • Wii Fit
    I wouldn't classify this as a game, really, but it does have the potential to engage my brain and distract me from the fact that I'm exercising.


My husband is interested in these:


These are not yet available, but I think they look interesting:
  • Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
    If this lets you actually swing and do battle with enemies by attacking and blocking with your lightsaber ... well, I'm there.

  • Lego Batman
    Maybe.

  • Monster Lab
    Create your own monster from over 100 million possible part variations. I don't know about this one. Spore is coming out, and Will Wright has never failed me, so will Monster Lab be worth bothering with? Is the premise one that will offer something unique via the Wii? I'm just not sure.


I would also like your input. (Well, as long as you're not recommending a racing game. It's not a genre I enjoy.) What game titles have you found to be interactive and engaging? I'd like for it to be a title that uses the Wii's unique input. I mean, the graphics for Star Wars: The Force Unleashed will likely be better on other consoles, but those other consoles don't let me actually swing a lightsaber in the same way.

After writing all this, I really want to go play with the Wii, but I have to be a responsible adult and do eighty bajillion errands. We're preparing to go on vacation, and there's a lot of stuff to get ready. On the bright side, we're taking it with us. :) Whee! Oui, we Wii!

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
goodjoan
May. 20th, 2008 02:16 am (UTC)
I still can't play much Wii, my shoulder immediately starts to flare up! My kids love it though. We may end up with wiifit eventually. I"m curious to try the yoga and balance programs!
pointedview
May. 21st, 2008 02:02 am (UTC)
I like the look of those, and the hula hoop program looks kind of fun, too!
jasondemotte
May. 20th, 2008 03:11 am (UTC)
Of the games you mentioned interest in the only two I can speak for are Rock Band and Trauma Center (and with that one I only played "Second Opinion" and not "New Blood")

Rock Band, of course I loved. I do think you should try to find people to play it with, but even by itself it's a fairly fun game. I played the 360 version, but I imagine that it's all mostly the same. The biggest difference is that you won't be able to download songs like you can with a 360 or PS3 (including the free download of Portal's "Still Alive") which is a shame, though even with the just song on the disc you'll have several hours worth of songs and three instruments to play them on, and four levels of difficulty. I strongly recommend this game.

Trauma Center... I suggest giving this a rent or picking up a cheap used copy. Perhaps New Blood changed some things but I found that it's predecessor was an interesting diversion, but not something I was glad I payed $50 for.

I'm glad you're enjoying your Wii and I hope it gives you a lot of enjoyable hours of fun.
pointedview
May. 21st, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
I was sorry to hear about the lack of downloadable songs for the Wii (especially since "Still Alive" is sort of in my range), but did find out that EA is planning to release a disc bundled with additional songs, so all is not lost.

Thanks for the suggestion on Trauma Center!

Maybe once I get back from vacation I can figure out how to make my Mii travel - maybe she can pay you a visit. :)
epicureanangel
May. 20th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
I loved Rock Band as well. We have it on the 360, and when we first got it, I couldn't get enough of it :) I'm a little busy these days to play sadly, but I would still happily pick it up again.

Trauma Center was interesting, but it didn't have much replay value for me, it was a series of dexterity and skill puzzles, and I don't usually like re-solving puzzles.

Boom Blox was fun for the bit I played with my husband. There are a series of them which remind me of Jenga. There are another bunch which are a cross between a carnival skill game and 3-D puzzle game. I'm not sure if it's worth the $50 yet.
pointedview
May. 21st, 2008 02:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the information on Boom Blox and the other games. Yes, the "worth the $50" factor definitely comes into my mind when I'm buying games. It has to provide value and adequate play time. I am a big fan of MMOs, and I know I'm generally going to get my money's worth and more out of those in terms of entertainment and time invested. With consoles and their frequently finite amount of content, I tend to be very cautious and careful.
hokiegirl1
May. 22nd, 2008 11:53 am (UTC)
I've only played the games that came with the sports package my boss gave us with the wii. I have heard lots of people raving about Rock Band and I have to admit that I'm kind of intrigued by Dance Dance Revolution since seeing it somewhere and Wii Fit since I saw it on the Today Show.
Hmm...Star Wars sounds like something J would love too. I could be the good wife and get it for him and tell him I'll play with him if you get to act out playing iwht the lightsaber.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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