My son Noah is getting to the age when he will begin playing video games. So in the interests of male bonding I took him down to the local Best Buy to pick up the new Nintendo Wii.
This is the latest game console that allows users to wave a stick and watch their every move on a TV screen carried out by a videogame avatar.
Wave the wand one way during “virtual bowling” and you’ve got a gutter ball. Don’t straighten your wrists on impact and you’ve just sliced in “Wii golf.”
But both Noah and I were more interested in how wielding a sword with the same stick in Zelda: The Twilight Princess would help us slay the bad guys and save Hyrule.
I did not expect to be able to buy one. It’s not so much that there’s a waitlist, it’s just that they tend to sell out the instant they hit the store shelves.
As if to prove it, as soon as I entered the store, I encountered a red-faced man angrily chewing out a store clerk about why they were out of stock for the third week running.
“We only get a dozen or so every week,” the salesman said, “and most of those are spoken for.”
The man stormed out of the store. He was obviously angry. I went with Noah to see whether there was some Xbox360 game he and I might enjoy. Me more than him since the 360 is more of my generation.
While we were standing in the Xbox aisle, the same salesman who just dismissed the angry Wii customer came up and asked how he could help us.
“Well, I don’t imagine you have a Wii laying around,” I joked.
He shifted his eyes side to side.
“You want one?”
“Of course,” I said. “Do you have one?”
“Let me see what I can do,” he said. “Stay here.”
I waited. I waited a long time. But soon enough he came back. Tucked under his arm wrapped in magazines was a Nintendo Wii.
“You’ll need another controller. You should think about the Wii Play, which comes with another set of games for an extra ten bucks.”
I thanked him profusely. He had one more piece of advice.
“My suggestion is you make a beeline to the checkout register. If anyone asks, tell them it was a return.”
I took the Wii under one arm and Noah under the other and did as I was told.
Because he is of that age where he sometimes understands some things, Noah kept saying as we stood in line, “Daddy, we have to get out of here!”
When we finally got to the last security station, the guard checking receipts saw the Wii and said, “Who are you? Some kind of VIP?”
Back home, I unpacked our Wii. I set up my Nintendo account and created a set of Miis –– Nintendo’s avatar system that allows you to create an on screen character to represent you,
If you’ve ever wondered what you’d look like as a Playmobile doll, it’s worth checking out. The visual options give you surprising flexibility to tailor your on screen presence to who you are. After waving the wand I had created a fairly convincing version of myself, my wife (that she approved of) and Noah who, at the age of 3, could have cared less.
So once I had my Mii’s in order, I cleared an open space on my living room floor and inserted the Wii Sports module to see what all the buzz is about.
Of the five sports, Tennis, Baseball, Bowling, Golf and Boxing, Bowling is by far the easiest to master. Immediately you get a sense of what you can and should do to make the ball roll, spin and knock down the pins. Before long you stop thinking about how you look and that’s when the silliness ensues.
Try golf and tennis and you quickly realize you are as bad on screen as you are in real life, not to mention how much worse you are without a club or racket to lean on between shots.
Boxing elicits the most ridiculous looking human behavior imaginable, with bobbing, weaving and flailing arms, but the good news is when you get hit you don’t actually bleed.
As much fun as my wife and I had competing against each other, Noah was having none of it. He liked the duck hunting game, but for him it was less about shooting the targets and more about the “bang!” the controller makes when you pull the trigger. Hand him Link’s sword in Zelda and he’s like an Octopus with eight machetes slicing up everything in his way, including the couch and dogs in the room.
What I’ve learned from my Wii experience so far is that thumbs and trigger fingers are overrated. I can kill more alien Covenant in Halo than any dude on the block because my hands have mastered the unwieldy Xbox controller. But my wife consistently beats me at tennis, golf and other video sports that seem to require full body coordination.
That’s probably why Wii is so intensely popular with casual and hardcore gamers alike. It’s the great equalizer. All the countless hours I’ve logged blasting aliens on the Xbox or wandering around Azeroth in World of Warcraft don’t amount to a hill of beans when I’m standing in my living room pretending to swing a bat or a club or a sword.
And, that’s just fine with me. I guess I was getting rusty on humility.