Sunday, January 28, 2007

I am going to stop talking about the goddamn Nintendo Wii soon. I do sort of have a life away from that box. However, let me just explain to those who are Wii-ignorant why it's more interesting than the typical video game system.

Throughout the ages, 99% of video games have been controlled by one of the following methods
  • Pressing buttons
  • Turning dials
  • Pushing (optimistically named) joysticks
So, say you were playing a basketball game and you wanted to perform a lay-up. You'd probably hit Button A. Then, if you popped in a NASCAR game and you wanted to change gears, you'd probably hit Button A again. Playing an adventure game where you needed to defuse the bomb, assassinate the dictator, then pilot the space shuttle back to the White House where you'd lobby the president to consider changing the capital gains tax? Button A would do the trick. Button B causes a filibuster.

Obviously that's a lot of fun, but not entirely intuitive. Being a successful lobbyist would not necessarily translate into being good at this game.However, this is pretty much how video games have worked since the dawn of man. All that's changed over the years is that the graphics have gotten better. In the 1970s when you played hand-held Mattel football, your player was a rectangular red blip. These days, powerful video graphics chips allow you to actually see the chimp-like smirk on the President's face as he adds signing statements to his biweekly pardons of the Bush Twins (courtesy of two rapid presses of Button A).

Nintendo decided to do something different with the Wii. They reconsidered whether pressing Button A was really the most satisfying way to hit a video tennis ball. Instead, they built a controller that allows you to swing your arms like you're holding a tennis racket to play tennis, or grasp it in your fist and punch to fight in a boxing match. They did this by including tiny spring-based motion sensors (accelerometers) so that the controller can detect when you move it up, down, left, right, rotate it, etc. So, when you play the bowling game, you'll probably be pretty effective if you grab the controller and swing your arm as though you were holding an actual bowling ball. Unsurprisingly, this is markedly more enjoyable than picking up the 7-10 split with a precisely timed presss of well-worn Button A. In a future adventure game, I'm looking forward to lobbying the President by wielding my Wii controller like a machete and joining him on a brush-clearing excursion on the ranch.

After having played with this for a week, I'm left wondering how long it will be before they find new ways to use this technology. For example, a soccer game could be great if they sold a strap that allowed you to affix the controller to your shoe. You'd kick, and the video ball would fly. That's an obvious one. However, with some imagination, they could come out with new controllers that would allow the development of the following fantastic Wii games:
  • Wii Eating - This ain't your grandfather's chewing game! Insert your Wii Retainer and advance through increasingly frantic eating levels! Featuring a beef jerky Big Boss battle!
  • Wii Taxes - The virtual pen is mighty than the sword! Fill out the virtual forms but DON'T GET AUDITED! Beginners will love navigating through the 1040WiiZee!
  • Wii Sleep - How still can you hold your remote? Bonus points accumulate after 8 hours of statue-like excitement!
  • Wii Wii - Control your player while he plays Wii games! Meta mania!
Nintendo, there's more where these came from. Call me!


Pensive Turtle said...


Just this weekend I was having a conversation about the exact same thing! Only we were being naughty and came up with "Wii-Nii: The Virtual Masturbation Game."

I suppose great minds think alike :)

Tasty said...

Wii Wii cracks me directly up.

Mike said...

Pensive Turtle, oh I went there in my discussions too, except in my version it wasn't a one-player game like in yours.

Tasty, you loves the meta.