On my trip to DC this week, I ran across a couple of Nintendo Wiis in stock at Target. For those of you who don’t follow video games, the Nintendo Wii is a notoriously hard-to-find game system. It’s been out for months, but you still can’t walk into a store and just buy one. Prospective customers learn through the grapevine when new shipments of Wiis will be delivered at local stores, and then patiently wait outside before the store opens in the hope that they’ll snag one. Some are bought just to make a profit – people resell them on Craigslist for $0-$200 more than their $250 sticker price.
The Wii’s selling point is the motion-sensing remote control. When playing the baseball game that comes with the Wii, you don’t push a series of buttons to swing when the baseball comes at you. Instead, you simply hold the remote control like a bat, and swing it. The better your swing, the better you hit the ball inside the game. Same with tennis: hold the controller like a tennis racket and put topspin on the ball, and presto, the virtual ball spins. It’s pretty impressive, and it’s playable by young and old alike. As long as you can wave the controller around, you can play.
This simple, intuitive control system makes the Wii a smash hit at parties. Anybody can grab the controller and play tennis, baseball, golf, whatever. No skills required. I’ve been wanting to throw myself a welcome-to-Houston party to get back in touch with our Texas friends, and I thought the Wii would be a great icebreaker. I’m not into video games – I haven’t owned a console in years – but when I saw the Wii in stock, I had to get it.
Then I started thinking – why not take it to Emily’s house and show it to her 4-year-old stepson? When we arrived, he had a friend over, and his friend recognized the Wii with wide eyes. They got all excited, and I had a great time watching them jumping around the living room swinging at virtual baseballs, swinging virtual golf clubs, and rolling virtual bowling balls. The other kid’s mom came over and went, “Wow, you have a Wii? How’d you get it?” She’d been dying to get one for her three kids.
It took me back to my childhood when one of our neighbors, Foster Cuthoff, had the coolest video game system on the block. We’d all go over to his basement and play Contra for hours and hours. Everybody thought it was so cool, and we would get all antsy over who would play next.
And then it happened. My feeble mind connected the dots, and I realized I’m the wrong owner for that Wii. It made so much more sense for Em to have it. I’d only dabble with it every now and then at parties, because to me games aren’t really any fun unless they’re shared. So, I gave it to Em. Her stepson was so excited that Em says he’s still going around saying how much he loves me.
Awesome. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. Granted, I didn’t save anybody’s life or anything, but it’s a hell of a good feeling.