Thursday, November 23, 2006

["Wii" pun goes here]

“You’re not bringing that Nintendo or whatever to the party, are you?”

The lady is not pleased; that damp look of disapproval is stereotypically familiar to the attached male gamer – to the attached male, period – and no matter how many episodes we blubber or bully or “c’mon baby” our way through, it doesn’t get easier to take. Because part of us knows we’re doing wrong; part of us knows our girls are right to roll their eyes at our escapist toy fetish, part of us understands that bringing a videogame system to a house party – a party whose partial purpose is for your girl to meet most of your friends for the first time – is just not cool.

“But, baby,” I whine, “It’s for work! The Wii is the biggest videogame event in five years, and I need to test it out in field conditions!”

I’d actually started speaking that way; the manner in which Nintendo’s PR people shipped me my demo unit lent itself to military metaphors – white delicacy of Wii and accessories foam-fitted into 20 pounds of indestructible aluminum gun case. This kit’s meant to travel, and travel hard. The image Nintendo’s marketing presents is one of wholesome partytimes, ecstatic toothy shrieks of joy... and if a jubilant, affluent, multiracial crowd of sexy people won’t come to Wii than Wii is sure as shit going to go to them.

Pre-party is cocktails and dinner with my girl, her sister and her sister’s friend, this massive Miami Vice drug-money metal suitcase making an odd fifth at our table. Even with the Wii boxed and inert, the ladies – hardcore nongamers from the old school, all – are warming up to it, saying its adorable name over and over and giggling, making it a bit of a mascot. Sis snaps pictures with the expressed purpose of making her children jealous. Wii’re off to a good start.

At the party I tried to keep things organically focused for a while, bullshitting, beer-cracking, making haphazard introductions in the narrow-halled, small-kitchened maze of my buddy’s house… but the Wii would not be denied. Most every boy in the place knew where it was and what it was, returning to its case to sort of gaze and paw and sniff. The air soon filled with this kind of ultrasonic whine, as in that moment when a dog’s been waiting too long for treats it knows are there and lets the frequency of its impatience drop into the range of human hearing. Thirty seconds of painless setup later and old-fashioned partying was over: Wii Sports had begun.

A smashing success! As in, as soon as we fired that baby up, shit was getting smashed -- as, I suppose, were we. The very first swing I took with the Wii’s motion-sensing controller, a big-balled aggressive macho bastard of a serve to open my first round of tennis, and I knocked over a totally full bottle of Heineken. A minute later someone kicked over a wine glass. Spectating knees were clocked hard by virtual bowlers; wild home-run attempts nearly knocked noses out of the park; tee-shot backswings came shriekingly close to unsuspecting chins; solid right hooks sent improperly secured controllers flying.

So, yeah: important safety tip, eh? In addition to Nintendo’s standard epilepsy warnings, displayed prominently in all their products since a bunch of Japanese kids kicked it seizure-style during a particularly flashy episode of Pokemon in '98, the Wii has added constant onscreen reminders to tether the Wiimote to your wrist with the provided strap. Nannyish ass-covering advice, I know, but ignore it at your own peril: the gaming blogs are filling up with shot after blurry, overexposed, cellphone-camera shot of the butterfingered carnage – spiderwebbed televisions, shattered lamps, spilt lips. Also – and this is personal experience talking – be very careful when Wiiing in an 8x8 room filled with drunks, especially if said room features a four-foot segment of tree-trunk rather than a coffee table.

Safety issues aside, here’s Wii in a nutshell: my fiancée’s sister’s friend (is there a one-word term for this relation?) picked the Wiimote up off the stump to try her hand at tennis. As a woman a shade over fifty, she’s about as far to the shallow outside of the traditional videogaming demographic as one can be without being blind, armless and Amish… but she is a tennis player, and she immediately got into the game, her old skills taking her into a fierce, foul-mouthed forecourt rally with the computer opponent. Three minutes later, she was handing the controller off to a hipster half her age, giving tips on swing and timing.

That’s the kind of scenario that had Nintendo execs and idea-men hard in the pants when they conceived the Wii – a zero-curve, zero-barrier, intuitive game experience that would just sit there on the coffeetable inviting play by anyone, turning nongamers into happy fans.

I’ve got a tough customer on my hands, though, the Mikey of videogames, a sensitive creature of crossed arms and zero interest, her anti-game defenses still strong; we’ll see if Wii can recruit her. Updates as they happen, fellow arcade-raised man-children; if I can get my girl playing, anything is possible.

(PS: Don’t get your hopes up.)

Stormtrooper Mii by Fish


virgin gladys said...

Aw, man.

I still call bullshit on video games at parties---they're the biggest anti-festive buzz-crusher since those wacky heroin days-- a real breadbox-size turd in the conversational punchbowl.

Kind of like being back in grade 11, guys throwing down their ski jackets over their two-fours (the stingy man's ottoman) and sitting there with a sativa/acid/pilsner ten yard stare. Zero interest, indeed.

Why bother even coming to a party if you're not interacting with something that has a pulse? And by interacting I mean not standing side by side, staring at a screen.

Though g-d knows I don't want to be the stereotypical"you're so immature" sneer-ster.

Maybe there just needs to be a female equiv----ejaculation seminars in the parlour, mayhaps?


Electrolucy said...

Aww...I'm bummed I missed it. I think Wii might actually pass for the equivalent of Twister at a party - in a good way.

banyuks! said...

you mean: people connecting in pro-scribed, pre- fabricated, mass-media-sanctioned, ways? Gimme lurking in a tube top over a foosball table any fact actually, DON'T.

Why not whip out a deck of cards or monopoly while you're at it. or hey, BATTLESHIP! No one plays (fill in boring childhood game)......... anymore. oh well. Maybe it's because we're not socially awar(kward)eteens anymore (I hope) and there's a social if you go to a muthafuckin party, it is your obligation to at lesast try and engage...or be entertaining...or failing that...take up space without staring into space... . Which brings us back to....

hey! those party games are just the thing to break the ice! Truth or Dare!

MJH said...

Heroin's an anti-festive buzz crusher?