Friday, January 12, 2007

The last Wii column (for a while)

You’re a fly named Yar
on a quest in space
You attack the shield
Of the Qotile’s base
But watch out, Yar!
He knows where you are!

Boy, does he ever. With only a few seconds of space-piercing siren as a warning, the savage bastard will transform into his deadly “Swirl” form, hurtling unerringly through the void to make astro-dust of the plucky Yar warrior who’s dared this suicide mission in defense of his peaceful insectoid race. Not even the weapons-jamming electromagnetic environment of the Neautral Zone – the phosphorescent band of ionized particles that is all that remains of the Qotile-destroyed Yar colony of Razak IV – can protect our chitinous hero. His only hope is to fly… to fly! To fly as only a mutated housefly can fly!

Yars' Revenge is a game from Atari… have you played Atari today? Probably not. Why would you? I’m nostalgically loyal, a conservative at heart, but I won’t try to argue that a 1981 joint, even a top-notch cart like Yars' Revenge, truly stands up 26 years later – even back in the golden dawn of the Reagan years we had to hypno-program our little minds with elaborate offscreen backstories in order to make each blinking dot or blocky blob resonate with meaning and excitement. Can you believe it? Even after blowing hundreds of dollars – post-boom, post-NEP dollars; Eighties dollars! – on console and cartridges, we still had to use our own imaginations to stave off boredom.

Actually, I could use a little bit more of that childlike facility for fantasy and make-believe right now; laying here on the couch, wracked with some kind boneache/stomachwreck strain of influenza, I’m obviously bored beyond reason and right thinking. This is what I’m reduced to: watching old Atari TV commercials on YouTube through the new Wii internet browser. I think I might be running a fever.

As neat-o as (surfing? Do we still say “surfing”?) experiencing the internet via a videogame system might be, it’s not all that convenient or practical compared to using, say, the perfectly good laptop sitting six feet away. This is the beta release, though, and future iterations of the Opera-based browser will certainly have more and more useful features, but the only situation in which I can imagine using it for any length of time is the situation I’m currently in: nearly immobilized, couch-and-blanket-bound, capable of only a few feeble gestures, with that six feet to the laptop looking like six miles. Sickday surfing. Can I download a plugin that gives me a virtual bell, where all I have to do is waggle the Wiimote pathetically and my mom gets an email asking for more ginger ale?

Hey, by the way, folks… this is going to be my last Wii-themed column for a while, honestly. I know I’ve been kind of fixated, but this business feeds on novelty like a whale feeds on zooplankton, and Nintendo’s basically dumped a bargeload of krill into my metaphoric ocean. Wii's social accessibility and arm-waving tech raise issues I haven’t in the past had much call to examine. Like, have you considered the high-five problem? Believe me, it’ll come up if you play doubles Wii Sports tennis -- that awkward moment after a particularly awesome shot where you and your partner would normally high-five, except you’ve both got Wiimotes tethered to your wrists, so you kind of clumsily clonk controllers together, or do some kind of a self-conscious two-handed thing. Obviously we’re looking a point of emerging social etiquette, here: will Wiitards develop their own kind of swordsman-style remote-to-remote salute… or will we just get better at accurately slapping skin with our left hands?

Which reminds me. To answer your question, Yes; it took about three seconds after the launch of the Opera browser beta for Wii-optimized porn sites (, etc) to make the scene. Thinking about it now, I’m kind of glad I didn’t install that sick-bell plugin…

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