Yes, Naaman, there is a Thanksgiving. Our families are gathered up in the bigger houses, planning dinner, and finding some way for several adults and kids to get along. This year brings me to Atlanta. This year also makes the Wii the supreme ruler of all that is collaborative game play. Well that and a Harry Potter trivia game which you just can’t win against a 10 year old.
I’ve not been a big fan of the Wii. I don’t hate it either. But its never really got me to run and buy one. I like the controller because it really re-thinks modality. Then again, I like the PS style controller because it has accuracy and feels more like, well, a video game – rather than shaking the last bit of ketchup out of a bottle. The Wii controller does have a nice advantage – small kids can easily use it. And thats really cool to see a 2 year old play a simple game that lasts 20 seconds.
And so, after several rounds of proving I was indeed a better jedi than the rest of the family and a few rounds of having a pickachu vs mario battle – I decided to get my older brother a birthday gift: FIFA 09. My brother and I have an established history around this game; his two young boys were puzzled by our elation. This didn’t look ‘cool’ nor did it have super powerups or cheat codes visible (some games now a days have a ‘cheat code’ menu item for you to enter the code – what ever happened to L L R R U Fire?)
We loaded the first game and proceeded to our normal epic battle of England v Argentina – the two boys scanned the other menu items. “Look daddy you can play with your Mii” “oh wow you can buy stuff at the FIFA store with game points” “You can play a FooseBall Game!” Yet we older people, just clicked on through to our match….and the boys proceeded to look at the manual. I admire EA for making kiddie style games so you can pass the controller back to someone who doesnt care to play as Didier Drogba.
Not knowing the Wii controls, we fumble around a bit as the boys try to explain to us what the bars, numbers, and letters mean. With each explanation, we would politely say “This isn’t about energy boost” or “It doesn’t really matter if the player is hurt” or, my favorite, “Really, I wouldn’t rather play with my Mii”—Thought the boys did make me a nice avatar before I showed up.
As they began to see what we were doing they would point out, well, the obvious “oh now you can select where you want to pass the ball – that’s new!” We tell them no its not. “Oh hit shows you the spin of the kick” Um, that’s also not new. Whats interesting is, they didn’t comment about the graphics or game play realism. And why should they. But they did once ask if this was like the TV soccer. They sought to find out what made this game new for the Wii and were insistent that there was something unique about it (they were right, there is an advanced play mode where you can point with the remote to place the ball).
Finally, as we made it to half time, I said “so you know we’ve been playing EA FIFA since before you boys were born. Its really been the same game all this time. Its not about the power ups or the realism or the Miis or the advanced play control”.
“Whats it about then?” asked one.
Before I could respond, my brother says “It’s about beating your sibling senselessly and trying not to get a red card.”
“Oh” said the boys and nothing else.
The next evening when I handed the remote to the boys to play, one of them asked me only one question “now how do i slide tackle again?” I smiled and thought there was indeed there was hope for the universe.