Virtual reality has been almost as slow to arrive as flying cars. Twenty years ago, when I was playing Top Gun 2 with my NES joystick, I would have expected to feel a few extra G-forces tugging at my gut when I was gaming in 2007.
The Nintendo Wii is the console I’ve been waiting for all these years. Wii doesn’t plunge you into the full-body, sensory-extravaganza of post-cyberpunk virtual reality, but it does utilize your whole body. No more controller between your sweaty-palms. To play, you use the Wii Remote, which is a slender stick you point at the screen with your dominant hand. The Wii Remote knows where in the room you are, how you’re moving. In some games, like Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, you plug in the detachable Nunchuk for traditional joystick for navigation.
Console gaming has gone beyond pushing buttons with your fingers for decades. Remember Duckhunt and Nintendo Track and Field? Some accessories have been more successful than others. Virtual Boy and SNES Super Scope are remembered with nostalgia for their lack of popularity. On the other hand, new titles are released regularly for Dance Dance Revolution, which you can play at home with dance pads, since the late 90s, and I hear that Guitar Hero is pretty hot these days.
But before Wii, games that needed more than pushing buttons were either gimmicks or fun accessories for niche games. The Wii is unique because as a console it incorporates full bodymotion into play. It’s the system’s entire concept. The Wii normalizes using your body to play video games, and gives game developers a big venue to get creative. Future consoles will only have more immersive features. Wii is really promising for a person like me who can’t wait to really feel like she’s swinging a sword.
One of the things I love about video games is their capacity for indulging me in what I can’t do in real life, and Wii makes my indulgence even more engaging.
You don’t have to be a posthuman nerd like me to love the Wii. It’s accessible to people who aren’t hardcore gamers. My nongamer friends and family aren’t afraid to play Wii Sports with me because they don’t feel like they’re playing a video game. People with disabilities can bowl, play tennis, and golf (although Nintendo still needs to be more considerate that not everyone has full arm motion--WiiSports doesn’t have a sensitivity adjustment).
Wii is also accessible because of its price: it’s $250. Compare that to the Premium Xbox360 at $399 and the basic Playstation 3 is $500.
Old schoolers will enjoy Virtual Console. If you have the internet (I’m probably the only Wii owner in the world who doesn’t), you can spend Wii Points on classics from Dr. Robotnic’s Mean Bean Machine to Super Mario 64.
Wii Points cost old-fashioned dollars, so it’s about $5 for a NES game, $7 for SNES and Genesis, and $10 for Nintendo 4. You can buy a Classic Controller to play old school games, or use your GameCube Controller. (Wii is backwards-compatible with GameCube.)
Virtual Console may change retro-gaming. Even if you’re morally above downloading ROMs (you’re a better person than me), blowing dust out of old cartridges is annoying. Virtual Consoles is a legitimate way to preserve old games. Plus, $7 for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a sweat deal compared to the $40 of used copy of the original SNES cartridge.