The new breed of console owner created by the success of the Nintendo Wii remains shrouded in mystery. In the past year Nintendo has pulled off the astonishing feat of marketing a game console to consumers who have not played games since youth. They've won this generation's console war by delivering uncomplicated fun to masses. To their chagrin, Nintendo has largely abandoned the hardcore consumer to the Xbox and Playstation 3; instead they have created a new consumer whose tastes are different from those of lifetime gamers. But the tastes of this consumer are still pretty much unknown, aside from the fact that they love Wii Sports. How do they go about buying new games? What sort of things are they looking for from their games, and are long-form narrative games among them?
In search of some answers I interviewed my roommate Christine, who got a Wii this spring as a graduation present. She's the model for the new Wii owner: she's never owned a console, she doesn't follow games in general. Most of her exposure comes from me. So I got her to take a break from studying for the New York bar exam today and sat her down for some questions.
Q: So, did you have any game consoles in your home when you were growing up?
A: Um, we had a Mac classic. Does that count? A Macintosh. We had this one game I used play obsessively, it was called glider. I tried to find it few years ago.
Q: What was glider about?
A: You take the place of a paper airplane and you glide around this house--- it's not haunted but there are appliances on. You had to stay away from open flame, and you were propelled by all these vents and fanss. The object was to get through the house without crashing into furniture or being overtaken by a propeller or balloon. Not only did I get through the entire house every time (it takes about and hour and half), but then when I got to last room I would intentionally not finish the game and go through backwards.
Q: How long did it take you to work up to this level of skill?
A: I played it for years. If we found glider right now I could do it today. I still know the location of all the mystery vents. There were these dark rooms and you would have to fly over the light switch. Sometimes you had to knock a can of grease over and slide over a table. I didn't have a lot of friends growing up. Just my friends from viola camp.
Q: Were you exposed to any violent games on your Macintosh SE 30?
A: Ummm, no. But glider was fucking awesome. What about Mac Ski? Does that count?
Q: Does your knowledge of the fact that I spent most of my childhood ripping the still-beating hearts from my enemies change your opinion of videogame violence?
A: [laughing] I think it makes a lot of sense. I can picture little Iroquois sitting too close to the TV comparing himself to Beowulf. What was the sword's name? Frumkin?
Q: I'm going to leave in that total non-sequitur. Over the last three years you've seen me playing a lot of crazy stuff on the TV while you're surfing kitten blogs in the living room. Have any favorites?
A: I hate Halo. I don't like the noises it makes. My favorite is Grand Theft Auto. It reminds me of Sim City, which I also played growing up. I love the New York aspect, the world they created, all the hidden treasures for people who play it. Or people who watch people play it.
Q: You bring some considerable legal expertise to the viewing of Grand Theft Auto. Describe some of the intentional torts you've seen me commit.
A: I think the best-case scenario for me on Tuesday is I open up the Bar exam and there's a question with this fact pattern: an Eastern European gentleman who has good taste in clothes commits grand larceny, assault, battery, second-degree burglary (entering a building with the intent to commit a crime), solicitation and conspiracy (those two crimes don't merge in New York). And we're forgetting homicide! You've killed people right? [She shoots the interviewer a pointed look] Felony murder, regular murder, involuntary manslaughter, voluntary manslaughter, arson. Basically GTA is a checklist for me if I get a criminal law question on the bar exam.
Q: In general, if you see a game console in the house of an adult, how does this change your perception of them?
A: What game console? Wii? Playstation? Are we talking a couple guys in a frat house with Rock Band, or our apartment?
Q: Let's say it's an Xbox.
A: Umm, do they play Halo with 14-year-old boys on the internet who insult their gamertag?
Q: Let's change the subject. When was the moment when you said to yourself: “The Nintendo Wii... I have to buy that shit.”
A: You and I were talking and you telling me how it was like a remote control. It seemed very doable to me. You guys used the playstaion 2 controller as a de facto remote control for watching DVDs, but the controller makes no sense to me. It has too many buttons. But the Wiimote feels like a remote, it makes a lot of sense to me. And that was really appealing. I wouldn't have to spend an hour. Also, I really really really like Miis
Q: After you depart to become a high-powered attorney, who will you turn to if you want to buy Wii games?
A: You know the answer. Do you think I'm not going to you and asking, “What are the nerds on the blogosphere into these days? Also, you recommend good games, like Boom Blox. You're not going to go recommending something with a lot of dragons or something. I try to avoid slaying.
Q: Wii Fit told me that I was a fatty. Discuss.
A: Wii fit does not know what it's talking about. That said, I don't want to make you feel bad, but it told me that I was doing very well when I stepped on it for the first time in like two months.
Q: I don't know how to put this. How would you feel about me surreptitiously filming you playing Wii Fit in bikini-style underdrawers?
A: You'll be hearing from my lawyer.
PS-- Good Luck on the bar exam, Christine! You're gonna do great. If any readers want to wish her well you can send your regards to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can confirm that she is really excellent at glider. If anyone wants to try unwind after the exam with some glider, it can be found here.