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A Wii Thanksgiving test on the family: Part 2

Zack Stern

My family gathers in northern Wisconsin each Thanksgiving; we all fly or drive across the country to reach this rural area away from TV reception and high-speed internet. We've always played games at these gatherings, and for the past three or four years, I've brought videogames. (We have a TV for DVDs and videotapes.)

In previous years, I lugged a GameCube and/or PS2 across two time zones. The most popular games have been unique or competitive titles; favorites have included Bomberman and Katamari Damacy. This year, I brought a Wii, and all the extra controllers I could find -- three Remotes and one Nunchuk.

Our Thanksgiving gathering is smaller than normal; we're missing a collection of cousins that regularly visit. But my parents, sister Alison, her boyfriend Zurich, and I have been playing the Wii, and this post documents our experience.

The amount of videogames each of them plays varies from never to occasionally. Alison has gamed over the years, but usually only with me. Zurich has a PS2 but doesn't play much anymore.

My parents don't play videogames. My dad didn't realize that Nintendo was launching a console; he thought I was trying to buy a PlayStation 3. My mom calls the Nintendo system the "Wee Wee."

None of them has liked the console name. My dad asked, "They could have gotten a better name, don't you think? Or does it stand for something?" All of them have wondered about its meaning, and all I can do is trail off, saying, "You know ... for kids."

Once we set it up, I gave them a Remote to create Mii characters. With little guidance, they aimed the pointer to change hair, type names, and otherwise build the players. My sister was amused at the unplanned resemblance between her character and my mom's Mii. They had fun making the avatars; Zurich has revisited his a few times to update its hideous appearance.

Wii Sports has been popular, with them regularly playing everything but golf. Alison boxed Zurich last night, and after pummeling him to the mat, she asked, "Can I punch him when he's down?"

"That could be a good workout," she added, towering over his virtual, crumpled body. "Tomorrow morning, we'll put on our gym clothes and come down here..."

"... And I'll get my ass kicked," Zurich added.

Seeing them play, I've grown less concerned that they wouldn't be interested in the Wii and more watchful for injuries; nobody has thrown a controller across the room, but my mom hit Zurich in the hand with a tennis swing. Everyone has been engaged in the games instead of their surroundings, wildly flailing Remotes around themselves. (The exception is my dad; he has usually played from the couch.) Four-player tennis requires a big, open room; I may have to move furniture around my apartment to make it work at home.

Rayman Raving Rabbids has been another favorite; we've most-often played the dancing mini-game. This game, similar to Samba De Amigo, requires players to shake the left and/or right controller in time with the music.

While my sister and mom competed, my dad grew interested, but I wasn't sure if he'd make an attempt. He heard them play many rounds of the beginning level, with Misirlou as the background music. He asked from the couch, "Have you got anything like [Willie Nelson's] Stardust?"

He eventually stood up for the first time to play -- he'd even bowled from the couch, shoveling the ball down the lane -- laughing and smiling while shaking his wrists to the music's beat. We were all surprised at how well he picked it up.

After the music ended, he deadpanned about the better of two bland choices, saying, "There was a lot of pressure. ... Between this and [watching] the Vikings [football] game ... I'd go for this." He then bowed out, adding, "I'm not sure my cardiologist would permit a second game."

My mom, still impressed with the performance, said, "I was amazed. I didn't think you had rhythm."

"I have rhythm," he answered.

The Wii has been popular with my family of never-to-occasional gamers. The big question I still have is about longevity; will the Wii keep them entertained, or is it a novelty that will soon grow stale? Even if it doesn't turn them into regular gamers, I'm sure we'll revisit the Wii on future Thanksgivings.

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