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Nintendo Wii Redefines Family Game Night

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The true battle of the gaming consoles began months before last Christmas. Beginning about October, and definitely by Black Friday – the Friday shopping day after Thanksgiving. Television, newspapers, and every advertising medium were filled with articles and advertisements for the new gaming consoles coming out just in time to put under the Christmas tree.

The gaming console picked to attract the most attention immediately was the PlayStation 3. It touted the Blu-ray player that was part of the standard equipment, and that Blu-ray player was supposed to be the feature that crushed all other game consoles. Unfortunately, the PlayStation 3 — like its predecessor and the original Xbox and Xbox 360 — was under produced. Supposedly the problem was in the blue diode chip that enabled the Blu-ray player to work. As a result, there were simply not enough PlayStation 3 units produced when it first came out. In my hometown, we couldn’t get enough PlayStation 3s to fill every Christmas stocking.

The Xbox 360 came out the Christmas before. It, too, was under produced and ended up inspiring a whole new generation of campers that took up the sport outside Wal-Mart, Costco, and other electronic outlet stores around the United States. The price tag of the PlayStation 3 was exorbitant, as was that of the 360 when it first broke.

But the same time Nintendo released its new game system called simply Wii. At $250.00 per unit, buying a Wii seemed like a no-brainer, except that people were getting wooed in by the graphics offered by the PlayStation 3. But the lack of PlayStation 3 units caused a run on the Wii at Christmas that has taken months to level off.

I had been looking for a Wii since before Christmas and finally scored one at a Best Buy in May. My eighteen-year-old and I had been diligently calling the local retail stores trying to nail one down. We even called in favors from some of his friends who worked at those places to find out about incoming shipments. The problem was, those incoming units generally disappeared as soon as they hit the floor. No one would hold one back. And you couldn’t buy one over the Internet. Not even from Amazon.

We got up bright and early on a Sunday morning and hauled butt down to the local Best Buy to grab a unit seconds after it was put out. My wife thought we were crazy. My son and I thought we were on a mission to rescue the Holy Grail. My nine-year-old came with us. It was his first time for such foolishness and he had a blast. After we got the unit, we hit the game shelves. Everybody got something.

Of course, Dad got the bill.

At home, we hooked the unit up to the 42-inch television in the living room and proceeded to play. The games were unpacked and passed around. Everybody got to play for a little while. Even when we weren’t playing our games, we all sat around watching everyone else play their game. Of course, we made comments on the player’s form – unfriendly comments that beggared gross retribution when our own time came to play.

Admittedly, I felt like an idiot waving the controller around. If someone had been looking through the window, I feel certain that the onlooker would have believed he was tuned into Discovery Channel and was watching a presentation involving tribal rituals and the sacrifice of small animals. There’s just no way to look cool while playing a Wii.

The controller is incredibly easy to use. All the new games made for the Wii are already coded to respond to the wireless controller’s motions. Button use is even at a minimum so you don’t get the sore thumbs you normally get with console systems. Whatever the programming is that allows the motion sensitivity to work with the games is amazing. In addition to the primary wireless controller, there’s also another wireless controller that plugs into it called a Nunchuk. Using different configurations of these two devices allows for many permutations of movements.

Since we got the Wii right at the end of school, we had time to play on the weekends and often used it as a stress reliever in the evenings. For the first time a long time, we were all gathered around the television and a gaming console. Over the years we’ve played board games and card games, but there is nothing like playing video games together or providing moral support during a hard-fought campaign. Every victory is celebrated together, and every defeat is never alone.

The Wii package comes with a collection of sports games, Wii Sports. The collection includes boxing, golf, bowling, tennis, and baseball. We had more fun, and more laughs, playing those games together than we did playing our individual games with support.

I fault the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 for not making more family-oriented games. They just don’t bring families together the way Nintendo games always have. Of course, I have to give it up to the graphics that are available on those two games systems. Nothing short of a PC matches up to them.

But the bottom line is while the 360 and the PlayStation 3 look beautiful, they just don’t put families together the way the Wii does. Not only is the price tag significantly cheaper, but also if you’re a family that loves to play games together, the Wii is the best way to go because there are more multi-player games that are age-friendly from parent to child.

About Mel Odom