This holiday season is full of video game contenders. The oldest is the XBox 360, Microsoft’s second venture into the world of consoles. Certainly the most hyped contender is Sony’s PlayStation 3, the behemoth in both power and price. But the newest entry, Nintendo’s Wii, is certainly the most creative thing to come out of video games in a long time.
The Wii falls far behind the XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 in terms of processing power and graphics, being only slightly better that Nintendo’s previous console console, the GameCube. What the console with the strange name lacks in power, however, it thoroughly makes up for in game play.
For a long time now, game play has taken a back seat to graphics. Since the introduction of 3D graphics, the last great leap forward in how we play video games, the video game industry has been geared toward producing better, more realistic graphics. The XBox 360 and PlayStation 3 are the pinnacle of this movement. The in-game graphics of even the first generation of games on these consoles are nearly photo-realistic, and they promise to only get better as time goes on.
We have been wowed by newer, better graphics for a decade now. Nintendo wisely decided not to go this route. Nintendo has always been a company that likes to try new things, whether they are a shining success, like the Game Boy and its latest iteration, the DS, or a tremendous failure, like the short – lived Virtual Boy. But now, like with the DS and the games “Super Mario Bros” and its successor “Super Mario 64” Nintendo now stands on the precipice of redefining how we play video games using what is now affectionately referred to by users as the Wii-mote.
Shaped like a regular television remote, except with a directional pad and buttons marked with things like “A” and “+” and a trigger on the bottom, the Wii-mote, along with its smaller “nunchaku” companion, contains motion-sensing devices. Now, what was once done with a press of a button is done with a flick of the wrist. Where once passively sat on the couch, now they stand and swing, throw, and punch exactly the same as they would if they were actually doing the activity.
The most obvious application of this, and the one included with the Wii, is in sports. In “Wii Sports,” gamers are given five sports to play, ranging from bowling to boxing. Make no mistake, “Wii Sports” would be a bad game on any other console. The graphics are very weak and the game play lacks any real depth. What keeps this game and the Wii itself, from being a total failure is the fact that now people can play in an entirely new way. When you bowl, you use the Wii-mote as if it was a bowling ball, and the game responds in kind. This somehow makes it extraordinarily fun and simple to play, not to mention accessible to anyone who wants to try.
This new method of control is awkward at times, though. Playing the new “Legend of Zelda,” for instance, is kind of an experiment in figuring out just how this new control scheme will affect traditional games. When you start playing you are never quite sure if you are supposed to move one of the controls in some direction or press a button to get your desired effect. The more you play, however, the more intuitive it gets. Since this is only the first generation of games, especially “Zelda,” which was actually designed for the GameCube but then reworked for the Wii, how we interact with the game can only become more intuitive and accessible from here.
And accessibility is really the next step in video games. More and more people are playing video games, so it is only a matter of time until games become simple enough to control for anyone to play, yet complex enough for anyone to stay interested. The Wii is the first step on that path.
All of this is a major adjustment, especially for those who play games all the time and almost instinctively know how to control games. All of a sudden the rules of the game have changed, and gamers and the companies that suit their tastes, especially Sony and Microsoft, will have to work to catch up.