Thursday, July 24, 2008

Are Wii having fun yet?

I feel so stupid. I need to find someone who’ll teach me to Wii.

You don’t speak Nintendo? The wildly popular Wii game console is the über-interactive game that even the most frantic Christmas shoppers couldn’t find anywhere last year unless they camped out in a Costco parking lot at 3 a.m. For days. Or dashed to Best Buy at 7 a.m. as soon as they saw a telltale ad in the Sunday paper.

In Cambria, we’re many miles from the big-box or discount stores that were the only places getting large shipments of Wii consoles (if you can call a dozen units at a time “large”).

There was no way we could beat everybody else to the draw. By the time we had our Tribune in hand, all the other potential buyers who lived in SLO or Paso already were lined up, Visa cards in hand.

Fortunately, the granddaughters for whom we wanted the Wii hadn’t requested one, and didn’t know we were looking for one, so they weren’t disappointed Christmas morning when we weren’t able to produce one.

Discouraged, I announced that if we stumbled across a Wii for sale, we’d buy it. But continue my relentless, time-consuming search? Not a chance.

Then in April, Husband Richard and I were window-shopping our way through a Bay Area mall.

As we strode past a game store, he saw an overhead sign inside that said, “Wii games.” A few steps later, he mused, “I wonder if they have the consoles.”

I U-turned so fast, I almost spun us both like a top. I pranced in and asked if the store might possibly have Wii consoles for sale.

“You’re in luck,” the hip young game-seller said brightly. “We just got our biggest order yet, a dozen of them.” Before he could blink, I yanked out my credit card and said, “I’ll take two,” one for the girls, and one, by golly, for Grandma and Grandpa. The game looked like fun.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the salesman said. “Only one to a customer.”

I’m sure my face fell. “But we need one for our granddaughters in Davis,” I said dejectedly, “and we want one for us, too.”

The hip young game-seller looked at us and smiled broadly, perhaps struck by the ludicrousness of people our age determined to own a Wii. He stage-whispered, “If you can give me two different credit cards, I can make it work.”

Now, I suspect I’m better trained in Nintendo than most grandmas. The boys and I have played video games together since the 1960s, gradually progressing from the now venerable Atari consoles to newer, better systems.

I got hooked on certain classical programs … such as Pac Man and Tetris … never the shoot-’em-up, beat-’em-up ones or the games in which Mario chases his tail through 2,876 levels.

Did I say hooked? When our house was destroyed by fire in April 1994, my Mother’s Day gift (from a wildly giggling son) was a new Gameboy.

“I’ll bet I’ve got the only mom in the world who needed one of these for Mother’s Day,” Sean said as he gasped for air between hysterics.

Through the years, I’ve learned a lot from video games:
• Eye-hand coordination.
• Strategy — put that piece here and the next one there and I’ll get a Tetris!
• Patience, because the one piece you need doesn’t show up for a long, long, long time.
• Self-control, or I’d take a sledgehammer to the game when it’s just beaten me for the 15th time in a row.
• And, most important, when to give up and go read a book.

But this time, I’m stumped. The thick owner’s manual for the Wii is like cyber-Sanskrit.

To play, you transfer what you already know about, say, tennis, to a game that you physically play while also working the controller. Using your best tennis swings, you must keep a death grip on the controller, so you don’t wind up flinging it through the TV screen or out the window while you “hit” the cyber ball.

Tricky, yes?

Guess I’ll have to find a clever 6-year-old to teach me.

Just imagine how dumb that makes me feel.

E-mail Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribune

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