In which it is better to look good than to play good … Wii, that is
Sometimes, being a parent actually has a few benefits. My pal Don Povia over at 30 Nothings hooked me up with a Wii system and some games as part of an ongoing semi-scientific study about the benefits of dads and daughters playing video games together. My daughter was extremely excited by the prospect, though her excitement dimmed a touch when she realized she’d have to be playing with me and not just her friends. Anyway, this is the first installment of several in our little Wii odyssey. Today: We party with Wii Party!
When you’re an 11-year-old girl, playing Wii isn’t just competition with the game or friends, it’s performance art. You’ve got to come up with the right one-liners, insult the online avatars at the appropriate times, and always, always look good doing it. My daughter is half-jock, half-princess, so she’s got both the trash-talking and the stylish-gamer sides rocking in full force. And with Wii Party, she hit me with both barrels.
Riley has been able to beat me in certain video games for a few years now; I introduced her to games at a young age, and since she’s a millenial, it’s encoded in her DNA or something. Sometimes, it’s gone well; she’s a Pac-Man addict even now and has a healthy respect for Madden. Sometimes, it hasn’t, like the time I let her drive a motorcycle all through the streets (and sidewalks, and yards, and malls) of Vice City in Grand Theft Auto. (My explanation to the bride: “But she didn’t steal it, honey! I stole it for her!” didn’t help matters much.)
Anyway, she’s now a Wii wizard, and so I knew what I was getting into when we sat down with Wii Party. Fortunately, this is a game that rewards dumb luck as much as skill, so I stayed in the mix on almost every game.
If you’re not familiar with the Wii system, it’s got this genius element to it: you can create little “Mii”s, avatars of yourself, your friends, your favorite TV and movie characters, and so on, and these characters will show up throughout the game. Riley and her friends have created Miis of everyone from their teachers to Jack Sparrow and Wolverine. This leads to bizarre collisions of worlds, like the bingo cards that featured a montage of their friends, their math teacher and Taylor Swift. It’s like the Facebook of a preadolescent’s dreams.
Still, there’s something a little disorienting and yet undeniably cool about watching a little avatar of yourself falling through the air or standing beneath a falling barrel. Makes you a lot less likely to sacrifice your onscreen character in a berzerker rage the way I used to do in Robotron.
Anyway, many of the Wii Party games reward guile as much as luck, and that’s where I reigned supreme. I’m long past the point of pulling my (onscreen!) punches with my kids; they’re old enough and good enough now that I have to go at pretty much full strength to have a chance against them. But they’re not quite savvy enough to do things like save their horse in Wii Derby; Riley’s steed was gassed by the first quarter-mile, while I laid back and broke out the quirt at the end to win by ten lengths. Small victories, baby!
Bottom line, Wii Party is an absolute perfect game to play with your kids, simply because if you can push a button or wiggle a controller, you’ve got a good chance of staying in the game. Until your batteries run out, that is.