Tuesday, June 15, 2010

And Wiiii flew the Wiikend

This is a long verbose ramble, but nevertheless, here it is.

I have never been too much of a fan of computer gaming and my attempts at mastering Prince of Persia or Wolfenstein 3D long back, never went beyond 2 or 3 levels. I never found it easy to get beyond those monsters guarding gates or get around traps or move through the mazes or fight. I just get killed. Never was much into gaming after that, save for a few sessions of Solitaire or Pinball. I let go the entry of the vastly improved RPGs (Role Playing Games) or MMPORGs (Massively Multi-player Online RPGs) which seemed to take gaming to a different realistic 3D level from the older gen 2D imagery. Gaming hardware!!! Nah!, at least till a couple or so years back.

The progeny (La Niña and El Niño) have made sure that there needed to be a gaming hardware at home, courtesy their cousins. Being the electronics junkie (not the rabid one though), I got the gaming hand-held, Nintendo Game Boy Advance (GBA) into the home. Never has a single piece of gaming hardware been used amicably between siblings, AFAIK. Endless quarrels over rights of use and overwritten scores followed. (Apple may even accept Flash on the iPad, but the 'rights of use' over game systems at home never will be resolved) Well, technology improved and this brought the Nintendo DS-Lite (with dual screens and touch capability), the more sophisticated brother of the GBA. Peer pressure mounted and after constant nagging and promises of good behavior (Blah!, there is nothing like that, was the late realization) I got it, not one, but two DS-Lite gaming consoles, to end the never-ending quarrels over rights to the lone GBA. And the DS-Lite supported a private form of Wi-Fi where the same game can be played with up to 4 different DS consoles. That orphaned the GBA to an almost never used status as the new DS could play the old cartridges and had a new sleek cartridge type for DS specific games. And I had to be crafty enough to get diverse cartridges that wouldn't be the bone of contention (which still was for a few games).

Thet brings us to the quicksand rip-offs in the gaming eco-system. The hardware is relatively cheap, buying the software, in the form of game cartridges is a big deal. If you buy 4 or 5 of them, they could very well exceed the price of the hardware itself. Buying cheap cartridges in the Burma Bazaar type shops is a no-no. The kids figured out that you can't save games in the cheapsters, which is important for them and without which you have to start all over from level 1 each time you start the console (geez, there are some 99 levels in some games). So much so for cheap rip offs. And by the time you get a good hang of the system, a new variant of the console is out. And thence starts the never ending cycle.

In comes the Internet and there are free emulators for the GBA and the DS-Lite out there and there are also the ROM images of the games which can be loaded and run on the PC. And add to that there is a 'game cheat' ecosystem where after entering data into the emulators, you get unlimited lives, open secret doors, jump to the final level, grab goodies etc etc. In addition to all the game cartridges possessed, the ROM images were another source of play with the home computer(s).

Picture courtesy: Wikipedia
[Downsized copy]
And then, the junkie parent decided to get the latest (ok, it is more than 3.5 years since its introduction) and greatest gizmo from Nintendo, the Wii, a black shiny one at that. It is almost an ultimate family gaming machine. No need to learn umpteen key combinations and meanings, special keys (A, B, X, Y, Start, Left/Right paddle etc) and uses natural hand movements to play. A small beautiful console that looks like a baby DVD player, the remotes similar to TV remotes, but with very few buttons to press and lovely silicone covers to grip with.

I am impressed with the hardware, its interactivity and the fun quotient. Last weekend had the whole home started on the Nintendo Wii. There are simple games like bowling, golf, baseball and tennis and as usual, the complex, multiplayer RPGs also. Of course, the kids beat us, the parents, in almost every game (the ones lost were branded as 'cheating by Wii' :-D) and then started the quarrels about which game to play between the siblings. :-( Déjà vu time!!! And I haven't yet figured out the Mario Kart races (I fall regularly into gorges, volcanoes, go the wrong way, cannot turn properly, do not use power-ups etc) while the kids around take it like a fish to water. And they seem to have special eyes for reading the game manuals for tips, but bark and balk when asked to do the same with their homework. The kid-gang, when they meet, converses only on Pokémon and its ilk or strategies (!). Probably, the most fun job would have to be a tester at a game software company.

Señora has restricted the access to the new addiction to all (the DS-Lites have already been banished for 2-3 months), to be used only on weekends, lest that all three (me, La Niña and El Niño) become zombies when we are at play. Till then, I see the beauty at eye-shot distance and salivate. I am smooth-talking the kids to allow me to use the DS-Lites later (to gain some experience in gaming), but they have rejected it saying that the scores cannot be tampered with and are asking me to play Pet Shop. :-(. [Reminds me of a hilarious Seinfeld episode where George Costanza gets a Frogger arcade machine which still has his top score, preserved for posterity]

Wii Nintendo, Wah!!!
(for now, Microsoft Xbox 360 or Sony Playstation 3 are in comparative conversations only. The home won't stand another one, even if someone gives it for free)


RS said...

Ha ha ha, I am imagining the smooth talking sessions. Reminds me of your ear-care post :P

I am with Senora, kudos to her efforts to avoid zombies at home.

I am planning to get a wii myself, no hopes of seeing the husband at home, not in the near future. Requesting the tech savvy RaMmmmm to enlighten which one to choose :)

Ramesh said...

I was waiting for this. In the whole world of uber cool bloggers, wasn't there even one gaming addict ?? At long last. Rammmm - you are super uber cool one. Envy you, if you can keep pace with the cyberkids.

Tell me - is the Wii as much as an attraction for La Niña as it surely must be for the El Niño ??

zeno said...

Time to start tech review blogging, I say! Then very soon you could be on your way to write columns fr rediff, sify, yahoo. who knows they might call you on ibnlive, ndtv during new product launches :)
Nah, I dont play games, hardly pinball. I dont even know how to play solitaire!

RamMmm said...

@RS-I have been warned not to touch certain cartridges. :-( That is caution enough.

Well, the kids give an ear to Señora or they'll get an earful. They consider me as loose and the 'buyer' of games. :-) A few "Please...Please...Please..." and I succumb. But not Señora. :-)

Sure you want to get into the big bad addictive gaming world? :-) Pity the husb. :-) [Dunno if you have watched 'The Big Bang Theory' on TV, but there is a funny episode where Penny, the lead female, is introduced to online RPGs and she gets addicted.]
Only 3 major providers of gaming hardware. (+) implies portable.
Nintendo-Wii, DS-Lite(+), Game Boy Advance(+)
Sony-PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PSP (PlayStation Personal)(+)
Microsoft-Xbox 360

And there are lots of PC (CD/DVD) based games, online or otherwise and in umpteen genres to keep you hitched.

Enjoy !!

RamMmm said...

@Ramesh-No No No No No. I am definitely not an addict. I hardly play. :-) I am the supplier to the gamers, you see. :-D The new one is a novelty. Everybody, including those with no clue of gaming can play the Wii. And there lies its USP with aural and touch feedback (the remote, Wiimote, has a mini speaker and it rumbles/vibrates during a game for feedback) and you hook it up to a large TV and it is hours of games.

La Niña is the ring leader when she plays with El Niño and the neighborhood kids. I hear only her voice shouting and bossing over others during a game. :-) She isn't interested in games like golf or baseball however. She is more into Pokemon genre these days and has a bunch of DS-Lite cartridges. Has a Pokemon nomenclature book which is like a botany book with different Pokemon names, genres (like the genus classification), habitat, skills etc which I think she knows fairly by heart. :-) All discussion with friends is on this always.

RamMmm said...

@zeno-Idhukku paer thaan usuppaeththi uduradhO?. :-D Appadiyellaam naDakkaadhunnu sollalai, naDandhaa nallaa irukkumnu thaan sollaraen. :-)

Poyi onnu rendu gameaavadhu kaththukunga. :)

ambulisamma said...

kalakkarel pongo!!

RamMmm said...


@RS-Add one more to the list from Nintendo. Nintendo 3DS, which is coming anytime. 3D hand-held gaming. How far will they go? :)

zeno said...

No No I really meant it. remember the other pet project tat i was pestering you for?
Watchin more kamal films huh?

RamMmm said...

@zeno - I recollect two things. One, the xlat garage project of Bharathi's poem translations and other you said, you were doing some film analysis (thesis, kind of :-))

Idhukkellaam ozhunga time manage panna kaththukkanum. :(