Written by Jonathan Steele
A few months ago, my wife invited a good friend of hers to visit for dinner. We shall call her Melissa for the sake of the story. Melissa lives out-of-state and was in our area for a few weeks, so my wife thought it would be great to see her. We had a good time eating and talking and just relaxing in general. Later into the evening as we were sitting in our living room, Melissa pointed to my shiny black Wii U GamePad that was sitting prominently on our coffee table and asked, “Is that one of those new video game thingies?” Feeling rather like a nerd, I nonchalantly replied, “Oh yeah that’s the latest Nintendo console. It’s pretty cool. I play it every now and then.” She nodded politely and told me she’d never really been into that stuff, but that it looked cool. The conversation moved on.
Fast forward about a week.
We have Melissa over for dinner again, along with a few other friends of ours that live in the area. After good food and conversation, one of my friends said, “Hey! That’s that new Wii thing isn’t it? Do you think we could give it a try? I’ve never really played one.”
I was a little timid because I knew full-well that the Wii U is most definitely NOT the cool-kid console of today. The Wii U is for the weirdos that don’t play “real” video games for some odd reason, and are “stuck in the past” playing Mario games. I just happen to be one of those weirdos, but I never really cared to make a big deal out of it.
A little nervous, I said, “Well… sure if you guys really want to! Uh… We have this game called ‘Nintendo Land.’ It’s pretty cool. It’s like a series of Nintendo-themed mini-games.”
Dang it. Why oh why did I just suggest that?? I had played Nintendo Land a little bit by myself when I first got the console, and I thought it was so terrible that I wanted to sell it back. The games seemed childish and simple to me, and not much fun at all. But as I expected, they agreed to give it a try. It’s not like they could say “no” at this point. I was beginning to get a little terrified. These people are going to wonder why a grown man like me even has this stupid game.
“So how does it work?”
“Well… there’s this one game where you… well it’s basically like tag… the person with the GamePad is being chased by everyone else. And there’s another game that’s in a ghost mansion and the person with the GamePad is the ghost and has to scare all the other people while they try to burn him with a flashlight… There’s some other games too.”
I was feeling pretty dumb at this point. Video games these days are supposed to have big explosions and cool graphics and intense story lines. I was offering virtual tag. My friends were very nice about it though, and said they wanted to play. I could just hear them in five minutes, “Uh that was pretty cool I guess… Do you have any board games?”
Never in a million years could I have predicted what happened next.
It was mass hysteria. There was jumping, screaming, finger-pointing, and tons of laughter. I was in shock. They LOVED it. And keep in mind that the age range here is 22-27. After multiple rounds, Melissa said, ” NOW I understand why my brothers play video games all the time! This is amazing! How much does this thing cost?? I want one!” She had gone from non-gamer to completely enthralled in less than an hour. My other friend told me that next time I visit him, I had better bring this thing with me so he could show his girlfriend. He told me he couldn’t remember the last time he’d had that much fun playing video games.
Since that day, there have been many other similar stories. I gained confidence in my Wii U and started suggesting it to other groups of visiting friends. They all loved it. One good friend of mine who is an avid Xbox gamer told me that he is seriously considering getting a Wii U based on his Nintendo Land experience alone. Yet another hardcore gamer friend got a taste of Super Mario 3D World and insisted that he continue visiting once a week until we beat the campaign cooperatively. And so he did.
It was in those moments that I realized something about Nintendo: they don’t seem to fully grasp what is “cool” at times, they don’t have the latest graphics, and they don’t really seem to be keeping up with the other major players that well. Nintendo is a little weird. But there is one thing they get right every time: fun. Simple, clean fun. The kind of fun that brings out the kid in you again. This is especially evident in their games that feature local multiplayer. In the age of online gaming, people have all but forgotten what it feels like to sit in the same room with friends and battle it out in a video game. There is something about trash-talking back and forth with your buddy who is actually physically there, or jumping up for a high-five when your team has won. Nintendo Land (which is just one example of many great Wii U games) is as simple and silly as they come. But I double-dog-dare you to play it with your friends without having way more fun than your last Call of Duty match. And Nintendo hasn’t even released Mario Kart 8 yet.