Rub, Wiggle and Blow

Rub, Wiggle and Blow
Public Speaking with Nintendo

Jiahui Cai | 9 Dec 2008 13:15
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I wasn't sure what to expect when I started my first game of Brain Age. It promised to work my cerebrum, but first I needed to tell it whether I was in a quiet place. Sure, of course. I was waiting for a friend at the patio of a Starbucks café, and apart from the occasional slurp of a latte and the sound of magazine pages being flipped, there was nothing disagreeable about the noise level. I tapped Continue.

"Please say the color of the words you are about to see."

Rats.

By then I had gotten used to talking to my machine, but that wasn't what bothered me. The somewhat bohemian crowd would have ignored me completely if it weren't for how I pronounced my words. "Blue. Buh-loooo," I spoke slowly into the mic, enunciating every syllable. Detection of words was spotty, an annoyance later attributed by many websites to the game's Japanese origins and the strange manner in which Engrish is spoken there.

"Bla-yellow!" I corrected myself halfway for a picture of the word "black" which was colored yellow. Talking to inanimate objects wasn't funny, but tripping over my tongue was. I had a Brain Age of 47. The friend I was waiting for had been sitting at the next table with a wide smirk on his face for the last 10 minutes.

***

"Objection!" I called out in the bus just as it opened its doors for new passengers. From the corner of my eye, I spied the driver looking into the mirror for the source of the disturbance. The voice activation in Phoenix Wright was mercifully infrequent, and I went through the motions of the murder trial without a hitch as the bus rolled along until ...

"Objection!"

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I struggled to be heard above the engine by the in-game judge but blurted out the word just as the engines hushed while the bus stopped at a traffic junction. The driver looked once more into the mirror, more puzzled than annoyed. I flashed a smile and a nod and got back to my quest for justice - I had gotten used to defying public decorum.

By the time The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass wanted me to call for a character to help me with a puzzle, I did so with abandon. "You need help," my friend remarked that day.

"Yeah, I do. That's why I'm calling that little Goron over there. There's this switch, and I need to press it, and ..."

"No, I mean normal people don't talk to their games."

"No? Then you need to try this." I reached deep into my bag and fished out the game that initiated it all. I lost my DS that weekend to Nintendogs.

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