Wii-mergency Room: Anticipation Kills

Console launch years are the best and the worst of times for being a game writer. On the one hand, you’ve got a veritable cornucopia of material from which to work. On the other, it’s all mainly hyperbolic speculation and hysterical meandering perpetuated by petulant children clamoring for The Shiny.

Hang on. I’m going to tell you how I really feel.

Don’t get me wrong, I get just as excited as the next boy-trapped-in-man’s-body about soon-to-be-released game hardware, I just hide it better. And I enjoy waiting to see how well it will actually perform before I start frothing about it. I know, I don’t belong here. I’ll get me coat.

imageThe sad truth is that gamers (for the most part) just plain enjoy the pre-Christmas euphoria more than actually playing the games. And honestly, I don’t think gamers are alone in this.

In the DVD commentary for the 2002 film Unfaithful, the director of the film, Adrian Lyne (the man behind such gems as 9 1/2 Weeks and Fatal Attraction), describes an amazing scene in which Diane Lane (playing the unfaithful spouse) literally shivers in anticipation of her illicit, adulterous tryst. He claims (and is supported by Lane and her co-star, Richard Gere) that the anticipation of the sex act is usually more exciting to us, as humans, than the act itself, and that this was his motivation for the long, sultry and visually compelling lead up to the pivotal moment in the film.

I try to think of that image of Ms. Lane shivering in ecstatic anticipation whenever I read a half-baked editorial on an unreleased game console. It helps.

My favorite part of the console release cycle, however, is the week or so after the machine’s release. That’s when we finally start to see the truth behind the hype, and the machines’ true qualities, selling points and failings come to light. Take, for example, the fact that Sony’s new console isn’t displaying high-definition movies as advertised. That’s a bad thing, which utterly undermines their pre-release claim to be the only console displaying in true HD. It’s also (if we wanted to throw down on that score) false advertising.

But Sony isn’t the only getting caught in a bit of exaggeration this year. Nintendo’s Wii also has a bit of explaining to do. The machine, which uses an innovative motion-sensing controller, is being billed as fun for the whole family and easy-to-use and pretty much every other Sears catalogue slogan dredged up from time immemorial. But we’re discovering now, less than a week after its release, that it’s actually more dangerous than BB guns, or the dreaded Pop Rock/Coke cocktail.

imageStories of busted TV screens, light fixtures and hands are starting trickle in from early adopters of the Wii, and one assumes that some degree of user error is to blame here (Nintendo has repeatedly stated that wide, sweeping or forceful gestures are not necessary to control the Wii). But anytime you pair spastic, anxious gamers with a device enabling them to channel their vast stores of kinetic, caffeine and sugar-fueled energy, you’re bound to see some damage at the end of the day.

Let’s just hope that no one dies. And Wiiers (the possibilities for humor with this thing are endless people), let’s be careful out there.

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