Slice of Life: on the virtual racetrack

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

A few weeks ago, we finally got a game system for our house. A Wii. This came after years of asking (by the kids, I swear) and after plenty of negotiations (they chose the Wii over cable television, which we don’t have) and then with parameters (they earn time with chores). This weekend, we got the Wii version of Mario Kart, which is a hopped up load of software fun.

Yesterday, I played it with my kids and the experience brought me back to my early days of Atari. It helped that I read an interesting article in the Boston Globe about a professor who studies the Atari phenomenon from the 1970s and how that little game changed our view of computers, technology and gaming. As I zoomed around the virtual Mario race track, avoiding all sorts of mushrooms and monkeys and things I don’t even know what they were, I realized that the Wii and the old Atari share a common trait: they are social games. There was a whole world of gaming systems that were designed for solitary play. Oh, you could get a friend to come along, but the design itself was clearly for single players. Not the Wii. It wants you to play with others (after you dole out cash for another Wii control, of course).And the old Atari, too. Pong and others were made for two people. You had to find a friend.

As we rode our virtual carts, I liked that we were all together, laughing and shouting encouragement with each other, in the same room. We were not inside our brains, but outside in our lives. It has been some time since I played a video game console and the Wii, with its odd controller system, seemed strange, yet it isn’t. The developers were smart — they made a game that is an extension of your physical self. We played Mario Kart with little steering wheels. We bowl with real bowling movements, etc.

On the flip side, I have too many students who come in the morning, eyes red and tired, who admit to being up into all hours of the night (and sometimes, mornings) on their Xbox, or Wii, or whatever, and I know (from my childhood) all too well the lure of the screen. We have a system in place here that we hope avoids those problems. Meanwhile, we are having some family fun.

Peace (in games),

  1. Interesting issues and memories here. A Wili rather than cable. I can’t imagine that. But then, I’m not a gamer but I am glazed over by the screen as an adult. As a kid is was all about TV. Interesting that your kids are somewhere else. I remember trying out the original Super Mario Brothers by myself and soon let it go. Too time consuming. I do wonder and Wili for exercise but so far, I haven’t bothered. If Mac sold it, I’d probably look closer.
    I love the social aspect to your gaming and the careful way you are working it into the lives of your kids. My parents had to control our TV watching or it would have been very destructive.

    • And the reason why the kids wanted cable — to watch sports (Red Sox and Celtics), so we were surprised by their decision. They continue to huddle around the radio, listening to sports games, which is something I prefer they do anyway (if only we could get rid of the ads)

  2. I love our Wii—it is so much fun to get together with a group of freinds or family and do some bowling.

    I agree there is a problem though with some students playing all night long and not being ready to learn because they are so tired. Great job on putting a system in place with your family to avoid this.

  3. I’ve been curious about the Wii for a while, but for some of the ‘fit’ programs more than for games. I don’t have cable, either, but for me it’s not an either/or decision. I’ve already decided not to get cable. The social aspect hadn’t occurred to me. I like that. I find it a little disturbing the amount of solitary time kids — and adults — spend glued to their computer screens … oh, wait … isn’t blogging like that?! Uh-oh, time to reassess my time management? 🙂

    Thanks for your response to my post about my grandmother.

  4. I have wanted to get Wii to play games with my husband and our future children, but I don’t think I would pick Wii over cable! I love the Food network!

  5. I loved Atari! And Mario Brothers. And I do like the social aspect of it, which I hadn’t really clued into on my own. I think it sounds like you have a good system in place to keep your kids game time under control.

  6. Wow, no cable. I seriously would just feel lost without my DVR. I never watch live TV anymore. Congrats on staying away! Wii- this is the one game system we haven’t bought yet. It’s so tempting when I read or hear of stories by adults having so much fun with it. My personal favorite is Guitar Hero. Love it. Enjoy your Wii

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