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  Wii Hands-On First Impressions  
Posted 2007-01-15 by Tony Walsh
Having finally picked up a Wii on the weekend (and finding out that controllers are at least as hard to find as the console at this point), I've had ample time to gather my thoughts on Nintendo's latest console. After fiddling with it for a few days, I can confirm what many others have already said: The Wii represents a major shift not only in the way we play games, but in the potential future gamer demographic. That's why it's more important than the PS3 and differently important than the Xbox 360, which comes at the gaming "revolution" from a different angle. The Wii is social in a warmer way than the Xbox.

I'm not at all bothered by the Wii's weak graphics--that's only a part of the gaming experience. Obviously the controller interface is a huge positive in the experience department--what game designers do with this interface is crucial. Jane McGonigal says the Wii isn't a simulator, it's "real." I appreciate that this is true for some people. For me, it isn't sufficiently real and it doesn't sufficiently simulate, but it's still a great control system. There's very little involved in learning how to play Wii Sports, but the latest Zelda title has a higher learning curve. Non-gamers and hardcore gamers on the same game system. Pretty cool.

Continue reading: Wii Hands-On First Impressions
  My Wii #: 5068 7235 1890 2015  
Posted 2007-01-13 by Tony Walsh
Can't talk. Making Miis. If you'd like to connect to my console at 5068 7235 1890 2015, make sure you contact me with your registration info so we can hook up.
  ‘Linerider’ Promised for Wii, DS Platforms  
Posted 2006-12-19 by Tony Walsh
Linerider, an addictive, Flash-based activity where users draw hills and ramps for a tobogganer, has been picked up for development on the Nintendo DS and Wii platforms, according to an official announcement by inXile entertainment. This is pretty amazing news, considering Linerider was developed as an online toy by an amateur Flash developer. It became a viral hit 3 months after launch, something I'm sure inXile is banking on for a future Nintendo release. I found Linerider an amusing diversion lacking in long-term appeal--it's a toy based around a single gimmick, but I can see the potential for a full-blown game, particularly for the gesture-driven DS and Wii.
  Flimsy Wii Strap Recalled  
Posted 2006-12-15 by Tony Walsh
"My hunch is that there's going to be a product recall in the future."

Reuters reports that Nintendo will exchange 3.2 million Wiimote straps with stronger ones, "after some reports of broken straps." Since the launch of the Wii, a few reports of property and personal damage have been surfaced, related to strap breakage. Web site Wii Have a Problem has been logging such reports, which range from silly to sobering. While the new strap will probably be strong enough to withstand the power of those exuberant gamers who can't help but flail around violently during play, there's still no protection against getting a Wii in the face.

[Update: Edge mag says it's a "replacement" not a "recall," suggesting journalists have irresponsibly reported a "recall." While I agree that language is important, I'm not sure the distinction between "recall" and "replacement" is all that crucial in this case. The point is the straps were crap, and gamers need new ones.]
  Wii Avatars Break Free [Updated]  
Posted 2006-12-14 by Tony Walsh
"Mii" avatars for the Wii console have been given a license to travel, thanks to a "How To" article published by LiquidIce's Nintendo Wii Hacks. Using the built-in Bluetooth capabilities of the Wiimote control device, a Bluetooth-capable PC, and a program called MiiTransfer, Mii avatar data can be scraped from the Wiimote to the PC, then shared through web sites such as the Mii Transfer Station (see the article for details).

Suddenly [update: actually, not so suddenly at all], Mii avatars become sociable creatures you can not only share with your friends over the internet, but potentially generate with web-based software. It's only a matter of time before the data structure of a Mii is reverse-engineered, allowing PC- or web-based software programs to output Mii code. I envision Mii avatars crafted by talented avatar-makers and put up for sale. Will Nintendo try to stop such efforts? I don't see how it would be in their interest to do so.

[Commentator Dezro pointed out that Mii-sharing is built into the Wii through the "Mii Parade." I had incorrectly thought that it wasn't possible to share Mii avatars based on some blog posts I'd read recently. I've got a Wii on order, so hopefully it will turn up this weekend and I can try this out myself!]
  These Games Blow  
Posted 2006-12-07 by Tony Walsh
Adrants mentions a couple of web-games that require blowing into a microphone to operate. There's Lynxblow, where players blow the clothes off a model, and the browser-hijacking Hi-Def Chamber where players "blow stuff up." I'll add that the Nintendo DS, with its built-in microphone, features at least a few games that blow: Nintendogs allows you to blow virtual bubbles at your pet, Cooking Mama lets you cool off virtual boiling water, and Mario Kart DS inflates virtual balloons. A few years ago, Media Lab Europe came up with a game controlled by the depth of your breathing, appropriately titled Breathing Space. I find breath-controlled gaming fairly enjoyable, provided the interface doesn't require me to hyperventilate. I almost fainted a couple of weeks ago trying to inflate a balloon in Mario Kart DS. Then there's the whole social stigma of being seen blowing into your handheld repeatedly...
  When Wiimotes Break Free  
Posted 2006-11-21 by Tony Walsh
Early this year, I predicted the Nintendo Wii's wireless motion-sensitive controllers would facilitate personal injury, and while reports haven't exactly been flooding in, it's only a matter of time. The "Wiimote" controller wrist-straps seem to be flawed--in two cases, at least, the controller has been inadvertently flung across the room. One such incident, according to the goons at SomethingAwful, resulted in the wounding of a 60" rear-projection TV. Another incident, reported by IGN via ad-supported video, followed the same pattern: wrist-strap breakage sends Wiimote flying, which results in property damage. Were these rogue Wiimotes badly-manufactured, or are we looking at a design flaw here? My hunch is that there's going to be a product recall in the future. It's bad enough people are waving their hands around wildly while standing withing striking distance of each other--add faulty straps to the mix and someone's going to lose an eye one of these days.
  Big Weekend For Game Consoles  
Posted 2006-11-17 by Tony Walsh
Just in case you've been living under a rock, this weekend marks a major outburst of consumer lust related to the retail availability of the Sony PS3 and Nintendo Wii in North America. The two next-gen consoles took their sweet time getting to market, and now appear to be in short supply for launch weekend--conveniently, this is making for all sorts of headlines as the mainstream media boggles at rabid gamers lining up or punching each other in the face for a chance at picking one of the consoles up. We are on the cusp of a new round of the console wars. My prediction: Xbox 360 FTW, followed by the Wii, then the PS3. I'll grab a Wii in 2007, but I won't touch a PS3 unless I have to.
  Player Culture in ‘Mario Kart DS’  
Posted 2006-11-14 by Tony Walsh
I've only been playing Mario Kart DS for a week, and have already noticed some interesting culture among WiFi players. The ability to design one's own kart emblem gives players their principle method of expressing themselves (the other principle method being their choice of nickname). Some emblems and nicknames include a kind of "clan" (team) designation. GameSetWatch points out that ABC-6 Action News thinks the emblems pose a safety-threat to minors. So far, it seems most players I'd characterize as "female" take the most care in creating their emblems--examples include self-portraits or drawings of pets. One interesting player emblem gave me a clue about another form of player culture: "U SNAKE, I QUIT." I had a hunch this emblem referred to a technique allowing players to gain an advantage over others, and I was right. Snaking is a controversial technique because it's difficult to pull off for novice players, but it is permitted by the game's design. At least I know why I usually place last in races--I don't know how to "snake."

Other minor forms of culture (as I see it) include intimidating other players through bumping karts, deliberate self-handicapping by more experienced players, or humiliating newbies like myself by waiting at the finish line for the last player. It's a shame there isn't a way to pass on some kind of safe chat to other players, though. I'd like to be able to say "good game" at the end of a race.
  Cyveillance Sends Me a Nastygram  
Posted 2006-11-07 by Tony Walsh
I just received a hilarious nastygram from Cyveillance, a self-described "internet monitoring agency" that can't tell its ass from a hole in the ground. Cyveillance's robots believe I require the authorization of Nintendo of America Inc. in order to discuss trademarked Nintendo properties. The robots also believe that Clickable Culture is a sexually-explicit web site. The robots are wrong: I don't require any corporation's permission to criticize or satirize its intellectual property, and, obviously, this blog is not sexually-explicit. Not even the post cited in the complaint is sexually-explicit.

Nice try, Cyveillance, but you haven't done a thing to protect Nintendo's brand. If anything, you've raised awareness of the object of your complaint. Your overzealous and misguided request doesn't just make you look bad, it makes Nintendo look bad by association. It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot, but why take your client down with you?

As I wrote last year, Cyveillance is under the impression its system is infallible. As shown by its system's inability to detect my mockery, and with the automated delivery of its misguided nastygram, the company has demonstrated that its system is as deeply flawed as I'd guessed. Never send a robot to do a human's job, you knuckleheads. Following is the full text of the message. Note that the company hasn't actually accused me of infringement, but the language was constructed to suggest I've committed a serious transgression.

Continue reading: Cyveillance Sends Me a Nastygram
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