by Henry Gaudet
The lament of a geek in decline.
|I own a Wii.
Now, there's nothing spectacular in that statement. It's a popular machine, responsible for attracting a new breed of gamer, the "casual gamer," (which I still suspect is some sort of PC code for "girls.") It's a console for the whole family, but the Wii is not the Gamer's Machine. All that light-hearted fun came at the cost of the depth of the traditional "wow that's a lot of buttons" systems that True Gamers spend hours mastering (or at least obsessing over). The Wii is Grandma's Home Gym, and there's one sitting in my living room right now, at this very second, waiting for me to hop up on the board and pretend to hula hoop in front of the picture window.
Before I go any further, I need to say that I do like this console. Really. There is something cathartic about swinging the controller around like a broadsword, a thrill diminished only slightly when I get carried away and the nunchuck cord slaps me across the forehead. Or better still, when the controller slips out of my hand entirely, landing gracefully in the coffee cup across the room. And let's not forget, when I'm on the Wii, I'm not wasting my time with those stupid video games. I'm exercising! There really is a lot to like about that little white box.
That being said, there is nothing cool or sexy about the Wii. Fun, absolutely, and certainly a lot easier for the novice to pick up and play. But cool? Sexy? Really?
Okay, for the uninitiated, believe it or not, there are people who do think that a video game can be cool and/or sexy. You've even seen them, thumbing through the Japanese animation and Stargate box sets in the video shop. You might see them at school, playing some sort of collectible card game, slapping down cards with the smug machismo of an Old West gunfight. Maybe you've stumbled across an online forum debating the best Doctor Who or Star Trek captain, or pointing out the technical errors of Starship Trooper. That's right, I'm talking about geeks, and up until quite recently, I counted myself among their number.
Once upon a time, I made a point of owning the cool game system, starting with Pong (ask your parents) right on up to the PS2. The me of twenty years ago would have been drooling over the Xbox or the PS3, but the Wii? Not a chance. It's the family friendly game, the safe choice. If it was cool, wouldn't it be sleek and black and dangerous looking, with graphics to make my eyes bleed? Wouldn't concerned parents and "Down With This Sort of Thing" conservatives be picketing in the streets, levelling the blame for all the world's ills squarely at its gratuitously violent list of games?
But no, I don't have a console like that. I own a Wii, and it's no good staring at my uncalloused thumbs wondering where it all went wrong. I'm still too busy counting the cost, lining up the fallen hobbies and obsessions. I don't watch six hour sci-fi marathons or play MMORPG's (ask your kids). I don't keep thousands of comic books in mint/near mint condition in mylar bags with cardboard backing. I don't own a single action figure. I never even watched the last two Star Wars movies!
To the public in general, I still pass for a geek, but the insiders know. They know I'm just not one of them any more. Sure, I still love cartoons, but I only watch them with my son. I know way too much about super heroes, but don't ask me about anything that happened in the last ten years. I’ve got my flatscreen TV, but no HD, and no surround sound, no realer-than-real cinematic experience. None of my tee shirts feature Spider-man or the Flash.
And I'm married. To a woman. A real, live, human, not made up, no assembly required woman.
I used to be Comic Book Guy. Now I'm just some kid's dad. As it turns out, it's not only the cool kids who miss their glory days.
I'm not a geek any more. Not really. Geekdom is a young man's game. Fanboy obsessions just don't hold me like they used to, not with all the real world intrusions. My priorities have shifted, a little more practical and a little less selfish maybe. I can't devote the time, money and attention to my hobbies anymore. Family, friends, and responsibilities have nudged them by the wayside one at a time.
So now, instead of taking sixty plus hours to get through Final Fantasy MCMXXXIV or customizing my race car down to the spark plugs, I let my little boy kick my ass at pretend tennis. Sure, our eyes may not be bleeding, but at least we're getting our exercise.