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September 2, 2007

Kappa Kappa Wii

Early this spring, I was contacted by Nintendo. It seems that they were given my name by a friend who assured them that I did, indeed, like to party.

Across the country this summer, Nintendo has been hosting a series of themed parties to introduce people who aren't your typical gamers to the Wii. I didn't have to think about it for even one second. I heard "party" and that was all the convincing I needed.

Seriously, I have no idea how I got so lucky. I mean, look at the party invites?

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That's right - blinged out sorority paddles were mailed to all the attendees. A shuttle bus was arranged to have us all arrive together. The party was set up in a lovely ballroom at a lovely hotel, and before they let us walk through the door, they gave us all sparkly tiaras. The enthusiastic Kappa Kappa Wii sisters led the assembled guests through a few cheers and then opened the doors to the party.

The angels sang. The hard-core gamers wept. (More on that in a minute...)

And then, we walked in to this:

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That's right. We had a lovely buffet, wait-staff bringing around fantastic tidbits, game stations set up around the room (a total of 5 stations, each with a selection of games and multiple controllers, a full bar, and around each of the play areas, buckets of popcorn and candy.

It was like heaven. With video games. And pink shag carpets. And champagne.

My four-year-old daughter immediately ran to the first bucket of candy and uttered this little "oooooh!" and began grabbing fistfuls of candy. The moms lined up at the bar, and within minutes, we had the party rockin'.

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Within a few moments of our arrival, we had our first mom-daughter boxing showdown:

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Once the normally mild-mannered mama pictured on the left knocked her daughter's Mii out and did a vigorous In-Your-Face dance, all the newly-inducted Kappa Kappa Wii mamas wanted a piece of that action. (You can see my four-year-old chawing on some candy in the background.)

Here's me taking on my Mom. I kicked her butt.

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My four-year-old is next to me, still chawing. It took about an hour before she was literally running laps around the room. My eight-year-old daughter, the co-hostess of this little soiree, was beaming from ear to ear as she played with all of her friends.

We had the chance to play Wii Sports, Wii Play, Mario Party 8, Wii Boogie and another title that is escaping my mind right now... probably because I was all about the damn cow-racing. You should have seen me, taking out the eight-year-olds with no guilt.

I'm sorta competitive.

The kids had a great time, too. Look!

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Yes, Wii had a good time. The bartender was serving up sodas in real glasses:

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and he allowed my youngest to shake him down for napkins full of maraschino cherries before I finally cut her off.

The Nintendo party staff was fantastic - they even got my mom, a reluctant gamer, especially after I beat her in boxing, to try the cow-racing game:

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It was so much fun, such a relaxed atmosphere to hang out with friends and laugh ourselves sick as we tried out these great programs.

When I was invited to join the Wii party circuit, I was impressed with the angle - certainly moms control the spending for most families, and deserved to be courted. But instead of trying to sell us on the educational benefits, or the unique, physical game play and how it is a benefit for our kids, Nintendo just asked us to have fun, and explore what the system could do. Even better, they are listening, and creating games that appeal to women. The upcoming Wii Fit has me excited, and I know I'm not the only one.

I had the chance to visit EGM last month, and along with my fellow Nintendo Mom, Stefania Pomponi Butler, recorded a podcast with Jennifer Tsao and Shane Bettenhausen where we talked about this whole notion of marketing to so-called "alpha moms." I don't really consider myself an alpha-mom...I'm just a mom with a (couple of) blogs, and a wide circle of friends who like to have fun. And you know what? I came away from the experience with a smile on my face, and a Wii to play with with my family.

I was a little surprised to hear about the anger some hard-core gamers have towards this marketing strategy. I guess I understand why there might be some consternation over the development dollars and effort being split in new directions - especially toward these non-traditional, not-game games. Sorry, y'all. It wasn't my call. But you know what? It has me playing, in little fifteen minute intervals, with my entire family joining in. And you know what else? That is all the time I can devote to playing. A few silly minutes of boxing or off-road truck racing, and I'm back to laundry, dishes, dinner and homework supervision. I can't devote myself to role-playing games or complicated adventures right now - but someday, I might. And even more importantly to Nintendo and game developers, my kids might.

In a family with young kids, violent, visually intense games are not ever going to be welcome in a family area. Wii's non-gamer approved games give us a new way to get silly and interact with each other. We've been having a blast teaming up with Boogie. The kids have been busting out the Pokemon Battle Revolution using our Nintendo DS as controllers. And we're aware that there are more sophisticated options out there for the Wii. We're looking forward to exploring together.

I feel really lucky to have been a part of this, and I'd be happy to tell you more about my experiences with the Wii. You can leave questions in the comments.

You see these ladies? They weren't gamers before they entered the building, but you can bet they are now.

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And you know what else?

The moms who came to my party haven't stopped talking about it. Move over, hard-core gamers...there's a new breed of warrior in town. And she's carrying the purse.

August 24, 2007

Wii Boogie - U Can't Stop This.

I recently became indoctrinated into the Mother-Daughter Sorority of Kappa Kappa Wii, which is another full entry sitting in my drafts. I'll post that this weekend. Anyway, as a proud (and addicted) Wii Mom, when The Parent Bloggers Network offered me the chance to play Wii Boogie with my family before it was released in stores, I was all over it.

You see, I'd had the chance to play with it a little bit at my Wii party, but having my own copy? In my own living room? Where I could challenge my poor husband to a dance and karaoke-off, using the included microphone? Aw yeah.

Hard-core gamers, scoff all you want. Wii Boogie is hilarious to play, and my entire family gets into it. And with its up on your feet, move-it-or-lose-it game play, Boogie has unexpectedly effective cardio built in.

I've got some things I love about it, and some things I would like to see changed: Let's start with the not-so-good:

The characters are really cute, but the only female character is, while adorable, a tiny-waisted club-looking girl. That's fine for me (heh) but my younger girls, at four and eight years old, would rather play with the little cat character. It would have been nice to have the option for them to cute-up some of the male characters, and not be locked into being a hottie.

The song selections - why oh why was it necessary to include heavily edited versions of songs like Milkshake? With a whole wide world of great songs, why take this paean to the mystical power of Kelis' T&A and edit it to the point of sheer nonsense? I mean, if they wanted nonsense, they could have used Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl. And yet, including Slave4U, that Pussycat Dolls song, with little or no editing... let's just say that it boggles the mind what is considered truly objectionable, and what is still okay.

I will say that having Milkshake on the program made for an entertaining discussion with my very literal four-year-old, who imagines that the milkshake in question must be chocolate, and be available at a lemonade-type stand in "that lady's" yard, and she probably charges a quarter for it because it is so delicious. Yes. That is exactly what is going on.

Now for the funny stuff: we've been able to determine which of my children has natural rhythm, and we've discovered that karaoke to songs we thought we knew is rather humbling. We're pretty good on the choruses, but you get us into the rest of the lyrics, and we're hopeless.

We're all like "Muh nuh nuh hum mhn ba duh duh nuh mmm She's a Brick! House!..."

That doesn't stop us in the least, for what its worth. The husband and I have gone head to head nightly (and I kick his sorry butt.) I've got to say Karma Chameleon is still pretty damn catchy after all these years. And it cracks me up to see the kids trying to sing the songs and then giving up, substituting their own words for the provided lyrics. Just like their mama.

I also love the fact that we can play the game together, and it requires an enthusiastic effort with the Wii remotes. Like the other games for the Wii console, Boogie gets you up off the couch and happily flailing to the beat. For a family that spends plenty of time stationary, whether at school or at work, having a fun dance break gets the blood flowing and everyone laughing.

We haven't tapped into the game's story mode yet - we're having too much fun just gettin' down with our bad selves. Wii Boogie is rated for ages 10 and up, but as you can tell, even my four-year-old can have fun making her character jump, spin and back-flip around the screen. We love it.

For more reviews, check out the roundup at The Parent Bloggers Network. For more information on Wii Boogie, you can visit Nintendo, or EA Games. To get your own copy, shop here..



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