"It's funny because it's poisonous."

Joystiq has posted an article on how to make a Dr Zoidberg Mii on your Wii. Which again, reminds me of Nintendo's genius: each of the latest generation of consoles vowed to transform the entertainment landscape, yet the expensive PS3 and XBox 360 are providing more of the same, while the underpowered, cheap Wii is making everyone look and think.

Miis remind me of a feature of ToeJam and Earl, the excellent Sega Genesis game. There was a "make the screen flash" mode designed for the tiniest gamers out there, nothing more than TJ and Earl standing onscreen, with button-presses making sounds, lights flash, and the guys dance. A great inclusion that shows some breadth of thinking about what you can do to create an experience instead of a narrowly focused game.

Miis are similar. So far, there's not much that you can actually do with them: you can pick them up, line them up, trade them, and they'll play WiiSports with you. But for my seven-year-old daughter, who doesn't play video games (despite her childish father's attempts to get her interested in them: what's the world coming to, when kids shun video games in favor of reading, drawing, and playing outside?), the only game worth playing is "the Mii game".

Our Wii is filled with her classmates, the neighborhood kids, her extended family, and anyone else she knows. Art directing me in Mii creation is an activity she takes seriously. WiiSports is mildly fun for her, but is beloved for the presence of all her little Miis. Baseball and bowling are the highlight games here: the playing is secondary to seeing all the Miis do stuff.

The point is, Nintendo knows how to build empathy, and the Wii has that at every level: the controller, the Miis, the Everybody Votes channel,... Nintendo is the one delivering on the "entertainment changing" promises.



IEEE Spectrum’s gaming blog was retired in 2010, but it is preserved here for archival reference.