In the combined absence of a working XBOX360 and an unreasonably harsh flu knocking me on my ass for a whole week, I’ve been going Old Skool lately with some PS2 and Wii action. Thankfully, I simultaneously ran out of contact lenses so the games didn’t look as bad as they could have so an admitted graphics-whore such as myself was able to muscle through God of War for the first time, Shadow of The Colossus again (that never gets old, or ugly for that fact) and now Mario Kart on the Wii.
Now, Nintendo is second only to EA for peddling the same franchises year on year with only minor tweaks and updates, and Mario Kart Wii is no exception – but once again, (and I’ve been playing this same game since high school), it’s an absolute blast – especially in team mode (co-op). What impressed me most though, and therefore resulting in this post, was the online experience – my first with Nintendo.
Being used to XBOX Live’s often unsavoury company of middle-American cowboy attitudes further shielded by online anonymity, as well as the downright embarrassing experience of being a grown man playing with children, it was refreshing to simply play a game against complete strangers that could not be interacted with in the slightest outside of the actions presented in gameplay – ie. throwing shells etc. I used to hate the idea of Friend Codes, (Nintendo’s enforcement of only being able to choose online opponents you already know in real life), but when I come to think of it, I rarely play against folks outside private matches on Live due to the aforementioned issues.
Every race, I am shown the geographic loaction of each participant on a spinning globe, (and the matches are truly international based on when you jump online), with only their smiling avatar and name to distinguish them. No headsets. No trash-talking. No ChildKilla69 or Assr8p firing bigoted insults with every other headshot- just a clean, simple race to the finish with friendly folks sporting names like Bill, Jake, Canadagirl and WingMario. I fantasize that, unlike the petty XBOX crowd, I was playing against similar young professionals as myself. Doctors and lawyers, designers and architects all kicking back in their loft appartments after a hard day’s work – donning the Nintendo avatars of which we all share a particular nostalgia, or their own personalised yet similarly cute Miis.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.