True story. I stood on a street corner in Waikiki, 18, wearing a tiny white tank top with a sparkly star on it and tiny denim cutoffs, asking tourist men if I could have a quarter to call my mom. I only asked the ones who were with women (didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea). The women all scowled. But I got $16 in quarters in a couple of hours, and then my angel-faced, long-blond-haired boyfriend and I went to a nearby hotel.

To play Space Invaders in the lobby.

There was a very old man sitting there, on a couch not far from us, watching as we played. I looked over at him, smiled and said hi at one point, and he asked what we were doing. I explained and convinced him to give it a try. So he came over and played a few games on the tourists’ quarters. Younger people, his kids I guessed, showed up to collect him, eventually, and looked rather concerned that he was fraternizing with street urchins. As he stood, he took a wad of 20s out of his wallet and held it out to me. I said no, but he insisted. Just because he was so grateful that we’d acknowledged and included him. Because we’d treated him like a person and not an old person.

I liked playing Pong with my dad when I was a kid. But I was pretty much over video games by the time Space Invaders went out of style. For the most part, I despise them.

My poor son Trevor will attest to the fact that I wouldn’t allow them in the house when he was growing up (except for a GameBoy, which we often deprived him of out of spiteful parental revenge for misbehavior and stuff.) We limited TV time too, for that matter. He is scarred, I’m sure, because all of his friends were allowed to have video games.

I just wanted him to be a reader and a thinker and I was convinced video games (and TV) did not foster, and probably even hindered that kind of mental development. It was my call. Now 23, Trevor plays WoW and others regularly, and that’s fine with me, because he is also a reader and a thinker. And he writes damn well too.

(Imagine my shock and dismay when I moved in here and found that Vincent’s ex-wife had just bought their 12-year-old son San Andreas to play on his brand new laptop. Over-compensation issues and total cluelessness? Clearly. But not my call.)

So when Vincent was out of ideas for his kids’ Christmas presents this year (at 15 and almost 13, they’re at a hard age to buy for), he thought he’d get them a Wii.

Video-game Scrooge that I am, I said, “Fine, whatever, I have earplugs.”

So the day comes, the kids are thrilled. And so was I. The Wii is fun. Yes, you can play the same dull games on it (where little people or monkeys or whatever run and fly and jump and dodge things and go through things and shoot things and bump into other things for points) that you can play on other consoles. Those bore me to tears. And they make me hostile. Really.

But the little sports games that come with the Wii are a total blast. Bowling, tennis, baseball. There’s boxing too, which doesn’t do anything for me. In general, it’s wholesome family entertainment. For young and old alike. And so on. I actually told my brother, a fairly regular gamer who surprisingly doesn’t have one yet, that he should get one and that I thought even his wife (like me, not a big fan) would enjoy it. Never thought I’d see the day.

What hooks you right away is the Miis, little characters you create in your own image that then play the games. (Very crafty, Nintendo.) And since we have a resident geek artist, Vincent made all of our Miis and did a marvelous job of it. I asked him to make me a Trevor so I can play tennis and go bowling with him even though he’s a million miles away in California. Vincent boxed with his daughter, at her request, but when his Mii KO’d her Mii he felt like a horrible father. (He was so guilt-ridden and contrite. It was adorable.)


Vincent gets beside himself with excitement watching my little Mii playing tennis in a green miniskirt. It is flattering on some twisted level… And I find his little Mii irresistible too. I wish we could make keychains out of them! And t-shirts! And coffee mugs! (There’s that all-American merchandising instinct.)

It’s a French Wii, of course. (So those buttons don’t say the English word “quitter.” It’s the French word for “quit.”) The only problem is, now I want the Madden NFL game. Vincent got his son a soccer game that is really cool. But the Wii games made for American Wiis don’t work on French Wiis, and I’m not sure they’ve made an NFL game for this market. Not a lot of American football fans among the Frogs.

When you play the baseball game, the Wii automatically puts the Miis you’ve made (along with other random characters) on the teams. So I get to see Trevor come up to bat. I’m kind of tempted to make Miis for other people I miss. Like my dad, who left the building 10 years ago. Mom, brother, sister-in-law, nephew. Buddies back home… Maybe I’d enjoy the boxing game if I made an ex-husband Mii…

Nah. Wouldn’t want him around. And Vincent probably wouldn’t go for it anyway.