The Nintendo 500
Every afternoon, I know I will get The Question from Daniel. If he’s had a good day at school (gets a green in the parlance of the third grade), I’ll be asked. If he’s done his homework (or if he thinks I won’t remember to ask him whether he’s done his homework), I’ll be asked. Usually he asks The Question as we’re walking out of Third Base, his after school activity. Sometimes it waits until we’re in the truck driving home and – on rare occasions – he’s held off until we’re pulling in the driveway. But I know I’ll get asked at some point.
“Dad, can I play the Wii?” If the stars have all aligned, which they usually do (Daniel’s a good student), he’s allowed to play the Wii for an hour in the evening. Daniel like his games the way he likes life: fast. He likes the games where his character will run around the screen. He likes the games that feature frenetic fight action. And he really likes driving games because the cars all go – well, fast.
“Let’s race,” said Daniel. Daniel doesn’t ask me to play with him on the Wii very often. Two player driving games take away a portion of his Wii playing time. Also, I’m not very good. We only have one steering wheel controller for the Wii and when we play together, I don’t get that one.
I find my real world experience as a driver actually hinders my playing ability. Steering with a horizontal wand doesn’t feel natural. The race track is crowded with cars and I’m soon trailing the pack. I’ve been driving real cars since I was sixteen. Squeezing my virtual race car into narrow spaces where I know it won’t fit runs counter to all of my instincts. Daniel laughs as he laps me once, then twice. My wand shivers in my hand as he gives me a “friendly” bump from behind.
Daniel – of course – has no problems driving recklessly. He jumps up and down as he knocks the cars out of his way. The only time I’ve ever beat him directly is when his car has suffered so much damage that I have the time to just toddle past his wreck. More often, I take an indirect approach. After five or ten minutes, the thrash metal music comes to a halt and Daniel cheers his victory. I smile and we shake hands.
“The Wii records the action,” says Daniel. “Do you want to watch it again?” I shake my head.
“I’ll watch the race again later,” I say. “I’ll just wait until you’re sixteen and want to borrow the keys to the real car.”