Let me tell you a little story about what happened to Grandma on Thursday...
Grandma woke up before the kids got on the bus for school. She wanted to get a shower in and clean up the place before reporters from the Columbus Dispatch arrived sometime around noon. Like every morning, she first plopped down at the computer to check her e-mail, check the weather and read the news. Grandma subscribes to a shitload of gaming related newsletters and press-release alerts. One of them, for good or bad, is GameRival.com. She opened a message titled "New Game New Game New Game!" only to find:
"'Super Granny 3: Help granny rescue her precious kitties'," she read aloud. "Why the hell do people think that old people like cats?! I fucking HATE cats! I know lots of people my age that can't STAND the little bastards!"
"I like cats"
"Yeah, well I don't. That GDC challenge thing last year with the guy who made Katamari Damacy, he thought we all like cats. For some reason that's the first thing that pops in peoples heads when they think of grandmas. Fucking CATS. Why?"
"Maybe they have statistical data that shows most grandmas like casual games and cats."
"I don't know who they're polling. You have to realize too that most folks hang up the phone when they get called for that shit. The people who give that kind of answer; 'I like casual games and I like cats', are probably people who want to talk to somebody for a little bit and don't mind the inconvenience of some stupid poll."
"So you're saying that every demographic is represented by focus groups comprised of lonely people who enjoy talking to telemarketers?"
She slid on her shoes and drove to the post office a couple blocks down the hill to get the mail. If there is anything that really bugs Grandma, it's waiting; sitting on her hands anticipating something about to happen. I guess getting the mail was her way of alleviating that. When she came back, she showed me her new copy of EGM, in which she made another appearance in a small blub under an interesting read about EGM giving older folks the opportunity to play the Nintendo Wii to see what happened.
She got a big kick out of Crispin's little addendum at the end of the blurb:
(Page 16; Electronic Gaming Monthly 213, March 2007) [While] she says she didn't come to immediate grips with its motion-sensing magic, she's confident she'll master the controls if she could just get a system. 'I'm hoping I'll get one for my birthday in February,' she says. Nintendo, are you listening?
"Great," I told her. "Now everyone knows I'm too goddamn poor to buy you a $250 system."
"Tim, seriously, nobody cares. We'll get one. Jessica told me."
"Nintendo, Golin Harris Jessica? She said she'll try, they're not so easy to come by, you know."
"Trust me. Jessica's cool."
And that was that.
She went about dusting off the back of the television and straightening everything in the living room, trying to again create the illusion that we're not slobs. It's probably the most deceptive thing we've ever done to the press; right up there with fixing better coffee than we usually drink. I took a shower. Our doorbells are rigged to be incredibly loud. The previous owner of the house, like grandma, was a bit hard of hearing, so when one presses the button outside, a buzzer rings in the garage, a buzzer rings in the kitchen, a doorbell chime rings upstairs and another rings in the living room. While in the bathroom, I was pretty sure I heard the buzzers ring twice; once at the beginning of my shower and again fifteen minutes later while brushing my teeth. I knew Grandma was in the living room cleaning and could hear the buzzer ring so I wasn't worried. Besides, if it was the folks from the Dispatch here early, they were here to see Grandma, not me; and Grandma doesn't need a minder. I took my time.
After getting dressed and brushing my hair in such a way as to cover my hideous face should I be within the bokeh of a sneaky photographer, I asked Grandma about the doorbell.
"Check THIS shit out!" she gleamed, obviously excited.
"Just when I was worried I wouldn't have much to play after Lost Planet! Evan sent it to me!"
"Awesome! You should show the guys from the Dispatch when they get here," I told the woman. "They'll get a big kick out of you having 'contacts' in the 'industry'."
"Yeah, who the fuck am I? Evan is just being cool, you know that," she smiled.
"So what's the second thing?"
"What do you mean?"
"When I was in the bathroom I heard the doorbell ring twice."
"Nope, just once, and that was UPS. It's not 12:00 yet, so I doubt they're here already."
I looked out the little window on the front door to the porch. No strange cars were in the driveway, there wasn't anything on the porch steps and there wasn't anything near the inside door. So I let it go.
Grandma put in Gears of War to see what it was like while we waited.
"I fucking SUCK!" she noted, trying to fire at creatures while behind the cover of dystopic ruins.
"That's what you said about Lost Planet when you first started, too."
"I don't have time to really get into it is the thing. I know I'm just going to have to stop when those people get here."
So, thanks Evan! And thanks Microsoft! Grandma shall play.
After a quick "Hi! Columbus Dispatch here. We're in Mantua, what's your house look like" call, they were parked in our yet to be plowed driveway, tromping around in the snow, as Grandma put it- "without fucking coats. Are they crazy?!" I met them on the porch to let them know they had the right house. After introductions, we turned around to go back inside and I saw something beautiful. Apparently FedEx decided to put the package WAAAAAY to the side of the front door. There HAD in fact been two rings of the doorbell, and with "Nintendo" written in careful handwriting on top, it didn't take much guessing to figure out what it was.
I took the box to Grandma with some guys from the Dispatch following right behind. I don't think they quite knew what was up, but it didn't matter. When she saw the box, she too knew right away.
"YEEEAAAAAAH!!!!" she screamed in a familiar happy sort of way. "I GOT A WII!!!"
"Um... Grandma, these are the guys from the Columbus Dispatch, and this was on our porch."
Nevermind that for all we knew these poor guys might have driven 3+ hours from Columbus to the frozen Northeast corner of Ohio, she was opening that goddamn box.
Inside Grandma found a Nintendo Wii, which included Wii Sports; three additional Wii Remotes; three additional Nunchucks; Rayman: Raving Rabbids; Excite Truck; Marvel Ultimate Alliance; Spongebob Squarepants: Creature from the Krusty Krab, and a note from Jessica in which she bragged up her Wii Tennis skills :)
So there it was, waiting to be played. I have to admit it's pretty cool Nintendo would consider giving Grandma a Wii after some of the things we said about it when it was still the "Revolution". Add to that the hilarious aspect of physical frustration while playing a video game and I hope they know what they're getting into. A video, for instance, of Grandma swearing at Spongebob Squarepants because "that cocksucker won't fucking go to the fucking left, god DAMMIT" is probably not too far off from what will likely happen if Grandma becomes ensarled in a particularly tricky part of a game. Now that I think about it... I wonder if they had some sort of risk assessment around the decision? That'd be an amusing set of e-mails.
Anyway- THANK YOU Jessica, and THANK YOU NINTENDO!
After Grandma opened the box, it seemed as though this interview, unlike the many other cool and collected interviews she's had in the past, was really rushed and not by the writer or the photographer, but by US. The questions that they honestly needed to ask but had been asked many times before by others were met with shorter, maybe even less enthusiastic answers, and I knew why. Grandma wanted to play the Wii, and I was damn curious as to what she'd think of it; alone, without the attention of others. They could tell we were distracted. For example: I think one bit of conversation went something like this-
"So did always work for the Dispatch?"
-"No, I used to work for the Akron Beacon Journal; even went to the last two Olympics in Athens and Torino."
"Really, what did you think of Spain?" [headslap]
There it was! All I needed to do was hook up the sensor bar, plug in a few wires and away she would go, but we also had to respect that these guys came out to do their job, so it would have to wait. I think we realized what we were doing with a few Roman-esque knowing glances towards each other, at the Wii, at Gears of War, and back at each other. We relaxed a bit after that. The photographer had Grandma play a game she was comfortable with for awhile and took some pictures and some audio of Grandma's collection for a slideshow. They were polite, cool guys and they never drank our coffee.
After they left, we IMMEDIATELY dived in. Grandma made a Mii.
The Wii instantly recognized our Wireless internet and she tried the News and Forecast Channels. She played some Wii Sports. She tried bowling. We put in Rayman. Rayman gave us a glimpse at the fashion of grannies that for whatever reason was unknown to Grandma.
I was good at the mini-games at which she wasn't so good. She was good at the mini-games at which I wasn't so good. We had fun! There will be a lot more to be said about the games they sent, and this opens up another facet of the gaming world for Grandma to love and also upon which to feed and take out her agression.
We hope it will be sweet.
The television show they taped a couple weeks ago in Columbus for the Ohio Department of Aging, "Finer With Age" sent Grandma some DVDs of her appearence. They arrived that afternoon. We both thought the interview went well, and they made her feel very comfortable, which goes a long way. Still, Grandma said "I TOLD you I needed a haircut!"
I was just happy the footage they took of me losing terribly to Grandma at Brain Age was used merely as B-Roll, and one couldn't deduce how much of a dumbass I am from the clip. We'll put the video up as soon as I convert the file after work this weekend for all of y'as. (We also have a Lost Planet video coming. She's trying to find all the target markers now, so this should be interesting.)
At the end of the day, as Grandma trudged through the opening chapter of Gears of War, learning how to do a "perfect reload", I finally opened the operations manual for the Wii, seeing as like any proper geek, one reads the manual only AFTER you've already fucked around a bit.
And it was there, on pages 30 and 34, where I saw their graphical example message from someone's Grandma:
What can I say? Apparently old people love cats :)