Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wii Love

In an email inviting me and my Filipino workmates to a birthday party last Saturday, one standout item on the itinerary was a few hours of "Wii". I overheard many asking each another What's Wii?, and the reply came that it's Nintendo's game console, their version of the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. *wince*

Of course as a lifelong Nintendo fan I know all about Wii, and plan to get myself one for Christmas or sooner. It has dominated its competitors worldwide in sales and headlines since it was released last year, but for reasons that are beyond me our Philippine mainstream public seems so far more in tune with Sony and Microsoft's consoles.

What sets Wii apart from its predecessors (and competitors) is the Wii remote. Nintendo's controller is a motion-sensing wand that looks more like a television remote than the typical button laden gamepad. To swing a sword, you swing the remote; in a game of tennis, you hold the remote like a racket. It reinvents gaming, making it more immersive, intuitive, and social.

So anyway at some point after dinner at the party last Saturday, a couple of people had snuck away from the karaoke-singing crowd to go upstairs. I followed them and found a group already engaged in a game of tennis, one of the five simple sports games included in the Wii's pack-in game. Within a few minutes we've gathered a crowd, and a short while after that most of the party was packed into the room, enjoying and laughing and taking turns at the remote. Gamers and non-gamers, male and female, all were at a level playing field, and were equally as immersed in the game. On how many occasions since the 1980s has video games gathered people so effortlessly?

By the time we packed up and finally went home at midnight, I had lost track of how many people had been introduced to the Wii and made up their minds to get one that very night.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brasstown Bald

Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia, about an hour's drive north from Atlanta. Far from being a towering Matterhorn, it's more of a sloped hill on a rather gentle rolling mountain range. Its elevation was enough, however, to make my ears pop on the uphill drive, and to keep me chilly in my short-sleeved shirt when I went there with a group of around 20 of my Filipino workmates last Sunday.

The road to our destination was very twisty and steep by American standards, though it was a pleasure to drive compared to the highway through the Philippine mountains of Negros or Panay. The drive included the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway through the Chattahoochee National Forest, with a neverending barrage of picturesque oaks and other wonderful views. Perhaps everything is relative, but I find it hard to imagine an American being as enamoured by our endless coconut and banana trees.

For the last leg of the trip to the top there was a hike of about one mile. That is not much of a distance to conquer, even when going slightly uphill. But to our underworked and overpampered Filipino infantry the uphill climb was an opposing army, pressing at us with its artillery, and before long some of our tribe had succumb to enemy fire and had to reteat to the base. Luckily there was a shuttle available as an alternative to the hike.

We made our way through the foresty trail flanked by majestic trees with leaves that had just begun to evidence the symptoms of autumn. Surely the fauna is commonplace to those who have experienced the fall year after year, but coming from a tropical climate even the slightest detail is magical.

Suddenly the tall trees lining the path came to an end and gave way to the cool, clear blue sky as we reached the highest point in the state of Georgia.

It was beautiful. There was not a cloud in the sky in any direction for as far as the eye could see.