Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Games People Play

I never intended to Nintendo.

When I first got the email... well, like the first time a Nigerian prince offers you a million dollars to help smuggle his family jewels out of the country, you look around to see if anyone is watching and you consider it.

Then there was a second email saying, in essence, "You probably ignored the first email 'cause it looks like that Nigerian prince thing."

Turns out it was totally legit.

[SUMMARY: I am that dork.]

You may have seen the Nintendo commercials for the DS Lite with America Ferrara and Carrie Underwood and Liv Tyler.

Video games have long been the territory of 18-35§ males. Geek grrrls are certainly out there, and I'm guessing there's a healthy market for video games among the teenaged girl set, but not so much us women.

You know... mature. Responsible. Grounded.


On the one hand, there is a solid selection of video games that *don't* feature robots and elves and car theft... Brain Age 1 & 2, Let's Yoga, Big Brain Academy, Flash Focus Vision Training, Crosswords, My Weight Loss Coach, My Spanish Coach. These sorts of self-help, personal growth, educational games belie the concept of video games as sheer frippery.

On the other hand, have you ever seen a bunch of women driving turtles and gorillas around a virtual racetrack while trying to pick up squids and ghosts and shooting each other with mushrooms?

Mature, responsible and grounded.

I'm sticking with that.

[SUMMARY: Ladies and gentelmen, my friends... the mature, responsible, grounded women.]

As part of their marketing effort, the Girlfriends Guide to Gaming group is travelling the country, throwing parties in different cities, giving women a chance to try the DS Lite in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere with lots and lots of help.%

To construct their guest lists, they do some research and invite influential# female bloggers†† to hostess.

I supplied the 30 women, they supplied the food, wine and games. Including a DS Lite and a copy of Brain Game 2 for each and every attendee who completed the four-station "training."

[SUMMARY: Training. Like it was boot camp or something.]

Saturday, on a quiet street near the railroad tracks in central Denver...

...through a nondescript glass door...

...was a big, happy, personal welcome.

When I arrived, several of my invitees were already there.‡‡

It was a spacious, urban setting; a photographer's studio, I believe. There was a buffet of finger foods, several bottles of wine^ and soft drinks for the mature, responsible, grounded and/or pregnant.§§

Upon entering, we each received a naked charm bracelet. At each of the four game stations, we "had to" play the game, then we received a charm when we completed the task. As each woman filled her charm bracelet, she got a DS Lite of her very own. Along with Brain Age 2.

The stations? There was Brain Age 2¶¶...



...and quite possibly the most compelling, Guitar Hero.

Rock on, Jess.

Don't think I didn't try to figure out how to smuggle this out under my shirt...

...but mine was the last Denver party. When the tent comes down in one city, they pack up the entire thing, furniture, games, decorations and all and truck it to the next city.†††

It really was cool and touching. I met some people for the first time,@ had a bunch of old friends on hand and one woman teared up a little because she hadn't realised she was actually going to take a game home with her.

[SUMMARY: Awwwww... mature and grounded.]

Yeah, I really liked this part too. Besides being influential, being hearted is among my new favourite emotions.

I heart you too, guys. Thanks for making my little corner of the Nintendo world so bright, for making me look good, for being cool, for being there.

And, y'know... for calling me a hot redhead.

FOOTNOTE (crossed): Yeah, I've been waiting for weeks to use that line.

FOOTNOTE (double-crossed): And by, "you," I mean, "I."

§FOOTNOTE (swerved): If we're being totally honest, I bet it's 12-50.

FOOTNOTE (paragraphed): read: No boys shouting, "Hit the A button! No! The A button! THE A BUTTON!" in your ear.

%FOOTNOTE (percented): Not that some of us needed lots and lots of help. Not that some of us completely missed the part where you have to *strum* Guitar Hero to make it work. Good grief, those GGG women were patient.

#FOOTNOTE (pounded): Ask me how much I love being termed "influential." In fact, I tell everybody I meet -- including shop clerks and landscapers -- that I'm influential. "Apparently, I'm influential," I tell them.

††FOOTNOTE (ddouble-ccrossed): Maybe female astronauts too. Or female senators. I mean, they're influential too.

‡‡FOOTNOTE (doubble-crossssed): I swear I was trying to get there first. I was 15 minutes early. I guess the mature, responsible and grounded are also eager. And fewer of them may have stopped across the street for a shot of Patron.

^FOOTNOTE (careted): Not that the wine part had anything to do with the needing lots of help part.

§§FOOTNOTE (twisted like a Mariokarts track): Hey, Tani! Love you!

¶¶FOOTNOTE (plug-ins!): I don't want to brag, but I had the lowest brain age there. Of course, the nice GGG people also sent me a game like a month ago (mine has a pink crystal heart bling on it), so I've had lots of practice.

##FOOTNOTE (pounded like a Guitar Hero): The DS Lites communicate with each other, so if you have a game like this, you can go multi-player against people in your vicinity. We did. Squids were thrown, blood was shed.

†††FOOTNOTE (crosswords?): In this case, San Diego. Pause with me a moment and contemplate how cool a job these GGG women have: they travel from city to city playing and teaching video games, and everywhere they go they get to give out DS Lites and games to delighted party-goers. It's like Willie Wonka for the new millenium.

@FOOTNOTE (atted): I love it when imaginary friends migrate to the IRL list.

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