Wii Dreams

This is one of those strange stories that, on first glance, you take for granted. Then, you realize that, perhaps, it explains a lot about yourself.

For whatever reasons, I collect a lot of Wii games. I’m not sure the exact reason, but it comes down to the experimental qualities of the system. Nintendo literally beat its opposition to death with a console that, though incredibly yet novel under-powered technology. In 2006, waggling a Wiimote like an idiot somehow became all the rage, and the company that created it brought a host of new players into a relatively closed industry (hence, that whole divide between “hardcore” and “casual” gamers). Article after article heralded the Wii’s potential, and how motion control would change video games forever. Of course, Nintendo’s new ideas never disseminated to the masses, but the ideals of the system represent that core value of the company to continue innovation.

Back around that time, though, people went crazy for the little white box with the Wagglemote. So crazy, in fact, that finding one for the first year remained a nearly impossible task. From my experience in the past, that was a very rare thing. I waited in line for a Nintendo 64, and certainly for a host of other systems (PS2, Gamecube), but never did I imagine the day when you couldn’t find a Nintendo system at all. There was nothing I could do; I just had to wait until Nintendo could keep up with demand! That didn’t happen until a few years later.

That’s where my story begins. At the time, I attended Merrimack College, and honestly felt a little unsure about my direction in life. I was certainly skilled at something; I just didn’t quite know what that something was. My advisor, of course, headed (and still heads? Not sure?) the Religious Studies department, so she often encouraged me to “give it a try”, as it were. coincidentally, the academic year of 2007-8 also marked the first time Merrimack offered a new degree program called…wait for it…Theological Studies. I bet you can tell where this is going, huh?

But, even though I did enjoy learning about various religious traditions, both in and out of Christianity, I did not make a firm decision. Thankfully, college allows one to become an aimless wanderer for a few years (two years, to be exact), so I continued to drift towards a lot of different shores. None of them seemed quite as interesting as the ultimate questions of human existence, though. Still, I didn’t make the jump. I can’t say I was looking for a sign or anything; I was just a bit of an indecisive young man, torn to and fro by the waves.

But he mustask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a [i]double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1

Eventually, though, I finally thought “I need to make a commitment to something. I am good at this stuff. Why not?” Academic performance seemed a clear enough indicator that, for example, I would not become a musician, or a historian, or a (urgh) art history (hardest classes I’ve ever taken, hands down). Clearly, everything in my life really pointed to this one thing, and I just felt a bit hesitant. Thus, I declared that major and finally settled into the role of theological thought and development. While it did not exactly serve me well from a financial perspective, I think that Theology Gaming and its various subsidiary projects remain a testament to that one decision. I honestly could not imagine where I would be if I hadn’t taken the plunge and swam to the correct shore. God called, and I answered.

Still, you can imagine that I remained an adamant video gamer; I still wanted a Wii, and I still could not find one. Around that time, the impending release of Super Smash Bros. Brawl drew near, and with it the unbelievable hype train of INCREDIBLE PROPORTIONS. Who could resist? Also, I lived in (relatively speaking) the middle of absolute nowhere, and thus the possibility that one would find a Wii in my rural area seemed close to zero. At a point, one resigns themselves to the fact that they won’t find something, and settles with their desires for something so ancillary and uncessary.

That is the moment when divine intervention strikes.

My mother comes home one day, and says “they have a Wii down at our Blockbuster Video”. Of all the places, right? I refused to believe that Blockbuster Video sold video game systems; from personal experience, you rarely see such a thing. Lo and behold, for whatever reason, my local video rental store somehow had a Nintendo Wii, with Super Smash Bros. Brawl, sitting there doing a whole lot of nothing. Days passed, and nobody had bought it; I asked the manager, and they said nobody had intimated much interest in the Wii even though it sat on a table, doing a whole lot of nothing. You can imagine my reaction at that point:

futurama-shut-up-and-take-my-money-card-34That’s the story of how I got a Wii. This sounds entirely unexciting, and possibly a series of dull coincidences, but that experience sticks with me. Seriously, it happened the absolute day after I declared my major; I don’t take that stuff lightly. And, I think, neither should you. From both a functional and idealistic perspective, the Wii represents an idealistic vision of what video games could be, and all the strange novelties that come along with it; the games themselves contain tons of exciting experiments that probably won’t emerge again for a long time, if ever. So, I keep accumulating these Wii games, because they’re all so weird and interesting! Theology, for its part, is so weird an interesting! That’s what attracted me to both: the ideals of new ideas and discovery, even within an old framework. Nintendo and the Bible alike emphasize tradition, but also the sense of the new.

And, at the same time, it’s a strange touch point on my life’s journey. Who’d have thought?

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.