A few nights ago, I was surfing from link to link online and found myself clicking a video. It was Apple’s 2007 keynote, and the introduction of the iPhone. I’ve never owned an iPhone (got by for years with a GED phone, before trying out Android late last year), but the presentation was a firecracker. You could feel the audience’s hype.
It was a moment of convergence. Sure, the components weren’t brand new. Touch screens were old hat, and smart phones with email already existed. But putting all the parts together created a new beast, one that felt new and fresh.
As a gamer, I experienced this with the unveiling of the Wii. Accelerometers and optical sensors weren’t exactly novel tech, but when put together in an intriguing form, they certainly felt like nothing else. The first night I got to play a Wii, I was in a state of stupid, shocked happiness. How did I ever play a boxing game without gestures before? I had never thought that golf or bowling would make for a captivating videogame, but in my living room that night? They were. So was tennis, which even my mom was later hooked into playing. This was definitely something different, a new user interface that managed to endear itself to tech junkies and Luddites alike, as well as lapsed gamers like me.
However, in 2014, odds are you aren’t using a Wii remote as your main controller (unless you refuse to play an online FPS on a Nintendo system with twin sticks; I admit that I have long had a soft spot for such motion controls). You’re using something with twin analog sticks, D-pad, four face buttons, and four triggers. Meanwhile, your phone? Most likely a slab design with a touchscreen, something that now feels as normal to you as rotary dial once felt to your parents (or grandparents). The daring of old becomes the rote meh of the present.
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the DS (predating both devices) showed the viability of a touch screen on a piece of mainstream consumer electronics. It was perhaps even more daring and bizarre upon its debut. It’s easy to forget now just what a trailblazer it was.
But the Wii going on sale in late 2006, followed by the iPhone in early 2007? Those were heady days. Unexpected technology surprised us and stretched our imaginations. Of course, while one innovation stuck, the other didn’t quite fare as well. Both feel like part of the landscape now, albeit in different ways. Seeing that keynote, and glancing upon my Wii remote, makes me miss it all. Not the tech, but the feeling of wonder imparted by them.
It isn’t that I haven’t enjoyed the Wii U, because I have. It has its own charm, and its own subtle innovation. Through it, I have discovered the wonders of Monster Hunter. I was able to play the incomparable Wind Waker, which I had missed out on (I was a PS2-only gamer at the time). Super Mario 3D World is a piece of master-class videogame design, and the smile that it etched on my face returns each time I think of it. Fond memories across the board, with more en route.
But I have never looked upon the console with the same wonder that I did its predecessor. The Wii U is a much more technologically robust machine, capable of displaying lush visuals and worlds of astounding beauty, but it was the Wii that made me feel like anything could be possible. With that curious little remote, I had visions of reaching into virtual lands, immersing myself in fables, fairy tales, legends, dramas and adventures.
There are still adventures that will draw me in – the Wii U’s release schedule will soon turn into a murderer’s row of A+ content. But I would be lying if I said anything has caught my imagination the same way that the original Revolution did. 2006 and 2007 felt like an age of innovation. An age that is past.