I want a Wii – damn, the puns are endless

The Nintendo Wiimote is basically a whole bunch of buttons, directional sensors and velocity sensors in a tiny neat wireless handset. It has tremendous potential for musicians and for anyone doing anything performance based with a computer. It is very similar to something I was sketching out as a hardware extension for the Lightning Rods at STEIM a couple of years ago. I am happy that I didn’t need to figure all that out myself – because amidst the infinite pile of crap it ceaselessly generates, sometimes capitalism comes up with just what you need at a fraction of the cost you might expect. Nintendo make a dedicated games console for it but the good news is you don’t need to buy it to use the handsets because its broadcasting using bluetooth compatible technology – so any computer, mobile phone and god knows what else, can receive the wiimote’s data.

There are a number of computer based applications which can translate the Wii data into something useful. The most comprehensive is STEIM’s JunXion which more or less automatically recognises the Wiimote’s and can translate it into midi data – its Apple OSX only

Apparently the Wiimote controllers have revived Nintendo’s flagging fortunes. I wouldn’t know because haven’t played an video game since pong and space invaders in 198whatever and I was never great at those. But I played one of the Wii music games in current development which basically involves dancing rabbits and quite sarcastic badly sung cover versions of pop songs. You get to trigger drum, bass, guitar, horn or vocal parts and try to keep them in time with the track while reading a rudimentary score which scrolls down the screen remorselessly. Its entirely about doing the right thing at the right time and really uncreative – its really a game, you get points for confirming to the system. I’m too far gone for such a thing but I did get the chance to “perform” the vocal line for Born to be Wild, its been a long time since I did that…

As I say the game I played is in development so maybe the implementation is not finished but I must say I wasn’t impressed with the feel of the thing. It felt clunky and not particularly accurate. The link between the graphics, movement and sound didn’t feel particularly direct either. From my experience with JunXion and LiSa the wii is potentially a much more sensitive and capable tool. Maybe better will come but at least some of the current Nintendo implementation is barely scratching the surface of what is possible with the wiimote.


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