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I recently overheard a conversation between two gamers that went something like this: "Did you hear about the latest thing on the Wii? They're finally getting into online gaming market with a killer new online game that gets its own channel on the Wii's front page. So what does this new genre breaking mega game let you do? Well, umm, you just kinda, vote."
I know, at face value this does seem like a non-event in terms of actual gaming. There are unlikely to be many You Tube videos of peoples' best voting moments. Most news outlets reporting the channel's release felt the need to speculate on why Nintendo would release such as trivial game. The most popular opinion was that Nintendo was testing out their online servers and capabilities. It was a stress test for the proper online games and jubilation that will follow soon after.
But wait! I'm here to tell you that there's plenty of fun to be had from this inconspicuous channel. Time and effort has obviously been spent honing both the appearance and the sheer fun factor of this edu-game. And like any community related technology it doesn't really come to life until the users turn up and start pumping in some content or in this case, votes.
Admittedly the first few questions, such as "Do you prefer dogs or cats?" seemed a little trivial but hey this is a trivia channel what did you expect. However, with a little bit of perseverance and patience you can have some genuinely good times here. Particularly as you rope friends and family to join in the action there is a whole community side to proceedings that opens up. It even gets pretty competitive as you work on your Everybody Votes score (yes there is scoring).
Even my kids are quite partial to a vote now and then and this has led to a few interesting (and educational?) conversations about our preferences and the finer detail of some questions.
Once you have answered some questions you really need to go and do something else. Leave it a good few days for the voting to finish and new questions to appear. It is a shame that there aren't any quick fire polls, but maybe Nintendo will add these in the future. An evening of quick fire questions could be really entertaining. The BBC did something along these lines with their Test the Nation series which has turned out to be very popular.
Once the results start appearing it all starts to get a lot more fun. As they are unveiled you have the double tension of whether you chose with the majority, and whether you were able to predict your peers' choices. All this is of course played out in the clean white and blue Wii aesthetic, with cheesy game show music to match.
After receiving your results you can then go and check how other people voted in your region. Better still if it's a worldwide poll you can see how votes and predictions differed country by country. A recent poll, “Have you been abroad?” showed America to be the most parochial bunch on the planet.
Once you've had the results, its now time to go and check out how you are performing. The player stats section, which provides the best rendering of Mii's I've seen, provides an overall score for your predicting and answering performance. The first tab then shows how well you predicted questions in different genres. Perhaps you are good a personality bet not so hot at surroundings. It becomes apparent that each question is categorised into one of these areas (personality, thoughts, experience, knowledge and surroundings) then points are awarded accordingly. This is then presented here as a nice Brain Academy style radar chart. The second tab then shows how close your votes have been to popular opinion. This is depicted by a little diagram showing a distance between a little Mii character and a city. The closer you get to popular opinion, the smaller this distance becomes.
The graphics and sound are pretty good. As I mentioned above, the Mii's here seem to have had a slight make-over. Although not a million miles away from the Mii channel, they are definitely had more shading and shine effects added. The representation of the voting populace with little miniature Mii's was a stroke of genius. The whole thing has a great game show feel to it.
As you continue to vote and add to your stats, things start to get competitive with those you are living and working with. I personally found myself trading answers and stats with my Wii owning friends. Now if Nintendo would let your performance travel with your Mii this could really be the start of something pretty compelling.
Day on day, the whole voting thing actually gets quite addictive. A few of my friends are between Wii games right now, and when asked what they've been up to I now get the response "still voting". Even my kids are quite partial to a vote now and then and this has led to a few interesting (and educational?) conversations about our preferences and the finer detail of some questions.
I now find myself deliberating over each vote as I try to hone my voting statistics and increase my score. I know this won't last forever, but right now this is often the reason I turn on my Wii, before getting distracted into one of its more game-like pursuits. Now if we could only sort out our national elections in such a fun way that surely would us disillusioned voters into the polling booths again. Oh yes, you can also suggest questions for future polls. How about: "What would you prefer to do: watch holly oaks, engage in the political process?"
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: