Continuing my coverage of the Wii, I must today discuss the “Check Mii Out Channel.” I’m happy to announce that the first Mii contest is finally over and this, ladies and gentlemen, is my award; a souvenir photo:
You may notice, I went for a more classical approach. He is based on the original Mario, with small pixel eyes and an open mouth.
I assumed everyone was going to make Marios that looked the same, and so I made one that was more individualistic. I was only half right. While voting, I saw hundreds of Marios that generally looked nothing like Mario or were strange spins on him. The top 50 winners though were basically identical, which is somewhat disappointing. My Mario was in the “7th level.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but I was shown an animation of Mario running up a Fuji-esque mountain and he stopped near the snowcapped top, so I’m happy with that.
For those of you that haven’t heard, this channel allows online Wii owners to upload their miis for public viewing and judgment. You can view public miis with a random “grab bag,” by popularity, or by searching for a specific type of or individual mii. That’s pretty cool, but the real fun is in the contests.
Nintendo is hosting contests on this channel that ask players to design miis to a given theme. The first worldwide contest asked for “Mario without his hat.” After that we saw “A Pilgrim from the first Thanksgiving,” “The Tooth Fairy,” and “Cleopatra” as national contests in the US. I understand that in Europe, instead of the pilgrim contest, players were asked to produce “King Arthur.”
Since I first heard of the “Check Mii Out Channel” I was excited to get going, especially because I take great pride in my mii making abilities! I’ve probably spent as much time in the Mii Channel as I have playing actual games on the Wii. Finally looking through it, uploading my Miis and judging others; I’ve been very pleased. I’m having hours of fun with software that Nintendo has provided free of charge, and investing just a bit of time into a contest has proven to be a very rewarding experience.
Of course, as with all things, I have my complaints.
List O’ Flaws
-After uploading your mii, it is not saved in a “Your Miis” library or anything. You have to write down the mii’s lengthy ID number and look it up individually (which means typing out each digit because there is not even a shortcut or copy/paste function of any kind). Once you’ve looked up your mii, you can click “I like it” to save it in your “Favorites” area, but that groups it in with all your favorited miis from other people. I was surprised to see such an obvious and simple design flaw on what is otherwise an astoundingly smooth system.
-The voting process is also extremely biased toward making miis that are already popular even more popular. I assume that the “grab bag” area functions off of an algorithm that evenly spreads out attention somehow, so even obscure miis get looked at by someone. However, you are limited to 20 pages of grab bag miis per day and the only other ways to see new miis are through the “Popular” and “Top 50” areas (which obviously cater to those that are already popular) and the search function.
-The search function would probably be my favorite tool if it really worked. Unfortunately, it’s almost useless. You can’t search for Mii names because on the “Check Mii Out Channel,” names are limited to 2 initials (a necessary evil to prevent vulgarities). That being said, you can’t search for initials. You can only search for a single mii by its ID number (which is too specific) or by a mii’s gender and “skill” category (which is too generic). For example, you can search for male miis in the category of “Fighting.” Does that show you all fighting males? No, it shows you some of them and if you search again, you’ll get the same ones until you wait a day or so. Ideally, you could whip up a simple mii face and search for miis that resemble it (a mii search that functions like a word search), but this option is not present. Thankfully, when viewing a mii, you can click “Call Friends” to see a lot of similar miis (allowing you to make an educated vote), but to use this function as a means of searching for a specific mii, you would have to go through a lot of bothersome steps before seeing any results. Even so, the number of “friends” that show up is severely limited as well.
-As mentioned above, the grab bag is limited to 20 pages of miis and the search and “Call Friends” options are limited to a single group. This is clearly not a technical limitation, so I assume it is a moral one. Nintendo has been known to discourage “hardcore gaming” for fear that it may be unhealthy (even including in some games polite suggestions to take a break and go outside). The fact that they imbue their games with that belief is something I respect (it sometimes comes off as a nice human touch). However, I also think the limitations are crap and don’t like the idea of a machine I paid for tellin me what to do. It’s one thing to suggest it and another completely to enforce it. I’LL STOP PLAYING WHEN I DAMN WELL FEEL LIKE IT, NINTENDO. GET OFF MY BACK.
-Finally, I must echo everyone else on every messageboard or blog talking about this channel in saying that it sucks that I can’t get my souvenir photo directly to the internet. The Wii is capable of e-mailing people, why can’t I e-mail myself a low res image? Maybe Nintendo didn’t want to deal with all the traffic that would come from images being constantly distributed online, but that’s kinda weak (after all, current traffic must be minimal. Nobody’s replaced e-mail with their wii.). It’s more likely they just didn’t want to deal with ironing out some of the bugs. The cost is losing out on customer satisfaction and tons of free advertising.
All that being said, the “Check Mii Out Channel” is a great and innovative addition to the Wii. This is the first time that a game console has provided its users with a medium and forum for creative expression. Even better, it is a medium that just about anyone can enjoy practicing.
Hopefully, the future will show some of these ideas put to use by someone with a greater “Freedom of Speech” sentimentality. Perhaps flash is a good place to look, where the system is more likely to be devised by an “Internet Libertarian” type. Someone with a love for “freedom of information” and a hatred for restrictions that is greater than their desire to appeal to the younger audience.
With programs like “Check Mii Out” and “Everybody Votes,” Nintendo is challenging the assumed limitations of the game; whether there must be conflict, a winner, a loser, an objective, etc. It will take a more independent source to challenge their moral and entrepreneurial limitations.
-Christopher J. Rock