I've seen a lot of amazing things in my 25 years, but nothing could prepare me for my parents playing Wii Fit. I knew it'd go down far better than the usual games I've tried to push on them over the years, but I simply didn't realise just how brilliant the game is for non-gamers. To put things into context, my parents are usually in bed by 10pm, they don't play games at all (save for my step-dad playing Links on the PC every now and again) and most technology is met with the fear that any wrong move will break it. When Wii Fit came out it was gone midnight before they'd gone to bed and the following day my mum seemed genuinely disappointed when the local Gamestation had sold out when trying to buy a copy.
So just what struck a chord with them? I think it's pretty simple really: Wii Fit is easy to play and understand. While the Wii Remote is itself generally far easier to use than your traditional gaming controller, you can't really get simpler that standing on a board and moving your weight around. Games usually require a stage of learning, but Wii Fit doesn't. You step on the board and playing the games just comes naturally. Whether you're skiing, tightrope walking or trying to catch fish, you're able to do so instinctively. I've never seen a game like it. It's the perfect game for casuals.
Picture this. A six-foot tall man in his 50s, protruding beer belly, skinny arms and legs and a false sense of superiority after the game had told him he was in the ideal BMI range - 0.1 away from being overweight. Now imagine him with knees bent, in the skiing position. What followed is without doubt one of the funniest things I've ever seen, with the room being filled by a jumbled mess of arms and legs, before balance became an afterthought and he went tumbling towards the TV. All the time my mum was telling him what he was doing wrong, as if an expert skier herself. Wii Fit doesn't even have a party mode, but it doesn't matter; it's still the best family game ever made.
While my step-dad will likely only play on the mini-games, my mum has already started doing the Yoga exercises and my little sister can't stay away from the board. At eight years old she's pretty active anyway, but now she's obsessed with adding time to her Fit Piggy - more often than not by going on long jogs. She actually finds the aerobic exercises as much fun as the balance mini-games, which is pretty amazing. It sounds simple, but by placing other Miis in the environment, every game in the collection is made more fun. Running past people she recognises is a game in itself and the marble mini-game can't be played without a running commentary of the Miis in play.
The Wii, quite rightly, gets some criticism for failing to deliver a constant stream of quality games, but no one can argue that it's doing more to broaden gaming than the other consoles combined. Nintendo seems to have the market sewn up, and if it plays its cards right no one will be able to touch them. Nintendo is launching its WiiWare service in Europe pretty soon and it's unlikely to hold massive appeal to casual gamers, but it easily could. Release packs of new games for use with the Wii Board and the cash will come pouring in. Once consumers have paid £70 for something you can bet they're going to want to get the most out of it.
Wii Fit is casual gaming at its very best and one of the only games you could feasibly play with anyone in your family. There's a big difference between dumbing down a game to make it easy and tailoring a game to a novice audience, and Nintendo seems to have the perfect recipe for success.