Turned on the Wii last night only to be warmly greeted by a black screen and the following curt, clipped sentences: "THE SYSTEM FILES ARE CORRUPTED. PLEASE REFER TO THE WII OPERATIONS MANUAL FOR HELP TROUBLSHOOTING."
As if simply telling me that my Wii is fucked was not enough, the nice person in charge of creating this screen--yes, someone has to create these types of screens; paging Dr. Kafka--also saw fit to render the two sentences in some of jarbled-up, broken-assed font.
I was oddly calm during this moment. I didn't start sweating, or turning over furniture. I didn't pour myself a drink the way that Tom Hagen pours Vito Corleone a drink before telling him that Sonny got shot on the causeway.
I very calmly, cooly began troubleshooting. Step one: I have no fucking idea where my "operations manual" is. So I moved on to step two: restarting and saying a prayer.
The most curious aspect of the experience was the complete and utter lack of emotion I felt about the whole thing. I have had emotional relationships with my consoles. About a month ago, I visited my New York City at my apartment. I went through my closets and found my Super Nintendos (plural; my brother gave me his when he got married), my PlayStation, my Dreamcast, my Nintendo 64, etc. I held each machine for a moment, wiped the dust from its casing, and as cornball as it sounds, I spent some time recalling all the terrific times the two of us had together.
Let me tell you, those machines got me through some rough periods in my life. Break-ups. Deaths. Firings. Even smaller moments--example: missing the 10:19 bus in Chicago, knowing that I'd be late for my shift at the stupid, dumb, fancy restaurant where I worked in the '90s--were bearable because I knew at the end of the day, after all the bullshit and headaches and arguments with Frank the sous chef, it would be me and M. Bison going at it hammer and tongs in Street Fighter II on the SNES.
Which brings me back to my cold reaction to the Wii's death.
Make no mistake, the Wii and I have had some fun together. The Super Mario Galaxy games? Excite Truck? Mario Kart Wii? Good stuff, all of it.
But the aspect of the Wii that I have always loved the most was the Virtual Console. The white, unassuming little box has always been little more than a cipher to me, an empty vessel that appropriates old dreams and experiences. Of course, I downloaded all of the best shit from the past. Super Metroid? The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past? WaveRace 64? They're all on my Wii's corrupted hard drive.
Which should make me panic.
But it doesn't.
Because I know I can simply download them all again once a new Wii comes into my life.
Or, I can get on a plane, fly to New York. I can always hook up my old consoles and play them there.
Old consoles, which by the way had a failure rate of 0.000000000 percent.
CORRECTION: My friend John Teti who edits the A.V. Club's videogame section sent me this useful bit of information: "The thing is, you can't download all your Virtual Console games again -- at least not without paying for them again. Because Nintendo is shit and they tie downloads to a single machine." Thanks, John.