My daughter owns a Wii and a DS Lite. The Wii was a gift from this past Christmas, the DS from two Santa seasons ago. When the Wii came into the house I imagined the death of DS – another sad, dejected, little hand-held device gathering dust on a forgotten section of a shelf somewhere after being marched off into that non-eulogized realm of pre-teen toy-extinction littered with the graves of a dozen or so Tamagotchis and a summer of WebKinz. But that, it turns out, was not to be. Santa’s efforts were not in vain.

Even with a stack of Super Mario, HSM II, Order of the Phoenix, Monster 4×4 and other games beckoning from above the TV and opposite the couch, she turns far more regularly to the realm of private play than the public play that has so obviously boosted Nintendo’s stocks thanks to the Wii. In fact, unless her uncles are over or her parents willing to rip ‘round the track a few times, these games typically play second fiddle to what must be the absolute champion of DS games for young girls: Harvest Moon. And if you doubt the supremacy of the DS over its newer cousin know that Santa delivered Harvest Moon this year for the Wii, the Game Cube version that lets girls be girl farmers and marry boy farmers. Still, she turns to being a boy.

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I don’t think playing as a boy has anything to do with alternate identification, the fantasy play place where romance novels, horror movies, etc. let us live out the lives of the other. I don’t even think it’s so much about Harvest Moon’s whole new world. I think the DS offers a user intimacy and experiences of the liminal that the Wii (because it’s so much about good, clean family fun) just doesn’t, at least at this point. It’s more isolating from the mundane world, more time stretching and, as a result, maybe more interesting. Maybe it’s a case of social gaming vs. un-social gaming. Maybe it’s because a lot of the Wii games just don’t quite cut it yet vs. other platforms. Or maybe it’s because, as her dad, I just think FIFA plays better on DS or, for that matter, Xbox.

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