Wii’s Wacky Life has no characters. Unlike a Super Mario Brothers game for example, where a player is controlling a character’s limited motions, players are forced to utilize the physical environment presented on the screen with realistic motion controls that simulate real-life. The emphasis on this video game is environmental space and movement. This game offers options for both boys and girls, while encouraging (without forcing) the opposite sex to engage in activities that some would consider to be explicitly male or female oriented.
Children enjoy and learn by trying to mimic the actions of adults. According to Roger Caillois, “The little girl plays her mother’s role as cook, laundress, and ironer. The boy makes believe he is a soldier, musketeer, policeman, pirate, cowboy, Martian, etc” (Salen and Zimmerman 136). This shows that children strive to be like the older version of their own sex. They strive to be able to perform the actions of their mothers and fathers. By eliminating character nearly altogether, the player steps directly into these roles.
It’s also important to recognize that times are changing and that the typical actions of men and women are becoming more gender neutral. Therefore, it’s imperative to analyze both male and female aspects of play in order to create a game that appeals to the masses. Henry Jenkins addressed girl culture by stating that it, “formed under closer maternal supervision and girls’ toys were designed to foster female-specific skills and competencies and prepare girls for their future domestic responsibilities as wives and mothers. [But…] these restrictions placed on girls’ play have a crippling effect” (Salen and Zimmerman 337). Wii’s Wacky Life never asks users to reveal their sex and are encourage to play all game types. While traditionally, mowing the lawn and driving to work were seen as male activity while the woman stayed at home to raise the children, this game recognizes that times have changed and these activities should be seen as gender neutral. If female girls want to imitate their mothers, they can. In this case, if their mother is a working mother, the driving game can be interpreted by them as a female game. If their mother stays at home and cooks or does laundry, they have the opportunity to mimic this activity as well.
It’s imperative to address boy’s play as well. Jenkins describes boy’s play as “more likely to move beyond their homes in search of ‘rivers, forts, and tree house, woods, ball fields, hills, lawns, sliding places, and climbing trees’ [and] possess a range of vehicles and sports equipment designed to encourage outside play” (336). By having both lawn mowing and vehicle driving, boys are given the opportunity to mimic their fathers as well as explore outdoor spaces. The idea of having a “Wacky” version of this game allows boys to move beyond a structured environment and explore new possibilities. This encourages the male character to partake in the “Wacky Cooking” or “The Wacky Laundry Machine”. These games represent a more imaginative form of play in which boys and girls alike can enjoy.