Monday, September 28, 2009
About three weeks before the attack on my car which led to our sudden volte-face decision to return to Korea, we bought a Nintendo Wii. It's clear to me from people I know that Wii's are used for one of two things, either to provide an interactive gaming and exercise system, or gather dust in closets. It was soon clear that ours was going to fall into the former category.
This presented a problem because a UK Wii is a PAL output system and Korean TVs run on NTSC, which meant that even if we were prepared to ship it out to Korea, to my mind it wasn't going to work unless we could find a Korean TV that accepted PAL inputs. I may be a former software designer and one-time computer geek, but I'm no expert on audio-visual equipment and everything I read on the subject could basically be summarised as 'forget about linking a PAL Wii to an NTSC TV without a heck of a lot of messing around or some special connectors. My wife scoured the Korean Internet and couldn't find any TVs claiming to take PAL inputs - whereas in the UK NTSC capable TVs are quite common.
So as reluctant as I was to probably lose a hundred pounds in three weeks on a console that we would have to dump quickly, I saw little choice but to write it off as a transition cost and start again in Korea with a locally purchased Wii. Then my wife had her Peter Griffin moment - "You know what? I'm taking this. I'm taking this Wii to Korea". And because as traders neither of us like losing lots of money on a position we've just entered, I found myself seduced by the idea of going along with it.
It logically follows that if you're going to take a PAL Wii to NTSC country, maybe you have to have a PAL TV to use it with if all else fails, and that's how - along with a few other boxes of possessions we arranged to have shipped to Korea, we came to have a cheap 19-inch TV shipped along with them. But the Wii itself along with its accompanying software was not going to be shipped - instead my wife resolved to use about a significant part of her suitcase to bring them with us on the flight. I could only do what any husband would in this situation, which was to offer words of support such as "You're crazy", "Customs are bound to go through your cases", and "I'm really not sure this is going to work anyway". I think it's important to see a marriage as a real partnership.
Despite my disturbing lack of faith I made sure we brought all the connectors and two days after we arrived I'm finally crawling around the back of Korean Mother's 52-mile wide PAVV (i.e. upmarket Samsung) TV looking for a SCART connector, which is what we used to use to connect just about every piece of equipment in the living room to one another before HDMI came along. This exhibited a complete lack of research on my part, because despite having a couple of dozen different connectors in the back - including an Ethernet port of all things - a SCART socket was conspicuous by its absence. I checked the old TV we'd bought when we came to Korea the first time - it's so old it's actually a CRT rather than LCD, and that didn't have a SCART either, which is when it became obvious that Korea doesn't use SCARTs and probably never did. Well, the Wii cables running into the SCART convertor were a left and right audio, and a video cable, so I figured I'd just pull them out and see if I could stick them somewhere else directly - my trademark scientific approach to almost anything technical. There was some colour-coding but since half of the ports seemed to be red it wasn't as helpful as it might have been.
It didn't take long to figure out that the Mega TV set-top box was using the same type of cables to connect to the TV, and by replacing them with those from the Wii we might be in business. And then it just happened - the picture came on - the standard Nintendo warning that their consoles can be dangerous to use or some such thing - and what's more, it even had a splash of colour in the right place despite the cautionary Internet tales that in the unlikely event we had any success, the picture would probably end up being monochrome.
Later I got even more ambitious and succeeded in connecting the Wii to the Korean TV via a non-Nintendo Component Cable I'd bought in the UK, so now it can remain connected without the need to cut off the Mega TV box. And with that we were set up. Admittedly, we can't buy Korean Wii games because they will be NTSC format, so if we want to add any more software to it we'll have to try and find PAL titles from somewhere. But even if we don't, we feel like we really achieved something somewhat against the odds.
I'm not sure that 10.30pm on an uncomfortably humid evening is a good time to be reacquainting oneself with Wii Sports, but we were soon back into the swing of things, and the great thing about Korean Mother's apartment was that we actually had space to move around, unlike our home back in the UK.
Korean Mother came home to discover that we'd seized control of the strategically important lounge area, and her 52-mile wide TV with it, and rushed off to her room to watch the soap opera she'd come home for. But curiosity soon got the better of her, and she was back outside watching with fascination. In fact, she'd been out exercising at a local school, at 9pm, and was intrigued by the idea of exercising in her apartment using a console when we showed her EA Sports Active. After that, it wasn't long before she was playing Wii Sports Resort's table tennis, and unexpectedly discovering she was rather good at it.
But nothing prepared me for what was to follow. Korean Mother discovered Wii Boxing, and suffice to say while I have video of her playing this which I'm sure could be a YouTube sensation if there wasn't a going to be a very long statute of limitations applying to it, I will instead merely have to relate that nothing in life quite prepares you for the sight of an ajumma knocking the hell out of a Nintendo character while angrily suggesting with each punch to the character that his mother might have the characteristics of the son of a fornicating female dog who isn't familiar with the father. What's even more inexplicable, is that having played first and exhausted myself entirely having once again failed to beat my next level opponent, Korean Mother took over my character and beat it on her first attempt. It's clear from watching Korean TV - which run programmes that I always imagined being called When Ajummas Attack - that an angry ajumma is a dangerous animal - but seeing it up close is truly a sight to behold. I tell you this - if Wii Boxing ever catches on in the ajumma community, on the evidence I've seen the rest of us are really in trouble.