About a month ago, I got an email asking me if I'd be interested in becoming a Nintendo Brand Enthusiast. I was three seconds away from deleting it---figuring it was just some cleverly-disguised INCREDIBLE PRICES FOR BEST DRUG$! junk mail---when I decided to take a closer look. And then an even closer one. As far as I could figure out, after extensive between-the-lines reading, Nintendo just wanted to throw me parties and send me stuff. For free. Was there a catch? Nope, there was no catch.

And so I did what any self-respecting sell-out would do in this sort of situation; I wrote back with the only two words that sprung to mind: HELL and YES. 

The first step was meeting with the Nintendo rep, the lovely Justine. Now, I like to think I've led a fairly glamorous life so far, but Justine just about blew me out of the water when she flew up from L.A. to meet with me one evening after work and then turned straight back around to head to the airport again when we were done. "But....you just got here!" I sputtered. "And you're flying right back again?" She shrugged it off with a laugh, while I remained impressed enough to regale anyone I met within the next two weeks with this anecdote. "Cross my heart!" I'd swear, my eyes wide. "She flew up just for the afternoon! Have you ever heard of anything so badass in your life?"

A few days later, a package came for me at work. I sliced open the box with scissors, while a couple of curious co-workers watched from their cubicles. Inside, was a brand new DS Lite. It was black and glossy and beautiful, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

Because this is the thing, you see: I've never thought of myself as a video game kind of girl. Sure, I once passed a few pre-teen evenings playing Wonder Boy In Monsterland with my brother Tom (click on that link, Tom, it'll make your day!), and I did develop quite the hardcore Tetris habit between the years of, oh, 1991 and 2002. Hell, there's even some indisputable evidence that I've been known to rock the Guitar Hero once in a while. But do I know my joysticks from my consoles? Um, no. In fact, I might be the only person in the world who doesn't get the "pwnd" reference. And you know what? Until a few weeks ago, I wasn't particularly ashamed of that. I figured video games were the territory of nerdy boys who sat in their darkened bedrooms with the blinds drawn on sunny days.

But oh, how wrong I was. And Nintendo wanted to prove how wrong I was. If the first order of business was sending me the shiny new DS Lite, the second was throwing a gaming party for me and 25 of my closest female friends. At first---not pegging any of my pals as the gaming type---I worried that no-one would want to come. But when I sent the invitations out, the RSVPs tumbled in immediately, and 99% of them were "yes, yes, yes!" So then, of course, I worried some more. Now I had 25 of my female friends---which is pretty much all of my female friends in the continental U.S.---counting on me to show them a good time. And what if the party was lame? What if the booze ran out? What if Nintendo pitched a hard sell and made us look at spreadsheets and pie charts and tried to convince us to buy stuff? What if nobody wanted to play the Wii?

To say I worried for nothing would be a severe understatement. The party, in fact, turned out to be a rousing success. Held in the loft-like Dogpatch Studios in Potrero Hill, it was presided over by four black-clad Nintendo goddesses, all of them so gorgeous that they likely had side jobs as supermodels. All of my friends were there---minus the boy contingent, of course, though I did have one or two of them offer to wear a skirt in order to be allowed entry---and I had the unfamiliar honor of hosting a party for which I needed to do nothing (no cooking! no cleaning!) but simply show up.

The room was organized into four stations, with each station representing one of the four games we'd be playing on the DS Lites provided for the occasion.

(Photo taken by Leah)

The back of the room was taken up with the food table---excellent catering; I believe I ate my weight in dolma, feta, and chocolate chip cookies (um, not together)---and the all-important bar, which boasted free-flowing wine, champagne, soft drinks, and the fancy kind of fizzy water.

(Photo taken by SLynnRo)

We spent the next three hours moving between the four different game stations, trying our hand at Mario Kart, Brain Age 2, Guitar Hero: On Tour, and Crosswords. Once we'd played one of the games---we could play them for as long as we wanted to---we were given a corresponding charm for the charm bracelets we'd been handed as we walked in the door. While playing my boss at Mario Kart was just slightly stressful (she won, thank goodness, or else I might not have had a job the next day), the most taxing of the four games was Brain Age 2, which involved a little more math that I usually like alongside my champagne, the usual amount of math I like alongside my champagne being, uh, let's see, NO MATH AT ALL.

Look, my brain is 71! Except I'm.....28. Wow, that's embarrassing. Let's blame the champagne. 

One of the most fabulous things about the party was that everyone was really into all the games; it's funny, if you'd asked me before the party if anyone I knew liked video games, I would have raised an eyebrow and shaken my head doubtfully. But man, how wrong I was! It was really kind of heartwarming how all of my friends, from all the different and various parts of my life, came together and bonded over a little two-inch by three-inch screen.

Even better, I got to hang out with all my pals in one place! And because it was BlogHer weekend, that meant catching up with a lot of wonderful people I don't normally get to see all that often, people like Susan and Chris and SLynnRo and Heather and Jennifer, and the fabulous Anh-Minh, who wrote the Apartment Therapy House Tour we were in a few months ago. (And people like Leah and Moose and Jemima, of course, but eh, whatevs, I see them all the time.)

I seem to be so excited to talk to Susan here that I have lost my ENTIRE LEFT HAND. Seriously, where is it? Is that freaky or what? And yet somehow I still managed to play the video games without it. Although perhaps THAT'S why my brain age is 71.

While some people opted to play the DS Lite games for the entire night---Guitar Hero: On Tour was really addictive; I think it's going to be the next game I buy, in fact---others mixed it up with a little Wii-playing:

At the end of the night, when we'd snacked and sipped and gamed ourselves silly, the Nintendo goddesses---seriously, I know they had a real name, but they were so pretty and lovely and friendly and I can't remember what it was---started to hand out the party favors. And what were these party favors? Why, only the most awesome party favors you can think of: DS Lites for everyone!

(Can we just take a moment and savor that? THEY GAVE ALL OF MY PARTY GUESTS THEIR VERY OWN DS LITE. And also a copy of Brain Age 2! Not only is this one of the most incredibly generous moves I've ever seen, but oh my god, score! I don't have to remember anyone's birthday for years now! I'll just be all "oh, remember that time you came to my party and you got a DS Lite? Yeah, that was your birthday present. For the next five years. You're welcome.")

(Confidential to my friends: um, not really. But actually kind of really. And ooh, yes, thank you, I would like a cup of coffee if you're running out to Starbucks! And did I tell you where I dropped my dry-cleaning?)

Speaking of the DS Lite, by the way, I've been playing mine every night---no kidding, every single night---since the party. I haven't been won over by the Crossword game yet, but I am officially obsessed with Brain Age 2, and every evening I participate in what I solemnly call "my training." In fact, if you came over to my house one evening, you'd find me and Sean slumped on the couch, DS Lites in hand, both participating in complex Brain Age 2 exercises with furrowed brows. (If you're lucky enough to have a copy of Brain Age 2, by the way, might I suggest finding the "hidden"game called Virus Buster? Yeah, you'll thank me for that when you NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. It's like a highly addictive form of Tetris, which in itself is highly addictive anyway. Say goodbye to the next five years of your life.)

All in all, my experience so far with Nintendo has been absolutely fantastic, and I should disclose that they were super laid-back about whether I wrote about the experience on my blog. There was no pressure, no pitching, no anything: just a "hey, let's show you what we're about, and you can decide what you think of us." And this, of course, makes me want to shout from the rooftops about how wonderful they are. Well, that and the plentiful bowls of jellybeans at the party.

The full set of Nintendo party pics can be found here if you're interested. Oh, and you'll be relieved to know that I have now whittled my brain age down from 71 to 41: that's what the daily training will do for you, apparently! Of course, I'm still 28, so it's not like I should get TOO proud of myself or anything.


Aug 05, 2008

Isn't Nintendo the best? I've been a fangirl since Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and collectively, my family owns almost every Nintendo console.

P.S. My brain age is 21. So :P

Camels & Chocolate
Aug 06, 2008

You have no idea how sad I STILL am that I missed this fun night. Nintendo, throw me a party!!! Puh-lease??? I've been a fan since early 80's, no lie!!!

SoulMoxie (My Blog)
Aug 06, 2008

Damn! I haven't played Nintendo since the early 90's...so jealous...

Aug 06, 2008

You MUST go and get a Wii. So much fun!

Aug 06, 2008

I *heart* Nintendo! And the last time I checked, my brain age was 28, even though I'm 31. I haven't played in a while because I was tired of the little Japanese man getting on my case for not playing every day.

Heather B.
Aug 06, 2008

My brother is still pissed that I got a new DS just for being someone's friend. Apparently his friends don't love him as much as my friends love me. And if I am ever in San Francisco again, I'll totally pick up your dry cleaning. What are you doing in like February, hm?

Thank you for the invite! And the champagne! And the Wii Tennis playing! (She says, three weeks later)

Aug 06, 2008

I've gotten my Brain Age down to within one year of my real age and decided not to tempt the fates and check it again! I played that game on the plane so many times. Let me give you a tip, if you scroll all the way down the games the one on the very bottom is Virus Buster (it's probably a bunch of question marks on your screen but if you've unlocked enough games it should be there) and is very much like Tetris which I LOVE.

Aug 06, 2008

My brain age was 68. They told me this was average. I think they were just being nice.

Not unlike yourself! Thanks again for the invite, and the most awesome free gift!

Aug 06, 2008

Um, well played Nintendo. Now I want to be a gamer like Holly. Seriously, I have never owned a game console in my life and I am sort of pining over a Wii. Who knew?

Aug 06, 2008

Coolest party ever.

Aug 06, 2008

The hubby and I have been Nintendo fans since childhood. I remember playing Legend of Zelda (with the lovely pixelated Link) and World Runner all afternoon with my brother and sister. As grownups, we own both the GameCube and the Wii. in fact,I just got MarioKart for my birthday! :)

Aug 06, 2008

My brain age was 61. Awesome.

My husband and brother were in awe that Nintendo would do all of this for a group of women.

I, for one, am happy they did. And that I got to come and play with you guys.

Aug 06, 2008

I remember when the ex abandoned his daily Wall Street Journal reading habit in lieu of the first Brain Age. He was addicted!!! I liked it, but give me Duck Hunt or Gumshoe and I'm a happy girl.

Looks like you ladiez had fun. And I love that all the girls are wearing cute jeans with fancy shoes...makes me miss SF!

Aug 06, 2008

omgzzz VIRUS BUSTERS!!!! While you're playing, do you ever notice yourself zoning out because the music is so repetitive? Two minutes of that game would probably put me right to sleep if it weren't so goddamn addictive!

She Likes Purple
Aug 06, 2008

Well aren't I kicking myself.

Aug 06, 2008

Do you need me to come over and fan you with peacock feathers? Make cunning lox and caper designs on your morning bagel? BECAUSE I'LL TOTALLY DO IT.

Aug 06, 2008

Aren't the DS Lite parties fun! I was lucky enough to be invited to be a Brand Enthusiast here in Philly (also by the lovely Justine) and had such a good time doing it. Three months later, I am still totally hooked to Brain Age 2.

Aug 06, 2008

She Likes Purple -- you were missed!

Aug 06, 2008

Actually, you are not the only person not to get the "pwnd" reference because I am STILL waiting on someone to TELL ME WHAT THAT MEANS.

I would like video games more if my husband didn't feel compelled to "teach" me how to play the games. Mostly because this usually involves him taking over the controller and trying to "show" me what to do...I think I would like the whole gaming thing a lot more with a party like that.

Aug 06, 2008

I'm so jealous that Nintendo threw you a party, which I have to admit is a little silly because I already own a DS Lite and a Wii, and 3 of the 4 games you got to play. See? They don't call me Geeky for nothing. But honestly, the DS Lite is awesome. Even my over 50 Mom has one and loves it!

Aug 06, 2008

My favorite part about the party (aside from the FREE DS LITE!!! (we fight over it every night)) was the fact that there was none of the icky sales-pitchy marketing hoo-ha I'd expected. The (gorgeous) Nintendo hostesses were just there to make sure we were having a good time, and THAT's how you host a good party.

Thanks again for the invite. When I win the World Championships in Sign Finder, I'll thank you in my speech.

Aug 06, 2008

That DS Lite looks cool enough to make any girl get addicted to video games.

My 7-year-old son has my old putty-colored vintage 1991 Game Boy with the Tetris cartridge, and he's addicted now, because apparently it's hereditary.

Aug 06, 2008

Honestly Holly, when are you going to write a book?This is like teasing us. I want hundreds and hundreds of pages..!

Aug 06, 2008

WOW! That is amazing!...where do I sign up?! ;)

Aug 06, 2008

Are you serious? That is so awesome. I'm really jealous. I've been playing Nintendo since I was 5 or 6 years old and my dad bought us this really crappy Super Nintendo that didn't work unless you hit it a few times every hour or so. The game consoles have definitely gotten much better since then. I would go crazy if someone asked me to host a Nintendo party.

Aug 06, 2008

DUDE, that is so cool! How did you get chosen for that? Lucky girl! (and your friends too, for being friends with you!!!) I'm totally jealous.

Anne in SC
Aug 07, 2008

How much fun - and what good luck.

I need to figure out how I can get my email address slipped on their circulation list. I think they need to have me host one of these here in Charleston.

Aug 07, 2008

Thank you so so much for finally clearing up the "pwnd" thing. I had no idea. My friend always uses it and I just kinda smile and nod like I know.

Becky Mochaface
Aug 07, 2008

I love Mario Kart! Haven't gotten a chance to play Brain Age yet. Though I'm definitely intrigued now.

Aug 07, 2008

Just last night, as I was completing my first 900+ point game of virus buster (that's right, bitches, I got 939), Leah said, "Hon, go to SLEEP."

It was 12:30, I'd been playing since 11:15. Just like the night before. Aaaaand the night before.

Aug 07, 2008

So much fun! Also: I am the best Wii Hula Hooper EVER.

Aug 07, 2008

I am absolutely, utterly ADDICTED to Mario Kart.

The Zelda game is pretty damn amazing... that is, if you're a nerd who's into things like RPGs... *sigh*

Aug 08, 2008

This is remarkably freeing for me to read, because now I don't have to hide the fact that yes, after my 8 year goes to bed, I play her DS games. Whew! That feels great!

Aug 11, 2008

Wow, that's pretty amazing that they hosted a party for you guys AND gave you free DS lites. I wish some of my friends would host a party like that! As a handsome man once told me "Girls who play video games and admit to it rock". :)Thanks to another guy I now play world of warcraft, and while I choose to skip the geeky terms and refuse to get *too* into it, I can definitely see why they call it warcrack. Video games are fun times.

Aug 12, 2008

Does it mean that I am immature, obsessed, or just totally awesome that I feel the need to update my Virus Buster high score on your comments section?