Forget the long lines of people waiting for "Wii Fit." At the Nintendo World Store in New York City this afternoon, I witnessed one of the last things any passersby would expect to see...
A watermelon-eating competition.
Who could eat the most slices in six minutes?
In celebration for next month's "Major League Eating: The Game" WiiWare title, Mastiff Games held a watermelon-eating contest between two real-life competitive eaters featured in the game.
So why make Major League Eating into a game? "We wanted to do a sport that had never been done before, and that was Major League Eating," said Mastiff head Bill Swartz. "Since no one has done an eating game since 'Pac Man,' and since no one has used the Wii controller as an eating device, that was an added bonus."
The event was a showdown between the new Sushi-eating world champ, Tim "Eater X" Janus, who is ranked fourth internationally, and his roommate, "Crazy Legs" Conti, ranked 11th in the world. I was told that Crazy Legs is known as the "Evil Knievel of the Alimentary Canal," and has eaten his way out of a 96-cubic foot sarcophagus of popcorn.
This was to be an epic contest, and the Multiplayer blog would record it in text and photos for posterity. A watermelon-eating champ would be crowned...
(See all the watermelon-eating pictures below.)
At 1:00p.m., the real-life watermelon-eating competition began. The competitors had to eat as many seedless slices as they could (down to the rind) in six minutes. It looked as if the pair were neck and neck the entire time. A gaggle of reporters, photographers and befuddled Nintendo store shoppers stood by, watching silently as a wise-cracking host yelled off-the-wall comments with The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" blasting in the background.
In the end, there was no clear winner, so it came down to a rind count. Both had 15 rinds. But one of them had time to get one extra bite in an unfinished piece. So the new watermelon-eating champion of the world is...
After the competition, I caught up with Crazy Legs about his big win. "Today was mind over stomach matter," Crazy Legs told me. "Watermelon is something new for me... I had to visually imagine how to eat one slice of watermelon and then extrapolate that to 15 slices." Not only did he owe his win to his roommate for simply losing, but he used an important piece of advice: "I actually used a technique that Eater X taught me once -- in the closing seconds, just take one last bite and that might be enough for victory, which today it was."
But the competition wasn't completely over. Next was the virtual watermelon-eating competition where Crazy Legs went head-to-head with Eater X in "Major League Eating: The Game." Each played as their own avatars -- natch. (There are 11 playable competitive eaters, all based on real ones.)
The key to playing the "MLE" game is to treat the Wiimote like an actual piece of food. The players held the Wiimote in their hands like a corn on the cob. When they needed to pick up a new piece, they lower the Wiimote and raise it to their mouth. Then they hit the "B" button to chew at the appropriate times according to an on-screen mouth (button-mashing makes you bite your lip and slows you down). While eating, you can encounter random power-ups, such as burping, which emits a green stench to slow down the other player.
Players must also be aware of how fast they're eating; if they don't pace themselves and chew their food enough, they can fill up their stomachs too fast. If the on-screen stomach meter gets close to being full, the player is in danger of regurgitating all of their hard work and losing the competition. They can avoid this by shaking the Wiimote vigorously to digest.
The virtual competition was nearly as close as the real one, with Crazy Legs in the lead with 23 watermelons, while Eater X had 21. However, Crazy Legs ate a little too fast, and ultimately blew chunks and lost. "Sadly, in the virtual portion, I got so wrapped up in the game I forgot to clear my esophagus and got DQ'ed," he told me afterwards. "Competitive eating takes a lot more coordination than people realize. I do think there is a correlation to using the Wii remote and actually consuming competitively in real life; there's the multi-tasking it takes, to be focused on a lot of things at once."
Eater X agreed. "The game does reflect real eating," he said. "Every issue they've built into the game is a real issue that eaters face -- belching and reaching capacity. [Mastiff] has been very thorough."
When I asked if he thought the game would inspire people to become competitive eaters he said, "I've wonderd what the actual affect would be. I hope it enhances the fanbase that we've already built up. I won't be surprised at all if it inspires some more competitive eaters."
Crazy Legs added, "Hopefully they can get good enough, but not good enough to beat me!"