Friday, October 12, 2007

Is the Wii a Fad?

Question of the day: is the Nintendo Wii a passing fad?

Answer: No. Of course not. What kind of stupid question is that?

There has always been a certain degree of resistance against the Wii from the more hardcore gaming nerds and the development community, and I've never understood that. I suspect this industry took the status quo for granted.

But, surely, anyone connected to videogames knows fully well that the overall fanbase has stagnated for many years. It's become the snake that devours its own tail, an inside clique that only those who've been around for ages can break into. Good heavens, look at all the sequels of sequels on store shelves. We've been seeing the same yearly (or semi-yearly) updates to the same games again and again. And then we're being told to throw away our games consoles and buy the newer, even more expensive versions...just so we can play the same four titles for the umpteenth time.

The narrative for Nintendo's latest console was already set in stone, like everything else in this bizarre little pop business. Gamecube all over again, which was Nintendo 64 all over again. They're the child you pat on the head and then send on his merry way. Aww, good for you, little boy. Now go away and bother someone else. I'm working on this picture spread for Metal Gear Part 6.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the coliseum. Nintendo's quirky little system became a hit. A monster hit. The damned thing has been flying off shelves from the moment it touched down. It's gone on so long that Nintendo finally achieved the impossible: they regained the market lead on the home consoles.

This feat is looked down upon by the high holy Comic Book Guys, who somehow are now feeling threatened by the prospect of all these, gasp, casual gamers. How dare they tread upon my holy sanctuary with their Wii Sports and their remote controllers?! If only I could get my toy lightsaber out of the closet...where are my potato chips? Belch!!

Alright, I'm being a bit unfair and stereotypical. But that's the issue, isn't it? This childish threat of the normal people, the "casuals." As if real life shouldn't intrude upon your World of Warcraft fantasy.

So, instead of pandering to the same or dwindling numbers of overgrown Peter Pans, Nintendo managed to attract the rest of us. That's right, us. I've been connected to videogames ever since childhood, and I know that history pretty well (almost too well, methinks). But I do have other interests, and I'd rather hang out with the casuals than the hardcore. They're more fun. Videogames are really at their best in social situations, anyway. That game box is a party machine. Always has been.

The Nintendo Wii gets bagged for its reliance on party games, but what about the Sega Dreamcast? The best Dreamcast games were all party games. You hardcore types are just like prog rock snobs. If it doesn't have thirty tempo changes and a hundred chords, it isn't any fun.

Then there's this angle, which really puzzles me:

For years, game developers have made a boatload of money supporting consoles that take graphics and gameplay to another level. Sorry to say, graphics still matter, and because the Wii is lacking, some walk into a room, play with it for an hour, tell everyone how fun it is, and go back to their PS3 to marvel at the look of a game.

This is the mantra of a spoiled child. A little boy that throws away his Christmas presents as soon as they're unwrapped. Whah! Whah! Me want more toys! My grandparents' generation fought the Depression and the War. My generation cries over the toys they continue to play well into their thirties. No wonder there's no anti-war movement.

I think it's pretty obvious that we're past the point of complaining about video game graphics. The days of bad graphics are long past. I remember Atari 2600. I remember Intellivision. Today's overgrown children have nothing to compain about. Even the most hastily-assembled Wii or Playstation 2 or Xbox title looks fantastic.

I don't have a problem with the way Wii Sports looks. I think it looks fine. And I can actually play it. And so can anyone else. That's the trick. Fun. Remember that? I have too little time on my hands as it is. I have other distractions, like books, movies, music, vinyl records, my guitars, writing, yadda yadda. And I remember when video games provided instant thrills and an open door to everyone.

Why do you think Pac-Man was so popular?

Whatever. You know, there is one final thought to put into your heads. You don't have to play videogames at all. You don't have to do it. The world will keep spinning, life will continue its merry way. You may even become a better person if you just turned off the television and spent more time outdoors. You don't even have to do anything. Just sit on the lawn and admire the scenery. Take in the sights. You're going to die one of these days. You should have something interesting to tell the Supreme Being when you meet Him.

1 comment:

Gabriel said...

great article, i totally agree with you!

Except for the prog rock snobs, i think it's quite the opposite. It takes a lot this day to even admit liking prog. Most of the world prefer to listen to the same chord progressions on and on, and have no attention span for songs longer than three minutes. I see much more indie snobs around, to whom prog bashing is highly fashionable. Prog fans are much more open minded and diverse in their tastes, i think.

Anyway, i like old games and even though i've never played a Wii, it's the only one of those new consoles i think of ever buying, i couldnt care less for the ps3 and xbox 360. It seems the only improvement in those consoles are the graphics. I saw some racing game on the xbox and it was exactly like a psx game but shinier and smoother, in a bad way of course...