Friday, August 20, 2010

Love for the Nintendo Wii.

I Love the Nintendo Wii. I don't play it very often, but I love it. I love it because it is a video game system. You play games on it. You don't stream movies, or sign into massive online communities of eight-year-olds that can destroy you in Halo. You don't form Nintendo guilds of people who all play Mario together online. You just play a fucking game.

I love the success of the Wii because I see it as a celebration and vindication of the GAME. Microsoft and Sony, and even PC developers like Blizzard with World of Warcraft, have abandoned the casual gamer. The gamer who isn't willing to dedicate hundreds of hours of game time and spend stupid amounts of money on the "it" games every month.

I've felt so abandoned by the companies. I don't want to join guilds to avoid shit-head teenagers in online Gears of War matches. I don't want to spend nine hours raiding in Warcraft to get any good equipment. I don't want to play nothing but another damned first person shooter when one comes out every fucking month.

And I don't with Nintendo. They keep me rooted in the 1980's and 90's, when I simply bought a game, put it in, and played. No signing in. No leader boards dominated by guys against whom I have ZERO chance. That's what I like. You cannot just put a game into the Xbox. You cannot simply open a save file. You cannot simply jump in and out of games. Oh no! You need to create an avatar, and an Xbox Live name, and sign into the Xbox to access any save files. And if you're playing multiplayer, the person who originally signed in and pressed "start" must then be the person who signs in and presses start every time you start the game if you want to access the save file. Why not just have a simple save file that anyone can play? Because Microsoft wants to remove as much control as possible from you, because they've got designs on turning the Xbox into a set-top-box and being the Apple of the living room, where you control nothing, they control everything, and they charge you lots of money for it.

I think it no surprise, then, that Wii is outselling everyone else combined, and that I and all of my friends with whom I remember playing games back in the 80's and 90's all primarily play the Wii. I only have one friend who plays the Xbox primarily, and he is that super-gamer. He buys and sells games by the dozens every year, belongs to a gaming clan, and lives on Xbox Live. My Xbox isn't even connected to the internet and all I play is Street Fighter IV. Is the Wii for that hardcore gamer? No. Not nearly enough shooters (he says with a sly sarcasm). Obviously, Microsoft has found a model that works very well for that market. That market loves the network, the leaderboards, the sign-ins, and all of the other trappings of the Xbox. I don't. Those very same trappings do nothing but piss me off.

I could spin that market negatively. For example, World of Warcraft. The people there are similar to the people on Xbox Live. They're hardcore and the Warcraft world is their world. They derive a great deal of satisfaction, self confidence, and social interaction from this world. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not at all. But when someone who doesn't mesh with that world comes in, they clash. Do you remember the movie Christine? It's Stephen King's evil car story. Basically, an evil car is purchased by this timid, teenaged milquetoast, and he begins to become infected by it and turns into a total asshole. One of the underlying themes is that the car didn't actually infect or possess him, thus turning him into an asshole, it's that the kid was always an asshole, he was just too much of a coward to let it come out. Emboldened with his car, we discover that the kid was never a nice kid, and our earlier empathy is replaced with disgust.

Think of World of Warcraft and other online games as Christine. There are very few nice twelve-year-olds, so just imagine the pricks that they turn into when given an epic fantasy world. As such, the consistency of this fantasy world is important. They feel badass, here, and when that is threatened, they get angry (I'm here referring to not only the tweens and teens, but anyone with that profile). I'm reminded of this trenchant comic by the guys over at Penny Arcade.

So yeah, as I think I've explained, the ever-growing online world is one that has basically abandoned me. Instead of playing World of Warcraft, I play through Final Fantasy V for the tenth time. Instead of playing Bioshock II, I play Doom II. The only new games that I'm playing are New Mario, Mario Galaxy, and Street Fighter IV. Games that have basically been around since the beginning of games.

I like games. I LOVE games. And that's why I like Nintendo. They're a game company. They make games. I appreciate that and their quasi-old-style view of the industry very much. Go Nintendo.

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