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Persuasive Games: Wii Can't Go On, Wii'll Go On

November 27, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4
 

Indiegestion

So serious is Nintendo about this act, it has launched its console with an independent, downloadable title that openly mocks the current state of video games. Little Inferno was created by Tomorrow Corporation, a new studio formed by Kyle Gabler (of World of Goo fame) and Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray (Henry Hatsworth).

The game is both cute and morbid: in a fictional city bombarded by snow for as long as anyone can remember, a toy company (also called Tomorrow Corporation) creates the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, in which children can burn their toys to keep warm. The operation of this virtual fireplace forms the entirety of the game about it: a brick hearth appears on screen, upon which the player can set different children's toys before igniting them.

Tomorrow Corporation provides catalogs of new toys, which can be purchased with coins earned by... burning more toys. Once purchased, the player must wait a period of time before they are delivered to the fireplace's inbox, which visually mimics the iOS dock in a not-so-subtle jab at the Apple app economy.

Earning combos by burning objects together in response to a list of clues provides tickets that can be used to speed up delivery, which can take several minutes per item by the end of the game.

It doesn't take much squinting to find Little Inferno's tacit message: games have become pointless grinds, absurd hamster wheel exercises meant only to produce their own continuance, to offer just enough novelty to imbue players with curiosity sufficient to press on in the pointless art of clicking on (or burning) another object.

The simulation of a social game-style energy mechanic outside of the context of a free-to-play game with micropayments makes an adept point: sitting there, in front of the useless fireplace that is the television, waiting for progress bars to fill, yields a frosty chill. Is this what players and creators want, or what they have been settling for?

So self-aware is Little Inferno that it even mocks Nintendo as host. One of the game's catalog of flammables, "1st Person Shopper," contains video game-themed objects (including references to some popular indie games). Among the items in this catalog is a "handheld fireplace," shaped more or less like a Wii U GamePad. Upon ordering this object to burn, the player -- who probably purchased the virtual object whilst staring down at the GamePad instead of pointing a Wii remote at the television before him or her -- can't help but shiver with postmodern nuisance.

Little Inferno is riddled with the same kind of ambiguity that characterizes the Wii U itself. It is both a silly toy and a real adult game, with real themes worth taking seriously. It's both a game and the representation of a game, both in turn created by a real and a fictional Tomorrow Corporation. The game itself is unabashedly and shamelessly "indie," thus realizing Nintendo's desire to offer an eShop store at console launch, while also remaining available on other platforms with "no copy protection" by guys with "no office" -- a deft rhetorical turn for young dudes who have probably burned the piles of cash they made from their previous games on swank cribs with Herman Miller-bedazzled home offices.

It's a subtle and surprising game about the horror of today's games that keeps its message close to its chest -- until the very end, when it reveals that message in the most heavy-handed, blatant manner possible. In so doing, Little Inferno embraces both the triviality of games and the naiveté of players and developers, while somehow still affording its creators the freedom to advertise such callowness as a "zero waste" aesthetic full of "polish." It's as "perfeccct as possible," the creators boast on their website, which is just to say, typographic tongue in cheek, flawed by design.

Little Inferno is lovely and awful in the way that most indie games are lovely and awful. Pretty and weird, unexpected and ironic, self-referential and earnest, full of youthful scorn for didacticism and pretense, in a manner delivered with moralism and ostentation. Little Inferno is the Wii U saying that it supports indie games, while also saying that indie games are sort of terrible, actually, and wouldn't you rather just save princesses and kill zombies instead?

I Can't Go On, I'll Go On

It's almost impossible to understand the Wii U in the abstract, without playing it. And even then you won't be sure of it, because the Wii U isn't sure of itself, and that's its greatest virtue. In an age when showy CEOs shout hubristic, trite predictions about the inevitable future of games, The Wii U offers an understated bravado that's far more courageous. With it, Nintendo admits, "we don't know either." We don't know what video games are anymore, or what they will become. It's a huge risk, and it's probably the most daring move Nintendo has made in its 125-year history. Domestication through polite ferocity. Feral design.

Still, let's not get too romantic: Nintendo's risk is not daring because the Wii U is good, necessarily. Many will lament what they will perceive as a step back for Nintendo compared to the "innovation" found in the Wii. They might be right. But the Wii U is serious in a way that Nintendo has never attempted. Even Nintendo may not have fully realized what it has done. It has domesticated the wildness of the present moment in video games, consumer electronics, the internet, and home entertainment by caging them out in the open. It's lurid and beautiful and repugnant and real, like watching Mickey Mouse smoke a joint in the alley behind Space Mountain.

We've all been assuming that games "growing up" means growing up in theme, tackling adult issues, achieving the aesthetic feats of literature and painting and film -- even if by "film" we usually mean "summer tent-pole movies."

But there are other ways to grow up. One involves embracing the uncertainty of one's own form and responding deliberately. That's what real art does, after all. It admits that it doesn't know what art is in theory, but only in practice. It gives the finger to its critics because it doesn't care if they like the results. Some among us keep asking for the Citizen Kane of games. Maybe Nintendo delivered something better, something weirder and more surprising -- particularly for a consumer electronics device. Not craft but soul, for once. Even Apple hasn't succeeded at that.

Around the time Nintendo was gearing up to license Disney's properties and become a major player in the playing card business, the novelist Samuel Beckett published The Unnamable. The book has no concrete plot or setting, and it's unclear if the work's characters and events are real or figments of the narrator's imagination.

Much of the novel is self-referential, with frequent ponderings over the possibility that the narrator is simply a construction of the language that forms the novel itself. The writing is a mess, full of despair and incoherence, long sentences flowing into one another to the point of illegibility. It ends with this famous passage, which now, surprisingly, improbably, could as easily have been written by Satoru Iwata or Shigeru Miyamoto:

They're going to stop, I know that well: I can feel it. They're going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn't last, that still lasts? It will be I? ...

Perhaps it's done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.)

It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don't know, I'll never know: in the silence you don't know.

You must go on.

I can't go on.

I'll go on.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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Comments


GameViewPoint Developer
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Great article.

First let me say that I'm in the UK, and therefore haven't played with the system yet, so this is somewhat of an uninformed view, but I'm basing my thoughts on the same information that most people have seen and will use to make a buying decision or not.

The problem I have with the Wii U is that it feels misplaced. I've got a 360, and a Wii. I hardly played on the Wii, although in the past I spent a lot of time on the SNES and the Game Cube. These days I spend my gaming time between COD on the xbox and an assortment of games on the iPhone.

Like millions I'm waiting with baited breath at the next instalment of the XBox, as I'm sure most playstation owners are with their machine. Everyone I know who has a Xbox, will buy whatever new machine Microsoft have up their sleeves. The Wii U doesn't register on anyones radar as far as I can see.

I like the games that I see on the Wii U, not so much in terms that they look better then what's already available on the xbox/ps3 but in terms of them being games you don't really see on those 2 consoles.

The problem I see is that the new Microsoft/Sony machines are simply going to swamp the Wii U when they are released. The Wii U, regardless of what it does well, and no doubt some good games will just get eclipsed in the rush and excitement around those new machines.

The Wii had something which made it stand out, so even though the games looked dated, it could stand up and say "Hey look I can do this! you other consoles can't!" but then Sony and Microsoft jumped on that bandwagon and of course interest in the Wii faded.

The Wii also grabbed a whole new audience (not really new but anyway) which was casual gamers on consoles, but this audience then mostly migrated away to Facebook and then mobile.

I was looking forward to the next Nintendo machine, I was hoping of something which would finally bring Nintendo back into the console battle and allow it to compete, not against the current crop of machines but whatever Microsoft and Sony had coming up next. I think the pad/screen/controller thing is interesting and might well lead to some unique gaming experiences but I just don't see how the Wii U is going to fit in between the Xbox 720/PS4 and casual gaming on phones/tablets.

Ian Bogost
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The *virtue* of the Wii U is that it *is* misplaced! It's all about being misplaced, out of place. It's hard to wrap your brain around. I couldn't do it until I really devoted some time to the system.

Matt Robb
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Honestly, I expect the Wii U to mostly fit in that space where multi-pre-teen-child families exist. I have 3 kids under age 10, they don't need cell phones yet, I'm not about to drop the cash for 3 iPads, but they *are* tech savvy enough that cheap tablets wouldn't cut it. Incidentally, we already have a Wii no one plays, they each have a DSi, a (hand-me-down) computer just for them, and a 360 they mostly use for Minecraft. We have no real demand for a new Nintendo console right now.

Of course, I'm unlikely to purchase the new xbox either, more than enough unplayed catalog for me to milk the 360 for years.

Luiz Junior
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Same here in Brazil. I have two boys (7 and 9 years old). Both of them plays a lot Minecraft and League of Legends.

I used to have a Wii but now we have a Playstation 3 and they only play the Lego (Batman, Pirates of Caribbean, Star wars,etc) games...

They also play on our their Nintendo DSL (when the other son is using the iPad), and on iPad a lot of Social/Farming games and for Christmas they wan't a Wii U and a iPad Mini .. hahaha, I don't know if Santa has money for all of those hardware, but let's see how Wii U Mario games will affect them (because they played only Mario games on Wii and NDS)

Michael Pianta
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Well I have a 360 and I'm not at all sure that I'm getting the follow up. It'll depend on the price I think and ultimately the games. In some ways the 360 disappointed me, so I'm wary now. But Nintendo has never let me down, so I felt comfortable buying a Wii-U on launch day. But then again, I admit that I'm not the typical consumer.

David Holmin
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Well written and thoughtful article. I'm not quite sure what to make of the message, but I enjoyed reading it.

The part about Nintendo Land saying "we don't know, either" rings true, but maybe to me it feels more like "show us", directed to third party developers. This is not entirely unlike the DS, which was/is a smorgasbord of features you may or may not want to use. In the end, the best games ended up being (theoretically) playable on a SNES, but I kind of like that idea of versatility.

Ian Bogost
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Good point about the DS. In fact, it probably never needed the second screen.

Christian Nutt
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"Needed" is a strange word in this context. The question is more did the second screen help differentiate it, did it help make developers think more creatively, did it allow for better gameplay. Sometimes!

Ian Bogost
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Yes, that's a good point Christian. I guess "needed retrospectively." But you have to admit: the best handheld gaming platform ever is still the GBA Micro.

David Hawisher
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I am of the opinion that while your article is essentially accurate in terms of many of the effects of the Wii U's design, you overstate the degree to which Nintendo intended these changes or focused on the idea of "growing up" for much of the article (although you rectify this in the conclusion), and you overstate the degree to which the two-screen effect creates what you call the "no-screen effect."

In my opinion, Nintendo merely took an idea that had previously produced sales, i.e. the touch-sensitive second screen, and investigated whether it would be viable for integration with a console. This decision had little to do with "growing up," and wasn't centered around the idea of uncertainty. It may have produced a feeling of uncertainty, but I'd argue that that's due to the dissonance between design elements to this point reserved for handheld games being featured in the console; this feeling certainly isn't a conscious response on the part of Nintendo for the purpose of producing "art."

I also feel that the "no-screen effect" you described would at the most severe diminish over time and at the least severe be entirely temporary, fading completely as you became accustomed to the console. The fact of the matter is that you're never truly expected to divide your attention between two separate gaming events*, one on each screen. Even if you control via the touch screen, and occasionally reference the television screen, your attention is essentially divided between an event and that same event. It doesn't face the same problems as phone use while watching television, for instance.

*Even if you were required to focus on two separate gaming events, a la The World Ends with You, I'd argue that would still not truly face the same difficulties as true instances of the second-screen experience. A crucial element of the gaming experience in situations like that is that attention-switching is not only required but encouraged by both elements of the game. Focusing on element A exclusively is detrimental not only to performance in element B, but due to the connection between the elements of the game, is also detrimental to performance in element A. On the other hand, in the TV-phone conflict, if I focus on an email on my phone, this is detrimental to my understanding of the TV show, but advantageous to my understanding of the email. The two screens in the latter scenario are competitive and so give rise to the second-screen experience (and, if you prefer to address this subject, the no-screen experience). The two screens in The World Ends with You or of the Wii U are complimentary, and so give rise to either an attenuated form of the second-screen experience or no second-screen experience at all.

Overall, I found your article illuminating and interesting.

Ian Bogost
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Well, I don't really care what Nintendo meant to do. Or better: it's not central to my argument, which is not psychoanalysis but criticism.

MichaelVaughn Green
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Thank you for an earnest and incredibly thoughtful examination of the Wii U. I really enjoyed your observation of Little Inferno, I hadn't quite came to those conclusions while playing it (even when I was questioning the weird design choices that were similar to "mobile-pay" experiences), but now it seems so obvious! Video games continue to astound me in a way that no other entertainment medium is capable of doing. How disruptive are movies, novels or music every 5-6 years? Those mediums benefit from a slow evolution, where instead games have to constantly evolve/change their experiences to remain relevant.

Sean Kiley
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Microsoft and Sony are leaning hard toward online multi-player. While Nintendo has expanded into this space with the WiiU, the have doubled down on "living room" multi-player, addressing one of its most fundamental issues with the tablet trend, screen space.

I often think of the Wii as the game of Monopoly, everyone seems to have it, but when is the last time you played it? With its focus on "living room" multi-player, I wonder if WiiU will fall to the same fate.

Ian Bogost
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Well, does it even matter that you haven't played it for a while? Is Monopoly "worse" because it only gets carted out occasionally?

Sean Kiley
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Surely not! I didn't intend to make that point, just the one about frequency of play.

Ian Bogost
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Right, and it's a good point.

Vin St John
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@Ian - it is not "empirically" worse, no, but most people see it as "worse." They compare it to the numerous and recent experiences they're having with devices other than the Wii and drawing the conclusion that the Wii ("collecting dust" and disconnected) is worse.

Keith Nemitz
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Here is some parallel commentary, about the notion that Nintendo saved computer games.

In 1983 I was a senior at my university. We played games on apple-IIs in the comp-sci lab. We made games on a mainframe and tektronics manual refresh displays. We were not Nintendo kids. Some of us were homebrew computer kids, or Commodore kids, and some were well-to-do, Apple kids.

Atari crap may have caused the downfall of consoles but not computer games. The glut of crap crushed the game industry but not people who loved to make games. The mainstream may have become disenchanted with consoles, but computer games defined the core. Nintendo was vital to re-establishing the industry and the mainstream, but without them, computer games would have continued to spread.

Unfortunately, their childish game themes entrenched a cultural meme, that games should not be taken seriously. Whereas, computer games continued to produce a variety of mature content. I think Nintendo was good for the industry, but not for game culture. We're still knocking down the doors that Nintendo erected to cordon games that are safe, profitable, fun.

If what you say is true, about the potential cultural impact of the Wii U, then they are just returning from a journey where they discovered, PCs are where the heart and soul of gaming remain.

Ian Bogost
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Thanks for adding this, Keith. It's an important point that didn't fit in the article but deserves much more mention and discussion than it gets.

Russell Carroll
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I bristled each time I saw a line about Nintendo making games for children in the article. While I certainly agree that in the US the Nintendo brand has a strong child/family feel, I don't get the sense of that being true around the world. In fact, based on comparing the sales numbers of DS games made for adults such as Brain Age, Art Academy & the Professor Layton series, each of which sold *very well* in Japan & Europe, but *very poorly* in the US, I get a strong sense that Nintendo has a very strong issue regarding the US attitude towards Nintendo that has and continues to hurt Nintendo in the US. That said, I think the problem is far beyond Nintendo as much of what is considered "adult" in the US (blood, guns, killing, porn) is more adolescent than it is adult (in fact I'd call much of what people trumpet as adult content as the antithesis of maturity).

Regarding PC game sales, Wil Wright gave an interesting talk at the 2011 GDC about Raid on Bungling Bay. It struck me at the time how Nintendo's approach also helped decrease piracy by forcing the Seal of Quality on everyone. From the Gamasutra write-up:

"Piracy was a bad problem on computers, and he spent a lot of time fighting hackers, “which was a waste of time, because it just delayed them about 2 days,” he said. On the Commodore, the game sold 20k units, but Broderbund also reprogrammed the game for the NES and MSX. “Because of the cartridge system, piracy wasn’t really a problem,” he said, revealing that on the NES the game sold some 800,000 units."

Leaving the piracy issue aside, that 40:1 ratio of NES to PC sales I think was a big success for Nintendo and a big win for developers and the game industry.

Ian Bogost
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Russell, it's particularly not true in Japan. But I did contextualize my comments pretty clearly; they're very US-centric but admittedly and deliberately so.

You're right about the Seal of Quality. It worked! But it also had consequences, the worst of which are the ones we don't see at all because they relate to things undone rather than things done.

Russell Carroll
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As with anything that is massively successfully, I'm sure we don't fully grasp the impact of the Seal of Quality in many ways! It's hard to immediately understand all the possible facets of impact.

I really enjoyed the article.
It was thoughtful and thought-provoking.
Thanks for taking the time to write it :).

Michael Pianta
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@ Russell Carroll: "Nintendo has a very strong issue regarding the US attitude towards Nintendo that has and continues to hurt Nintendo in the US. That said, I think the problem is far beyond Nintendo as much of what is considered "adult" in the US (blood, guns, killing, porn) is more adolescent than it is adult (in fact I'd call much of what people trumpet as adult content as the antithesis of maturity)."

So so true. I have had arguments with many of my gaming friends about this repeatedly. Let's compare, say, Gears of War with Kirby Epic Yarn. Gears is "cool" because it's "mature" and "for adults" while Epic Yarn is not, because it's "for children". But as far as I'm concerned almost the opposite is true. Epic Yarn, sweet and understated, is not "for" children - but it's accessible to them. Meanwhile Gears of War is like the childishly violent fantasies of a 12 year old boy and only other 12 year old boys could like it.

David Holmin
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I don't think it's accurate to say the heart and soul of gaming remains with the PC. In fact, I could argue that the heart and soul of action oriented gameplay remains with consoles. These are machines built specifically for comfortable, low latency input, with no bulky OS, and no other purpose than playing games (at least that *was* true). That is what I call taking games seriously, and a mature approach to games, admitting they deserve a machine of their own. This started in the arcades, of course, and without them and consoles, I don't think we would've had the tight, high-precision gameplay of Megaman or people counting numbers of animation frames in Street Fighter quite as early as we got it now. The PC is still king in the diversity department, but saying the heart and soul of all gaming resides there is an overstatement.

As for the childishness of Nintendo games, sure I loved my NES as a kid, but many of the games I couldn't really handle until much later. The *themes* may have been childish in many cases, but the gameplay sure wasn't. Childish gameplay came later, when quick rewards for little or no effort became standard, and focus shifted to impressive presentation rather than the relation between input and output.

William Volk
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It will be interesting to see if Apple TV goes this route, with the iPad/iPad Mini/iPhone acting as the controller/small screen to the TV device.

The advantage for Apple is (and has been since 2008) their ecosystem.

Ian Bogost
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I was thinking about that too, William, partly because I recently did some Apple TV second screen implementation on a recent game. It's rather an unknown feature I think.

Jeremy Alessi
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I've wanted Airplay for this very purpose from the inception of the iPhone (and wrote about it in an article I wrote in 2008 and published as a feature here on Gama in January 2009). It's not so much an unknown feature as much as one that has been too early. Airplay is still rather sluggish and people probably would have ignored it until now. The Wii U will educate people and the iOS ecosystem will follow suit with similar games.

Steve Fulton
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Great article Mr. Bogost! You never let us down. I love that you made the comparison between the Wii and the Atari 2600, because when I first played my Wii with my kids in 2006 I felt the same way. It was like returning to playing games on the TV with my brother 25 years earlier. Atari was never able to capitalize on it, but somehow I think Nintendo will. T

Ian Bogost
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Check out this old Atari 2600 TV spot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hozhi4QkHmQ

It's almost identical to the way Nintendo marketed the Wii.

Martin Hollis
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"Just as zombies are neither living nor dead, so Wii U follows suit: today, entertainment in general and video games in particular are neither a televisual medium nor a mobile medium. They are not both, but they are not neither, either. They are something else, something uncanny, unsettling, out of place."

What we are seeing here are the very gradual beginnings of an assault on reality. First one window into a virtual world, now two disconnected but connected views into a virtual world. Just as one house is qualitatively different from two houses together, and so with two computers in one room, or two cars in one household, so two views onto a virtual reality is qualitatively novel.

Soon enough we will not have to limit ourselves to two views onto one reality. Our view will be first populated by virtual windows, then real reality will slowly be ghettoized and perhaps finally balkanized. The virtual will become dominant for most human lives just as buildings have overcome countryside for most human lives, or so I believe and expect.

I don't have a problem with this.

Michael Pianta
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Good comment. I do have a problem with that, but oh well.

Paul Marzagalli
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Ian, this was a fantastic piece of writing. "We don't know, either" seems like the battlecry of the industry these days, and I give Nintendo credit for going out on a limb like this.

k s
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This is a really thought provoking article and it makes me want to try out Little Inferno.

Christian Nutt
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One thing not really discussed that interests me is Nintendo's aim to keep families together by letting them split the entertainment across devices. What I mean is: you play a game on the Wii U, someone else watches TV, and you don't have to debate over who gets to use the TV, and you can stay (physically) together.

I think this is based a lot on observational data about how Nintendo considers people to play its handhelds (socially with other family members who aren't participating.) I've heard a Miyamoto anecdote about the latter, if I recall correctly. The question to me then becomes: does this appeal enough to people to be a factor?

Ian Bogost
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Yes! I really wanted to talk about this but then just didn't for some reason. It's also very odd when you first experience the GamePad message that you're too far from the Wii U, partly because we're so used to carting our iPads around the house.

Leon T
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Off TV play was a big reason why I got the Wii U. It was a choice between that and being away from my family while I play console games.

Ian Uniacke
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About 3 months ago I walked into my step sons bedroom to find him and his sister playing a pc game. He was using the mouse and his sister was using the keyboard. They were playing a game designed for one player but they had made a two player, asymmetric, game out of it. I hadn't prompted them to do so they just naturally came to this style of play because, I guess, they found it a good way to play together. At this point I became convinced that Nintendo may very well be onto something.

Christopher Totten
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We played a fair amount of Nintendoland during Thanksgiving at our house. The asymmetrical thing really made for some good communication and coordination between family members. When we discovered that on-foot players could tether to flying players in the Metroid mini-game and collect items quickly, that added a really cool "who needs help next?" moment.

Tyler McCarthy
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It's parallel play. Toddlers and young children do it frequently. It also happens in my house frequently, as the wife reads on her android while the children watch TV and I read Gamasutra articles.

Bob Johnson
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I have no idea what this article is about.

I think Nintendo knows alot about videogames and the business of videogames.


I think Nintendo isn't responding to trends exactly. I mean they have have experimented with 2 screens before - Pacman Vs and Zelda Four Swords. And did 2 screens and a touchscreen on the DS 3 years before the iPHone came out.

And wiimote is still a part of the Wii U for multiplayer gaming. I don't think they shunned it. I think they took it as far as they thought they could. And as always need to keep the way consumers play games new and fresh.


Michael Wenk
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I think this article is over analysis on a problem that really doesn't exist. Make something entertaining, people will generally do it. If its overly complicated, then it won't go over well. I think the Wii U in the way it is implemented is overly complicated, especially compared to the Wii. It is a poor tablet experience, even worse than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which is surprising. And Nintendo's "social network" is little more than a forum.

However, all of that won't matter if Nintendo can produce fun software.

A W
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Simple forums are where great conversations start, and the tablet is functional enough to do what it needs to do well.

David Holmin
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The GamePad allows for much more comfortable TV web browsing than any other console to date, that's for sure. And I haven't tried it out yet, but Miiverse sounds like a stroke of genius to me. It's not just integrating Twitter like all the other devices, but builds a new Twitter-like social layer directly connected to the actual games, the core of the console. It's different and sounds fun. I think it has great potential.

Steven Wartofsky
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So, basically: the WiiU is Nintendo's post-modernist shrug. Sounds more like a bittersweet goodbye to the whole business than a strategy for success. If so, so be it.

Ian Uniacke
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Great article. My favourite part:

"We've all been assuming that games "growing up" means growing up in theme, tackling adult issues, achieving the aesthetic feats of literature and painting and film -- even if by "film" we usually mean "summer tent-pole movies.""

I've talked about this a lot, and I'm glad to see you touch on it.

Ian Cosgrove
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Really surprised by the article, felt very vague, unsure and negative and maybe that was the atmosphere you were trying to create because that's your view of the Wii U and Nintendo, if so I find that really funny because I view the U in such a different light

I felt myself getting very defensive at the suggestions that Nintendo kiddified the market :) like a game can't just be enjoyable it has to have blood to be fun? Or sex or tax evasion? Well if that's what you want why didn't you play mortal combat on the snes, didn't they have Doom? Certainly had turok on the N64 and Golden eye pioneered modern FPS. Want a Sim? I first played Sim City on the snes and many an RTS. I even watched a review on college humor a while back of dating sims on the Wii if you need some depravity.

I think the Seal elevated games to a better standard and I would compare the eco-system it created to Apples App Store, which isn't perfect but a lot better than the Google Play (Atari or homebrew?) crap fest.

For Nintendo Land, you're right these aren't games but I wouldn't say they don't know what they are though, I think Nintendo very purposefully crafted 'experiences' that can be enjoyed, experiences that will help people (and developers) understand what the wii u is and what it enables. Overall that makes me think of an impressionist painting.

From a business point of view I can understand why ppl would think the controller is a reaction to tablets 'eroding' the console share but you only have to look at Nintendos history to see a theme, from the overly ambitious (and ill advised) Virtual Boy, to the dual screen/touch/microphone etc of the DS, to the motion control of the Wii. Nintendo have been blurring the line of reality and the game world to create more absorbing experiences, this is why Link has no voice in Zelda, because you are his voice and giving him 1 would force that disconnect between you and 'Link'. It is the same reason that you can relate your persona more to a stick man than a detailed 3d character. You see valve do similar with Mr Freeman.

The controller is not a 2nd screen it is a window into the game world, either directly (have you played with the VR cards on 3DS?? So much fun and i hate augmented reality normally) or as a virtual prop for immersion (I love the experience of using the controller as a shield or for throwing stars, even a teleprompter in singing but I haven't pkayed this).

It's great that we can have such different views but I do feel the Wii U enables much more fluid experiences than the awkward 2nd screen (or null space between screens) desceibed. The devices are flexible enough to create experiences, if designers can't exploit that potential correctly then the fault is theirs.

Last word, every year I find solace after watching E3 because everyone else is saying the same thing as me, 'ugh just more of the same crap', 'there were maybe 2 good games'. In the hands of MS and Sony and ppl who design for 12 year olds who want 'mature' content our industry stagnates, kinect, PS Move and smart glass only strengthen that point. Thank god some are innovating to elevate us above that whether it's Nintendo, Apple or real designers I don't think it matters as long as we make headway into realizing that games are so much more than what the market has devolved into, some selectively inbred shadow of it's potential glory

John Gordon
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This article loses me on the first page. It seems to say, "Atari was so awesome that it crashed the game market. And the NES was so terrible that it revived it."

Ian Bogost
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What a disappointment it must be to be John Gordon.

Ian Cosgrove
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I think you've made a perfect, concise summary of that piece

Ian Bogost
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Maybe you're right Ian! I'm not sure John's summary is so objectionable to me!

Chris Dunson
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An excellent read. All four pages and many of the comments. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article. I'm getting my Wii U tomorrow and the anticipation is killing me. This article has only made that anticipation worse, but in a good way.

Jonathan Estis
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"By contrast, in the leading up to the 1983 crash, players could find Atari games that took up the rodeo (Stampede), aeronautic acrobatics (Barnstorming), tax strategy (Tax Avoiders), masturbation (Beat 'Em & Eat 'Em), advertisement (Kool-Aid Man) -- even adaptations of raunchy, R-rated movies (Porky's). In the 1970s and early 1980s, games were made for adults as often as they were made for kids -- played in bars and bowling alleys as frequently as arcades and basements. Video games might have been new, but they weren't immature."

Right, because "Beat 'Em and Eat 'Em" and "Porky's" are benchmarks of maturity.

Matt Morgan
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The description of Mario Chase and the GamePad use reminds me of ... Dungeons and Dragons. Imagine a non-competitive game where the person with the gamepad directs enemies/traps/whatever at a group of other players. Also seems to fit really well with the family approach.

In fact, let's say this was an open platform ... how long before someone set up the system as a way to play by d20 rules for example? The GamePad is used to expose the map and control monsters, etc.; players use their controllers to move around and perform actions, etc. Or has this already been done? I wouldn't know.

Great article, thanks.


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