Friday, June 15, 2007


He For One

And now, a gut reaction to Tyler Bleszinski's whine about the coming video game apocolypse, He, For One, Does Not Welcome Our New Wii Overlords.

My brother Cliff and I have been into games long before he ever created Gears of War.

Our favorite one was Louisville Slugger Versus Homeless Man.

He and I played through the original Zelda together

I sat on the handlebars while he pedalled.

and I remember having tournaments with him where we'd play the original Nintendo Ice Hockey game. I liked to stack my team with the fat guys because

I was really into 80's hip hop at the time.

they had a booming shot that could score from anywhere and were really good at checking.

It made me hard just thinking about it.

Cliff went the skinny guy route and tried to skate circles around me.

Mashing his bloodied corpse into the wall never got old.

But the times, they are a-changing. If Nintendo has its way, young males will no longer be the dominant segment of the console audience--and this transition appears to be happening faster than I expected.

Next thing you know, they'll be letting women vote!

The other day I was in Target looking to pick up some games when I saw an older woman--very likely a grandmother--waiting for the clerk's attention.

So I shoved her calcium-deficient ass into the geriatric cream aisle where she belonged so she wouldn't interrupt my important purchases.

She wanted him to get her a couple of games from inside the locked glass cabinet. When he asked her which ones,

I smacked her quiet again.

she stated Cooking Mama and Wii Play.

I could barely stifle a groan.

I was losing precious minutes of simulated carnage waiting for this?

Don't get me wrong;

Some of my best friends are old women.

I think it's cute that someone who likely had no idea what a video game was

Or a microwave oven or a horseless carriage...

would suddenly plunk down her Social Security money so she can cook virtual meals, play a rousing game of table tennis and shark her little grandchildren out of their milk money in billiards.

It's adorable that she thinks she has a right to entertainment, but now it's grown-up time, and I'm the man.

But honestly, I had refused to believe that grandmothers were buying these things as so many news reports have claimed until I saw it with my own eyes.

I mean... they're really old! They don't need fun!

My story may be anecdotal, but the plural of anecdote is data,

And the plural of urban legend is truth.

and there are more than enough news stories on this topic to suggest that this phenomenon is real.

As astonishing and disquieting as it may sound, old people buy things.

What's more, Nintendo has the sales figures to back up its hype. The NPD sales figures since November have been troubling to me as a hardcore gamer who loves new IPs

As long as they're not about something girly or kiddy.

and in-depth experiences. The Nintendo Wii has built up a ton of momentum in 2007, and despite the fact that it features an internal architecture that maxes out graphically around where the original Xbox did, it has quickly become the darling of the non-gaming press.

Why can't those millions of people who love it understand how bad it is?!

There have been umpteen stories about the scrappy little Wii wooing non-gamers and bringing in hordes of new converts to worship at the altar of Mario.

Offering sacrifices of burnt children to their paganistic Pokemon gods.

I'm not saying that the videogame industry shouldn't strive to bring in as many new people as possible.

I'm just saying that the new people should be forced to play the same things I do.

It most definitely should, because new gamers mean a nice, healthy business. My problem is what this new crowd appears to be drawn to.

Games designed by someone besides my brother.

Games like Wii Sports, Wii Play and Cooking Mama have become some of the biggest sellers, and that is what has me worried.

I base my masculinity on video game sales numbers.

If these are the type of games that become blockbusters, then you can count on other gaming companies who cater to the more hardcore gamer--aka me and the milions of others who've been driving this business--to promptly change direction.

They'll start trying out scary new game ideas that offer little to no opportunity for simulated arterial spray.

If we've learned anything about videogame companies, it's that they all are quick to follow each other if one is successful with something.

That's why we need to stop having new ideas and concentrate only on replicating what's already worked in the past.

I mean, Sony already imitated the Wii a bit with their Sixaxis controller; Microsoft followed Sony with their own EyeToy-like camera, albeit far less successfully;

Nintendo copied Atari with their electronic box that makes television images move when you push buttons;

and Sony is now trying to replicate some kind of online service a la Xbox Live.

We need to prevent this sort of homogenization by not letting Nintendo do anything different.

If Nintendo winds up outselling the 360 and the PS3 by a wide margin, how soon will it be before we gamers are using the Sixaxis to chop up onions with in Metal Gear Mama?

Nintendo's market dominance will force all sorts of patently absurd franchise-to-gameplay matchups to become reality!

How long before we're frantically swinging waggle remotes for tennis, bowling and golf in Halo Sports?

And then, the only forseeable conclusion: MANDATORY GAY MARRIAGE.

Will games like Halo and Gears of War ever go away? Hell no.

They'll just be turned into cooking games.

But publishers aren't stupid.

That's why so few Virtual Boy games were made.

They're going to go where the majority of the money is and if people want to play the WarioWare mini-games more than the meaty experiences that hardcore gamers love, you're inevitably going to see a corresponding shift in development.

If we can't keep up demand for war and crime simulation, it could very well drop off the face of the earth.

Publishers are in the business of making money, so if they can spend six months or a year developing a mini-game package for five-year-old technology and make more profits than they would by spending 2-3 years crafting a long and detailed experience, you can bet your Wiimote that that's exactly what they'll do.

It's a sad world when developers won't pour their lives and millions of dollars into a cutting-edge, state-of-the-art masterpiece that I might not even trade back in for store credit a week later.

If casual games become the industry's primary money-making vehicle, these mini-game collections and more casual games could wind up completely redefining the market.

Soon we'll be playing much less expensive games that are released much more quickly.

I don't think we're far off from the day when Hannah Montana Wii and Wii Sports 2 dominate the NPD charts.

As Hannah Montana twists the lucrative old people demographic around her little finger.

And as soon as that day comes,

Hardcore gamers like you and me will be dragged into the street and castrated.

why would publishers want to continue to the time and effort to develop an in-depth, cinematic experience when they could slap together a bunch of mini-games with waggle and make just as much money, if not more?

It's not like this is some sort of fad that will eventually reach a saturation point and even out again.

Remember, gaming is a love for you and me, but it's ultimately a business for these publishers and developers.

Once violent and antisocial entertainment is no longer profitable, we're screwed.

So while the business of the Wii has great for Nintendo--surprise, surprise--

Just like greedy Nintendo to make a game console just so they can make money.

and a handful of risk-takers like Ubisoft, it's thus far been ugly when it comes to the experiences beloved by core gamers like myself.

The other day I was actually forced to go outside for entertainment. For, like, fifteen minutes.

The Wii has been chock full of mini-games, PlayStation 2 knockoffs and PSP ports. Yes, there has been The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but not much else in terms of lengthy, in-depth experiences.

Moreover, there never will be for as long as the console remains on sale.

As for new intellectual properties, they've been pretty much few and far between, unless you consider Wii Sports and Wii Play new IPs;

Also, there hasn't been a single video game released for the console, unless you count the games that have been released for it.

to me, they're more tech demos than anything else.

Except that they have things like goals, scoring, progression, and meaningful interaction.

At least the PS3 has Resistance and MotorStorm, with Lair right around the corner.

That should keep my blood lust sated.

The 360 has Gears of War,

Which my brother doesn't pay me to mention,

Viva Pinata

... Okay, bad example.

and Crackdown. But for the Wii, most third parties would rather take the easy way out and continue to port older games with the waggle tacked on than devote the time and resources to creating great new experiences.

The system has been out for nearly six months now. Where are the in-depth games that take two to three years to produce?

The fact that the PS2 is still going incredibly strong isn't going to help the situation either, because it and the PSP will provide the Wii with an endless supply of ports for the Wii instead of forcing publishers and developers to think of new and in-depth experiences.

In the end, the Wii will share the PS2's ignominious fate of having a library of well over three million games.

I'll repeat this again: I am not saying that the more hardcore games are going to die out.

Just that any developer would be stupid to keep making hardcore games when they can make more money, more quickly and easily, by releasing packages of minigames.

Smart developers and publishers will realize that they can make a mint off the hardcore, especially if more developers move towards the quick, jump in-jump out type of experience that many Wii and DS games offer.

Unless they realize that they can make more money with quicker and lighter games. I'm sorry, I can't even follow what the hell I'm saying anymore.

But they will be in the minority. Valve, Epic and others won't turn to making mini-game compilations,

Because we're best friends and they promised me.

but I can definitely see companies like EA and Ubisoft realizing that they don't need huge development teams and hundreds of people working on a game to make a ton of cash in the land of mini-game moneymakers.

It would be just like those sellouts to abandon their pure and artistic goal of making a killing off of crap that people already know they like.

It's like suddenly discovering that business plan behind McDonald's is applicable to video games.

Make things that people like at a price they can afford.

Some will likely argue that these more casual games are a gateway drug for new users.

That it will lead to harder drugs like crack and heroine.

They'll claim that we should be happy because it will bring a whole new group of people into gaming.

So I just tell them, if I wanted to bring in new people, I wouldn't have started playing video games!

I find it hard to believe that something like Wii Play could lead to someone like the little old lady I saw in the store playing Metroid Prime 3. I just don't see it happening.

I mean, she's old!

These same people didn't jump into hardcore games before the Wii, but they're suddenly going to do it now because they had some fun playing virtual bowling? I seriously doubt that.

We're going to have to force them at gunpoint to bend to the will of the monolithic hardcore gaming community!

She's not going to go from creating a meal in Cooking Mama to saving Zelda. She's never going to defend Sera, guide Reggie Bush into the end zone, or venture into Liberty City.

She's going to gum down her cold oatmeal and cry herself to sleep thinking about her dead husband and the fact that her children never call anymore.

And should the product portfolios of major publishers become a zero-sum game, her tastes will represent a direct threat to my longtime hobby.

For the good of the hobby, she must be eliminated. NOW.

I sincerely believe that bringing new people to video games is a good thing.

Except that their tastes represent a direct threat to it.

I like seeing the business continue to grow and be even more successful, because I'm old enough to remember the videogame industry crash between the Atari 5200 and the Nintendo Entertainment System.

I had to resort to board games for like... a whole year!

But ultimately, going more mainstream can have unintended consequences--

People besides me could start enjoying them.

ones that could negatively impact the breadth and depth of the kinds of games that I love, as do millions of others.

Don't just do it for me -- do it for the starving children all over Africa.

I think Mike Myers' Wayne Campbell said it best in "Wayne's World" when he was talking about that tool Benjamin Kane, played so memorably by Rob Lowe. "It's like he wants us to be liked by everyone. I mean Led Zeppelin didn't write tunes everybody liked.

He wrote songs that made music snobs feel superior to everyone else.

They left that to the Bee Gees." That statement could very well apply to the Wii and its software lineup.

Games that are liked by everyone. Do we really want to live in that kind of a world?

Me? I'll take "Kashmir" over "Staying Alive" any day of the week.

And, in conclusion, buy Gears of War. Thank you.


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