Friday, January 2, 2009

Looking for the Good

I've pondered a lot of different ways to approach the same subject - the Wii. I've enjoyed the Wii this year more than I've enjoyed any console I've ever owned (...and I been playing since the Atari 2600s, so the list goes back a long ways).

I've considered doing an end of year post about the Wii games that really delighted me this year, but it feels like I'm talking to the wind. The common statement of Wiis gathering dust really makes me sad.

Another angle.
Recently there was an article on Gamasutra about gamers aging and how that would change some of the types of games that would be appreciated as people's tastes change as they grow old. The article was responded to with lots of comments stating that tastes don't change and how stereotypical the article was.

However, it's also full of truth, that's why stereotypes exist. In this case, the fact is that as people, men in particular, age, their testosterone levels drop, which has a direct impact on their desire for the things that desired as adolescents. Some people go on wanting shooters, but as Nintendo and others have seen, many don't and leave gaming altogether. It's really of no surprise that the comments were in large part from people whose tastes haven't would be expected that the majority of those whose tastes did change simply moved on. They're not commenting, because they aren't playing games. They're the majority of people out there, living as doctors and teachers, businessmen and janitors.

Nintendo and PopCap have discovered that they still like to play games and they are providing games that this group enjoys. Unfortunately, by the old guard of gaming (which turns out to be made up of mostly adolescents), these gamers are some sort of problem that is ruining them, and so hate instead of friendship rules and the Wii gets the hate.

Dust Free Wii
Which leads me back to the beginning. I've never had more fun with any console than I've had with the Wii. Over the course of this year I played well over 350 games. I played a couple hundred for the Mac at my day job (, I played well over a hundred for my indie hobby (, I played a dozen on the DS, and I played a bunch more on the Wii (~50).

In the course of doing all this playing, I found a lot of games that I really enjoyed. It's lead me to wanting to share why those games were so great (and once I did share). I've tried to figure out why people don't seem to like the Wii. One thing that's become abundantly clear is that people aren't playing the games that they are complaining about. It's sort of anti-intuitive, but the same people who say every Wii game sucks at Kotaku, don't actually play the games.

The Wii has become an icon to hate.
So there is the real problem, hate. I've called it Wii Hater Bias (WHB) in the past.
How do you make someone stop hating?

It's a topic much bigger than this post or gaming. It floods through every aspect of our lives. I've praised the good in Indie gaming for years and years, and I've become used to people dismissing things without considering them. Though I'm used to it, it still gets under my skin.

When people care, they see the good. That is true in every aspect of life from your relationship with your significant other to the Wii.
When people hate, they see the bad. This is also true in every aspect of life. It's a part of what makes relationships fail and is absolutely why people keep saying there aren't any good Wii games.

It's not that there aren't good games for the Wii. There are. Lots of them.
It's that people hate the Wii to the point that they can't see the good. All they can see the is bad. (and there is plenty of that to be found in every aspect of life if you look for it)

When you look for the worst in people you'll probably find it.
The same is true here.

I find it discouraging and disheartening to think about, and it really makes me sad to think of all the people missing out on things they would like. More so, it just makes me sad that there is so much hate and anger. It's an emotion that doesn't make life better.

As 2009 starts, I hope we find a way to break through some of the hate, bias, and prejudice that keeps people from considering the world they are condemning.


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Ax said...

I'm right there with you, although I think that saying the old guard is made mostly of adolescents isn't really a fair statement.

It IS true that most comments and message boards skew adolescent, but I think that if you look at those who are really at the vanguard of the old guard (heh) you have to look at the major review sites.

Take IGN for example: Matt Casamassina is married, has a daughter, and is just all around obviously not an adolescent. He still gave Wii Music a 5.

My point here is that you can't simply break things down by age--I'm 24 and I think the Wii is an amazing system.

The real root to all the hate is--I think--fear. Casamassina and other reviewers like him have been in the industry a long time and are used to games being a certain thing and acting a certain way. No matter what genre of game you picked up you could be certain that there would be a consistent thread connecting them all together.

Wii Music shatters this thread. There is no score. No goal. Nothing. Wii Music provides the tools, but everything else must come from the player. More than any other game Wii Music is a sign of the fact that video games are changing. People like you and me are excited by this prospect, but many people out there like games the way they are and have grown used to being catered to. They can't quite grap the idea of a company dividing loyalty between them and a bunch of casuals (outsiders that serve to define what it means to be a gamer--without outsiders a group can not function).

There's this fear running under every "I hate the Wii" post that one day they will wake up and discover that every game has become Wii Music, Wii Sports, Wii Fit, etc. This is obviously silly, but there's a power to it at the same time.

I think the best way for Nintendo to counter this hate is to keep making games for both groups. 2008, with the exception of Smash Bros. at the beginning, was an abysmal year for people who like traditional games on the Wii.

If Nintendo can get the balance right I think it will help quell the fears surrounding the Wii and thus lower the level of hate leveled towards it.

Russell Carroll said...

Great thoughts Ax, I really appreciated them!
nojoe I like what you're trying to do with your site, I wish you well with it.

Hokfaces said...

Hey Russel,

Great post. I like your writing style a lot.

Regarding the Wii, I find that the hardcore player is a niche of enthusiasts with a fixed agenda. Ever better graphics, physics, and AI. The Wii is a console that breaks the mold and brings the main stream folk - simply looking for fun - to "desecrate gaming sacred grounds" with their "main streamness".

It's short sighted to the extent that it ignores the inevitable evolution of gaming. The industry needs to grow at rates not supportable by the hardcore consumers alone.

Casual players that I introduce to the Wii simply love it, and wonder why it took so long for a product to come out that allowed them - with their their underdeveloped motor skills - to enjoy hours of great fun with virtually no learning curve. It's brilliant in my opinion.

I enjoy your blog and will keep coming back for more.


Russell Carroll said...

I appreciate the thoughts. I think the blog sometimes covers a lot of emotional ground for me, which I find personally a useful journey of discovery, and I really appreciate all the insights I find, especially in the comments :).

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