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

November 27, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

Split-Attention Gaming

The console's "missing manual" title, Nintendo Land, helps shepherd players through Nintendo's unexpected gambit with contemporary culture. Those expecting to find a light-hearted, group-play experience akin to Wii Sports will be disappointed, but won't be justified in their disappointment. The Wii U is not just an HD Wii -- not at all. It's a double agent for both the entertainment and technology industries, playing both sides against the middle. It's split-attention gaming.

Nintendo Land's Mario Chase offers the simplest introduction to this central principle of the Wii U. In this hide-and-seek game, one player pilots a Mario-capped Mii on the GamePad screen, while others control toad-hatted Miis on the television screen, via a split view, attempting to find Mario. It's a simple enough idea, and no description can make it sound compelling. But strangely, it is compelling.

The view on the GamePad is also divided. A top-down map covers most of the screen, and a zoomed-in 3D view shows only a small area around Mario's current location. The player being chased devotes most of his or her attention to the map, which also displays the locations of the other players in pursuit.

Occasional glances to the 3D view are required to delineate between different types of terrain and obstacles, and occasional glances at the television screen or the other players on the couch also offer fodder for tactical adjustment.

Likewise, the Wii remote players might be tempted to steal glances of the secret information on the GamePad screen, an interesting evolution of the private, sonic cues that were possible with a Wii remote.

These players can also benefit from collaborating through verbal interaction, which the Mario player can hear and respond to as well. If Wii Sports activated the physical space between the couch and the television, games like Mario Chase activate the conceptual space between the couch, the TV, and a third, private screen.

A similar feeling arises from New Super Mario Bros. U. On its surface, the title is just another Mario title, more or less identical in play experience to New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The earlier game had promised collaborative gameplay that would allow players of different skill levels to work together, but in practice three or four players mostly got in each others' way -- particularly if one of those players was considerably less adept at maneuvering a platform character than the others.

The Wii U rendition of Mario offers an out: one player can act as a kind of assistant, touching locations mirrored on the GamePad screen to create temporary platforms that the active players can use in a pinch. The result helps a younger, less experienced, or less interested player participate in the game in a more meaningful way, while offering true benefit to the rest of a group.

Nintendo has been experimenting with this second screen idea for some time, but it's never really worked out (remember the Tingle Tuner?). New Super Mario Bros. U finally makes good on the idea, and it does so at least partly because we're now more accustomed to splitting our attention between different devices in front of the television.

Nintendo Land's single-player games also re-orient the player's attention. In Captain Falcon's Twister Race, based on the F-Zero franchise, the player holds the GamePad in a vertical orientation and rotates it to steer the vehicle. The television provides the expected 3D view of the track, while the GamePad offers a top-down, 2D view of the play area.

Thanks to its vertical orientation, more of the track is visible on the GamePad. But due to its 2D, top-down rendering style, it's much more difficult to discern obstacles on the GamePad, so glances up to the television become advantageous. In some cases, they are required: tunnels sometimes obscure track boosts when viewed top-down on the GamePad, and the player must pilot on-screen in order to maintain enough speed to reach the next checkpoint.

The Zombie Console

The experience of Twister Race is fun and cheery on its surface, but strangely alienating in its experience. There you are, having spent $350 on a new Wii U with accelerated 3D HD graphics, having climbed behind your receiver to route and plug in yet another HDMI cable, and you're staring at a lousy 2D image of the track you're not looking at on your giant LCD television. What the hell is going on?

Ubisoft's Wii U launch title ZombiU helps answer the question. This is an M for Mature offering, a survival horror game with a permadeath feature meant to appeal to the core gamer audience Nintendo has supposedly ignored. During play, the GamePad displays a map of the player's immediate surroundings and an inventory. It's also used to perform certain in-game commands. Moving and rotating the GamePad allows the player to look around on the television screen, but this maneuver fixes the player's position and thus increases vulnerability.

A one-liner on ZombiU's box copy helpfully summarizes that title: "Feel the tension mount as you try to keep an eye on your TV and controller screen." This is more than just marketing copy for a single game: it's a thesis statement for the entire console. The Wii U is a system thrust into the uncomfortable gap between mobile devices and televisions. 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.

Nintendo Land is Nintendo like Tomorrowland is the Future

It's no secret that a large part of Nintendo's appeal comes from its long-running properties: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Animal Crossing, Pikmin, and so on. The availability of New Super Mario Bros U at console launch satisfies some of that craving, but Nintendo fanpersons are an impatient and finicky bunch bound to flood the internet with demands for a new version of their favorite games.

Over the years, some of those titles have marked significant shifts in the genres they represent: 1996's Super Mario 64 set the standard conventions for the 3D action-adventure game, and 1986's The Legend of Zelda made an important advance in what would later be called "open world" games. But overall, Nintendo's most famous and successful titles don't offer innovation so much as repetition. In today's game design community, where innovation is often fetishized but infrequently defined, Nintendo gets a tacit pass. A new Mario game is a new Mario game. Who doesn't want to play it?

But Nintendo Land doesn't offer a new Legend of Zelda or Animal Crossing or F-Zero or Pikmin. It doesn't contain mini-games either, exactly, since many titles are longer and more complex than the name mini-game usually affords. Instead, Nintendo Land offers renditions of possible games that are neither expandable into legitimate titles nor contractible into smaller vignettes. They are not video games so much as they are representations of video games.

Weird as this characterization may sound, the average player won't notice it, because the entire game is housed within the fictional conceit of a theme park. Individual games can be selected by menu if desired, or the player can pilot a Mii around a circular park and choose a game by entering a bannered portal. Playing games earns coins, which the player can spend in a pachinko-like kiosk at the top of the park's central tower, yielding curious décor that fills out the park's empty surfaces.

Theme parks are venues for abstraction. When you ride Peter Pan in Disneyland, you get a quick narrative and physical experience of the story and the film, but you hardly feel immersed in the holodeck sense of the term. Theme park attractions don't have to persuade visitors that they are real, for those visitors have already agreed to suspend disbelief and to partake of one real, physical world as if it were another.

Likewise, the games in Nintendo Land are not really games, but abstractions of games, icons that stand in for games that are not really present. Just as Tomorrowland isn't really the future and Adventureland isn't really an adventure, so Nintendo Land isn't really a Nintendo game, so much as a game evocative of the sensation of Nintenditude.

The entire title is rendered in a felted or crocheted style reminiscent of LittleBigPlanet, further emphasizing its false yet deliberately crafted style. Just as riding a theme park attraction draws an uncomfortable yet pleasurable dissonance between a source work or idea and a vertiginous physical and audiovisual experience, so playing Nintendo Land offers a strange new view on Nintendo's catalog. It's a pretend Nintendo; it's Nintendo admitting to pretense.

In the West we often forget just how traditionally Japanese Nintendo really is. This aesthetic choice might be seen as sloppy or arrogant in the United States, a failure to make a coherent collection of titles that explain the purpose of the Wii U through methodical demonstration.

I take it as a gesture of humility. Nintendo is stepping back, acknowledging that things have changed. That it can no longer make assumptions about what games are or what they should be. And that its players shouldn't either. This gesture of humility is a serious and profound one, in that it also refuses to accept the game industry's standard assumptions about the present reality of games as mobile, social, and free-to-play. Instead, Nintendo presents a substantial, costly effort as its pack-in title, whose overall message amounts to, "we don't know either."


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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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