Tag Archives: Wii U

What I Want from the New Console Generation

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The reign of the launch-day killer app is over.

The launch line-ups for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, both due out by month’s end in North America, include no game-changers, no Halos or Mario 64s. New consoles are now sold more on the promise of innovation and multimedia integration than they are on a single game any self-respecting manchild simply must own by Christmas Day. Perhaps that’s for the best, the thrill of the console launch replaced with appreciation for the medium’s continual evolution. Yet here we are, weeks away from newer, more powerful gaming devices, and I’m still not sure what gamemakers hope to achieve with them beyond making things bigger and shinier. Perhaps we’re at the point where games are a robust and diverse enough medium that console generations are no longer indicative of their evolution. Perhaps AAA developers just didn’t have an innovative way to shoot people in the face ready for launch day. Whatever the case, new tech and rapidly changing distribution methods will undoubtedly alter the games industry; here are a handful of ways I think those changes could be for the better.

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Wii Sports (2006)

In celebration (or at least dutiful acknowledgement) of the Wii U’s release, a look back at Nintendo’s bland, blindingly obvious killer app you can’t help but love.

Wii Sports is important. You’ve heard it before, and you’re sure to hear it again as people slowly peer into the dual screens of Nintendo’s new Wii U console, incredulously checking if the game masters can bottle such lightning twice in a row. (Early reviews answer with a definitive “maybe.”) Yes, it’s important in the way Angry Birds and The Sims and even that gilded palace of game design sin, Farmville, are important, in that six o’clock news report sense that aunts and little sisters and drab co-workers are finally coming around on this whole “video game” thing. (Despite advertising to the contrary, I still can’t picture little old ladies enjoying a rousing round of virtual boxing. If anyone has video evidence to the contrary, please feel free to share.) But that’s only one story, usually tinged with the resentment of having to let in the “norms” or conversely chanted in a Freaks-like chorus of “one of us” now that “games are for everyone.” Both responses marginalize the medium, bullying it into some weird niche instead of allowing people to decide for themselves what they want out of video games.

Nintendo made it easy to take one sideways glance at Wii Sports and declare, “sell-out.” The game’s aesthetic isn’t just boring; it’s non-existent, perhaps one of the ugliest titles ever put out by a major developer and especially shameful for the powerhouse behind such an astronomical percentage of gaming iconography. Its limp pastels and barely decorated locales don’t even jive with the comforting banality of the Wii’s future-chic menus and general style, where the twinkling ambient soundtrack and too-bright whites convey what I imagine in 2006 felt like taking Oxycontin at an Apple Genius Bar that also serves Pinkberry. Continue reading

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