Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Coming Around to the Wii U

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 3 Sep 2013 16:00
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But those are just observations on the motivations behind it, my personal feelings on the feature itself are kind of caught between two extremes. On the one hand, I have a respect for handheld and tablet gaming because I think video game storytelling is closest in spirit to reading a book - the close connection between the story and the audience, the way a book reader is sort of participating by filling in the blanks in their own mind - and the act of gaming with a handheld is reminiscent of quietly going off and reading a book. It's a personal thing between the user and the thing being used. Books are not designed to be shown on a big screen in front of a roomful of people while loud noises play in the background.

So there's that side of things, but then I realise that switching a console game to a handheld game takes more than just changing the platform, the two kinds of game have different attitudes. Console gaming is also a thing of impressive scenes and bright lights, and if the popularity of gameplay videos on Youtube tells us anything, it's that they seem to work rather well as a spectator sport.

With that in mind, Nintendo specifically creating a feature that allows players to slink off and stop bothering the normal people starts to look a bit conciliatory. The scenario of party A playing with the Wii U and having to move because party B wants to, say, watch Transformers on DVD could just as easily occur the other way around - with party A watching Transformers and party B coming in wanting to play Wii U. So why did video games have to concede first? Isn't this feature a tacit admission that literally anything you can do with a TV is a worthier use of it than playing video games?

Oh come on, Yahtzee, nothing is forcing you to use it, it's just a harmless little feature intended only to expand what play options are available, there's no need to be all harrumphy and paranoid about it. But you know, there are any number of features that could have been added to create convenience or more options. Like an Oculus Rift or a little clip on the controller for holding your bottle of cider. The fact they went for one feature in particular suggests something about their feelings. The same way that even the most neutral news outlet in the world still shows some bias by deciding what stories to give airtime to.

I suppose what it may reflect is that Nintendo still regard gaming as being a thing for kids. Kids who need to clear out when their parents come in and want to watch Panorama and other grown-up television programmes. And that's very disappointing for someone like me who spends most of his life rubbing up against the popular image of video games in global culture. Nintendo are free to do whatever they like, that's their business, but unfortunately most of the population who don't know much about gaming regard Nintendo as synonymous with it. They are arguably in the best position to further the medium, and yet, want to do no such thing.

That's what annoys me. Well. It doesn't annoy me THAT much. I just have a lot of time to think about it while I'm waiting for the controller to charge.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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