When news broke late last week about a Nintendo patent for in-game walkthroughs, many decried the Big N for “dumbing down gaming.” MTV Multiplayer has a runthrough of some of the other simplifications in game design the company has brought to gaming, from jump-free Zelda to the Gamecube’s Big Green Button.
Whether or not anything ever actually comes of the patent – filed last June – honestly doesn’t matter in the long run. As the piece by Stephen Totilo shows, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo has sacrificed complexity for accessibility … and it probably won’t be the last, either.
Totilo’s article only covers six specific instances of simplification in gaming, so of course there are plenty other examples of that design philosophy that he doesn’t mention – off the top of my head, how about Super Smash Bros’ two-button fighting style? Furthermore, I’m pretty sure you all could think of some others without having to wrack your memories too much.
The question, of course, then becomes: is simplifying games good for the industry? There’s no question that the ease of accessibility is at least partly responsible for Nintendo’s breakaway success with the Wii and DS, and at last report those two systems were reportedly responsible for saving the industry’s holiday season. Nor do I think that anyone would say that Link’s auto-jumping in Ocarina of Time somehow makes it a less-than-stellar title.
If more people can play games – and not just pick them up, but play them to completion – is that good for the industry? Or will dumbing them down hurt us in the long run?