Going My Way?

Nintendo and I have been friends for a long, long time. Going all the way back to the launch of the NES in the US, Nintendo has been a childhood buddy, growing up with me. We laughed in the days of Super Mario Bros. and Link to the Past, spent endless hours together during the Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time era, and I tried to keep his chin up during the lean GameCube years.

Confidentially, since around 2000, Nintendo has had kind of a rough time of it. I’d read about how well the DS was doing, but we only caught up every once in a while when something really great came out on that platform. As often happens in situations like this, we sort of lost touch with each other. We went our separate ways.

Then, late last year, Nintendo came bursting back into my life. “Check it out, man! Wii!” I’m pumped, I’m enthused; I end up #100 in a line outside of a Target store, shivering my butt off in the cold Wisconsin morning. But, I say to myself, I’m doing this for an old friend. Nintendo’s been cleaning itself up, and we’re going to have lots of fun again, Nintendo and I.

And we do! It’s great, just like old times. My wife and I have a blast playing through the single-player portion of Rayman together. It’s the first game we’ve ever been able to play truly co-op, and I have my buddy Nintendo to thank for it. I bring him home with me for Thanksgiving, and reintroduce him to my mom. Everybody has a great time with him, he’s the life of the party. We head home that night happy, and I feel like there’s nothing but good times ahead with my old friend Nintendo.

Flashing forward to June of 2007: Nintendo is sitting in the corner of the living room, winking at me. The blue glow flashing from the front of the Wii means that the console managed to pick up my Wifi connection long enough to get an update notification. It’s extremely intermittent, that wifi connection, seemingly designed to allow me to buy things via the store but not download them. The console has been blinking like that since early May. Slotted in the tray is Super Paper Mario, of which I played half before Nintendo and I grew distant and cool. Again.

Unlike what I thought, unlike what I expected – and you can’t tell him this, I think it would upset him – it isn’t like old times again. Something’s changed. I don’t know if it’s me, if I’ve changed; but I don’t think so. I think it’s him. I think Nintendo has changed. And I know we’ll always be friends … but it just isn’t the same anymore.

Nintendo’s cleaned itself up, and found a new purpose. That purpose isn’t the same old elaborate crap we used to do when we were kids; impossible jumping puzzles and crazy alien worlds are out. Instead, all Nintendo wants to do anymore is hang out with families and old people. He says he’s “growing the market” and “reaching out to non-gamers.”

That’s fine and good with me. In fact, I think it’s great. At Thanksgiving one of my mom’s sister’s played a videogame for probably the first time in her life. It was a strange experience to witness, a throwback to experiences I myself had over two decades ago.

The problem is … I’m not old people. I’m not a family with kids. I think it’s great that I can test my brain age on the DS, and that I can play bowling games on the Wii. That’s tremendous. But I need more than Rayman, Wario Ware, and Twilight Princess. For me to really feel like Nintendo and I are having fun, we need to have stuff to do every month or so. That’s just not the case anymore. I’ve tried to adapt. Hand to the ceiling, I have. I’ve tried to take interest in Nintendo’s new hobbies. We played Cooking Mama together, and that was kinda fun. He was really excited about Elebits, so I tried that too. The less said about that, the better.

It’s obvious to me now that he’s going one way, and I’m going another. That’s okay. I know we’ll get together for reunions whenever a Mario or Metroid title comes out. If my other friends have anything to say about it, he’ll be invited to lots of parties once Smash Bros. is released. But once those titles are done, it’ll be back to Nintendo and me staring at each other from across the carpet – him blinking, me staring at his nice, white plastic.

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