Game Good is a regular editorial feature by SideQuesting’s Editor-in-Chief Dali Dimovski that takes a look at the positive experiences of playing modern video games. The topic will change each time, but the hope is that it will always leave a smile on the face of those who read it.
I had to make a tough decision this past weekend. In the midst of Spring cleaning, I gave myself the task of making my entertainment center look half-way organized. I have my television as the center piece, and my cable box and stereo system are required to compliment it. But, when I looked at my games consoles, I realized that it was a mess of cables, discs, controllers and boxes all collecting dust at various levels. The mess they were creating was horrific to a neat freak like myself, and I wasn’t about to build a giant wooden shelving unit to house all of them; some of them had to go.
In the end I made the choice to send the Xbox up into my den. I had weighed all manner of positive and negative points to try and find out which console made the cut to remain. The PS3 was a given, as I didn’t want to get rid of a connected BluRay player just yet. It came down to the Wii U and the Xbox 360, and the off-tv play of Nintendo’s console won out. At least, I thought that was the simple reason. In reality it was much more than that: the Wii U, with all of its mechanical issues and poor business decision, is the perfect console — for me.
I like to think that I’ve grown with Nintendo. The company has always had a knack for releasing consoles and gameplay experiences that line up perfect with my life stages. As a child, the NES was much more readily available than the Sega Master System, and Nintendo had become a brand name that my parents trusted wouldn’t be too violent for me. Because of the NES and Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest now) my love for JRPGs naturally graduated me to the Super NES. With the N64 built around multiplayer, and my living in a college dorm with 8 other roommates, it wasn’t uncommon for Mario Kart or GoldenEye tournaments to break out at 2 or 3 in the morning.
Upon graduation and landing a full-time job, I was able to afford both a PS2 and Gamecube around the same time. The PS2 was used for Final Fantasy, and the Gamecube became the device I would take with me to play Mario Party or Smash Bros at get-togethers with relatives and friends. I have an extremely close — and huge — family, and being the “tech guy” I was always tasked with bringing the entertainment. I married my wife and bought a home in 2006, and with the release of the Wii we were able to play games together all the time. Wii Sports (and then New Super Mario, Wii Fit, and Rock Band) were almost always on in my home.
As the years went on, and the quality of narrative and visual experiences skyrocketed on the Xbox and PS3, I found myself slowly dedicating my time to those consoles instead. The Wii was still used, but only for multiplayer experiences with my wife or when friends came over. I focused more time with the HD consoles. Until my daughter was born, at least. Once she hit an age where she was aware of the television and watching it, I was forced to modify my play time. I could no longer play games like Dead Space or Uncharted during the day; I had to wait until she went to bed. Even then I would have to bargain with my wife and wait for her to finish watching whatever she wanted. Gaming didn’t start for me until after 11PM each night, and because I need to be up before 6AM to get to work in the morning that meant that I could really only squeeze a couple hours in per night at most. In fact, ask anyone on staff and they’ll confess that I typically fall asleep with the Xbox 360 on, endlessly trapped in a Call of Duty lobby as I snore on the couch.
Then the Wii U happened.
Now, I’ve been openly frustrated with some of the choices that Nintendo made with their console, as I usually am with any new console or device that arrives on the market. From business decisions to technical ones, I’ve pulled my hair out at some of the seemingly bizarre directions the company has taken. I wasn’t overly excited when the company showed the console at the last two E3 conferences.
Once I got the device home and started up, it was a very different experience. Almost instantly I noticed how my gaming habits changed. Violent games like Black Ops 2 or Darksiders II became accessible to me again, as I could sit on the couch and play them on the GamePad while my daughter watched Yo Gabba Gabba! or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I could easily turn the tablet away from her if I didn’t want her to watch, and I could still be in the same room with her if she needed something. If my wife wanted to watch television I could send the video to the device and let her have the TV. I purchased Injustice for the Wii U recently and am really enjoying it. Being able to play it on the GamePad, with minimal degradation of quality and actual improvements in speed, is downright fantastic. The off-tv play is such a great experience that I’ve begun playing Batman: Arkham City for the console since I only made it through about 4 hours on the Xbox 360 version before I set it down for a year. I hadn’t played Deus Ex: Human Revolution yet, and with the announcement of a Director’s Cut arriving for the console in May I think I might actually be able to finally get around to it.
No, it’s not just about replaying old games from last year. It’s a shame that Tomb Raider or Metal Gear Rising weren’t released for the console. They’ll now sit on my backlog for who knows how long. I may still be catching up on previous years, but at least I can finally do so and get to enjoy the experiences that my childless friends had.
My daughter loves Mario, developing an interest in the brand without great influence from me. She’s drawn to the colorful characters and the whimsical style as much as she is with Disney. When I play New Super Mario U, she wants to watch and join in. She loves the use of the camera to make countless Mii versions of herself. The Wii U’s interface is pleasant and simple, and extremely easy to navigate, and because she grew up with tablets in her life she’s able to make her way around it without any issue. The Netflix app on the console even has an option to browse just children’s programming visually, and has exposed her to Dexter’s Lab and Powerpuff Girls, much to my happiness as a geek dad.
When my father comes over to watch her while we’re at work, she gets a kick out of watching him play Wii Sports Resort. My dad, an avid golfer, continues his passion in the cold months through the Wii we bought him. With the Wii U’s backwards compatibility he’s able to continue to play without the need to keep around my old Wii on my entertainment center. Though, I do wish that the console allowed for Wii games to be played on the GamePad, as I’d like to finish Skyward Sword or Xenoblade Chronicles at my leisure.
I was apprehensive at first but Nintendo has nailed my gaming habits yet again, and even helped bring some back. My case isn’t common; my work/home/life schedule has made my habits very niche. But, it’s a niche that the company has consistently fulfilled time and again. I’m sometimes pigeon-holed as someone who defends Nintendo, but it’s more of a defense of my lifestyle and my life stage. I don’t expect others to play games the same way I do, they may gravitate towards other consoles or PCs. But man, Nintendo always seems to align well to my own habits and needs. Do I wish certain aspects were better? Yes, I do. I often feel as though Nintendo lags well behind on the delivery of products and services that other companies excel at.
But for me, at least, they seem to always provide a good platform that keeps up with my pace without forcing me to make life concessions that I can’t afford. Though I look forward to what innovations the next gen of Playstation and Xbox will offer up, I’m glad that Nintendo can still make this current one accessible.
At least to me, anyways.