Sunday, November 23
Evolution of Digital Play
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2008, one of the biggest gaming press events of the year, Nintendo was the laughing stock of the show. Many gamers pointed and laughed at the gaming giant while others sulked at the announcements. So, what was the big announcement that made Nintendo look like a stumbling fool? It was the announcement of Wii Music and Wii Sports Resorts (a sequel to the game that took everyone by storm). To anyone outside the gaming loop they might look at these gamers in a weird way (a.k.a. “what are you, stupid?”)
So maybe I started off with a tangent, but the point of this is the creation of what Malstrom calls, in his article "Why Wii Music is Genius", digital play . It probably existed before, yet I don’t think it dawned on me until I saw Wii Music. Most “music” game we play are not about playing music, but rather keeping rhythm to a song. The idea of Wii Music is to play music with the Wii remote without the ability to mess up. In that sense, you can enjoy playing and creating music without taking a lot of time (and, potentially, money) to play a song. See, this is what the “gamers” gawked at. “Oh, there is no way to mess up. It’s a baby game.” “Who would want to play a game that is that easy.” Of course, if I told a normal person on the street that there was a way to play music without learning an instrument they would probable thing I’m crazy. That is the point. To enjoy playing music, without a sense of easy or hard.
The idea here is Digital Play. This is what the Wii is about. It’s not really a videogame as we normally see them, but instead a tool to do things we can’t normally do. It may be hard to stay fit in this day and age, or even go to the gym every day. So what does Nintendo make? Wii fit, a game about trying to stay fit. We might not always be able to go out and play a sport (especially boxing). What does Nintendo make? Wii Sports, a game where you use the Wii remote to play games. Does it make sense? Nintendo is moving games from being for basement dwellers to something anyone can enjoy.
It wasn’t until 2006 when you could say your grandmother plays video games without people wanting to put you in an institution. Now, it’s is not necessarily escapism that games are focused with; it is an extension of what we can do. This is digital play. It’s putting real life into a virtual form. We don’t need a masters to enjoy sometime, something videogames have had a problem breaking out of. No need to buy an instrument when Wii Music has sixty. They become an extension of what we can do. It gives you a opportunity one could not have without this kind of technology. It becomes mainstream, and can do things that would be outside the sphere of our normal lives.
Let me paint a picture for you.
I don’t think you all will sit though a 30 minutes video (and you’ll probably get sick of "My Grandfather Clock"). At about 25:33, Miyamoto (the game’s creator) says something disturbing (to me at least). He says, “What if I had this game as a child. How much would my interest in music have changed if I had such an experience with music during music class in my kindergarten or elementary school days.” This hits the nail on the head. Can “digital play” model people? Can our lives be altered to access to this kind of resources? In the same vein, can we solve the weight problem in this country if we introduce children to fitness (via a game like Wii Fit)? Could video games be like the internet and give use access to a whole plethora of resources?
CAN DIGITAL PLAY SHAPE OUR LIVES? CAN IT GIVE US THINGS NOT THOUGHT POSSIBLE? CAN OTHER CONSUMER ELECTRONICS DO THIS?