I've been loosely following L.A Noire since I first heard of it, and yesterday I saw a commercial on the television for the game. Most of what the commercial shown me I've seen before, but there was one piece of information that was new to me: L.A Noire was the first video game to be featured at the Tribecca Films Festival. At first I was impressed, letting an awed "Ah" escape from my mouth. But as soon as the commercial ended I got frustrated at the game and myself. Why was a video game at a Films Festival; and why was I initially impressed? Video game companies should not be parading their games around at film festivals, trying to get attention by comparing themselves to movies. And we, as the video game audience should not sit idly by while this is happening.
Video games are a young medium, and right now it's one that's going through a type of puberty. Video games as an art are suddenly bigger, more powerful, and popular then ever; experimenting with what they can do, and finding hair in places that it wasn't before. But just because we're becoming an older medium doesn't mean that we have to, or even should strive to become like the media that came before us. Video games are fundamentally different then other media, and we should focus on expanding and mastering what makes it unique, rather then try and compensate for those differences with the familiar mechanics of other arts. Video games should not be in the mindset of trying to do what the older things are doing, and comparing themselves to them. It's apples and oranges; and unless we want video games to become movies, to lose their gaminess just to fit in with the older, popular kids; then they will never be anything other than that.
No, video games don't have their own prestigious award shows and Festivals like the Oscars or Tribecca or the like, but those are crap and we don't need nor should we want them. We also shouldn't use those existing venues to try and get people to play video games. If there is one thing that we should take from those other media, it's that just like classic books, paintings, movies and music that they have lost; its that the really good video games should not be judged not by a committee of "experts" alone, but by the whole gaming population deciding what games are good based on it's merits as a video game; and then we will have our classics that everyone will want to experience. Then, we won't need to compare video games to movies or anything else. Once we decide what games we like for ourselves, and what games are the best at expressing the traits of video games; then we will be a more respectable and better entertainment.
Almost every week I watch Gametrailerís ďBonus RoundĒ; and every time they mention Nintendo I wonder why I continue to watch them. Either way, this weeks episode got me thinking about the next console generation, and specifically what Nintendo is going to do. Right now theyíre in a precarious spot; they have a huge install base of people who arenít ďgamersĒ whoíve bought the Wii as a novelty, and then thereís a not as large group of gamers who actually bought it as their main source of entertainment or whatever.
Now, something unique in the game industry is that every 7 or so years we start over. Almost every 7 years all the big companies release completely new hardware and, for the most-part stop supporting the previous models. As a gamer it can be hard to realize that this doesnít happen to any other form of media. You donít have to buy a new TV every time an update is made, you can still watch all your shows as you have watched them for the past decade or whatever just fine. Computers rarely ever really need more then new software to keep up to date, and sports have had the same rules for centuries. And this constant shifting is what creates such a large problem, I think, for Nintendo; they have to keep up with the times and support the fans, who still spend the most money per person on gaming; but canít just abandon this new audience, expecting them to adjust to this completely new prospect.
And to give examples as to why this is a problem, let me tell you about a conversation that my mom and I had two weeks ago give or take. I was telling my mom how I was selling my DSi in order to get the money for the 3DS. She asked me why I had to do this, after all, my DSi worked perfectly well, and I had plenty of games for it. It was then that I had to explain to her the above; that very soon my DSi wouldnít be able to play all the new games, and that the 3DS is more powerful and everything else. The conversation ended there, but thatís what got me thinking about all of this hoopla.
Now, how can Nintendo solve this problem? One option is that they could stagnate; refuse to make a new console. This might work for a little while, kind of like what Sony did with the PS2. However, Nintendo is in a worse place to do that right now. They lack the massive 3rd party support that Sony had, and are already behind the technology curve in this generation; enough so that when the other companies decide to move on, many gamers would not stick with Nintendo.
So, what can they do. I say you take a look back to the past, scavenge a poor idea, and make it a great one.
Back in 1992 Sega was having a hard time keeping up with Nintendo. When just a year ago their Genesis had double the power (or at least the bits) of the NES, the new SNES was giving SEGA a run for their money. In order to keep itís edge, SEGA released the SEGA CD, a disk based add on to the Genesis that would increase itís power immensely and use a new medium to bring more gaming to the gamers. Long story short, it failed.
But what if Nintendo were to do the same thing; instead of making a whole new console, they could release an add on to the Wii, and upscaler to give it power equal to itís competitors? I think that it could work. It would be an upscaler to the Wii that would allow it to play the types of games that are on other consoles, but be completely optional to buy. That way, gamers could buy the add-on, and keep up with the times, but people who arenít into gaming could ignore it and keep on playing with their Wii without fear of industry abandonment.
But why would it work this time? First of all, there is a major difference in the application; where the SEGA CD was made in order to keep the Genesis more powerful than itís competitor, the Wii+ (as Iíll refer to it from now on) would be made in order to catch up. By going further than the competition SEGA alienated developers who had a hard time trying to learn how to make CDs work and all that other technological hoopla. What the Wii+ would do is make it so developers can use the same tactics theyíre using for other consoles, and use them on the Wii. Also, new technology is expensive; this is what caused the SEGA CD to be way over-priced. Because Nintendo is just using existing technology, they can make the add-on affordable.
Secondly, people want the Wii to be more powerful. With the SEGA CD they didnít have a market willing to buy the product; it was just thrown out there. If Nintendo were to do it, people would buy it because itís something they asked for.
Ok, so letís say this were to happen, and it homogenized the market technology wise; why would people still choose to buy Nintendo? The answer to this is because Nintendo is Nintendo. They have already proven that they can do more with less than any other gaming company, so imagine what they could do when on equal footing with the competition!
So far this is just a kind of thought experiment, and Iím sure there is a whole lot of other problems and stuff I forgot to mention. It was just a quick thought that I quickly developed enough for a post. Please message or leave a comment about this if you have something to say on the matter, as I quite like this idea and would like to toss it back-and-forth.