Everything is your fault: or how I learned to love games that nag.
Many games have taken the “go outside and play” message to a new level; when does it stop being cute start climbing the list of reasons smash your console in frustration?
During the great expanses of known history that were the load times in Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid 4, I did my best to find ways to keep myself entertained. I used my time to consider various great questions that have plagued man since his inception. Eventually I came to the immortal question “what the hell is that?” as the load screen decided to start giving me advice. After realizing that I wasn’t having a psychotic break, I was bemused by the care with which Kojima had crafted these messages that ultimately were trying to get me to stop playing. I was asked if I had taken enough breaks while playing, and if I knew that it was after midnight. I was advised to go out for some exercise and that despite the gorgeous rendering of Snake smoking in the background that I should never, ever
smoke. Entertaining at first, it quickly became slightly annoying; I already have a mother, Sony, and while I appreciate your concern I do not need a digital version of her to echo her complaints during cut scenes.
Weeks later when I tried Nintendo’s newest look-at-what-Wii-can-do peripheral, the Wii Fit, I found no end to the nag-fest. For those unfamiliar with the Wii Fit philosophy, it goes something like this: we will judge you by tight Japanese weight standards and you, fatty-fat-fat, will like it. I stuck with it though, for a few hours at least and persevered. Alas, in the end my fancy new Wii Fit age told me that I had the balance of an elderly, greased up Gerald Ford barefoot on ice.
Eventually I went about my life as most do, forgetting about snark-fit. I even stopped driving to my boyfriends’ office to watch his co-workers be insulted by a suped-up bathroom scale. After quite some time I did manage to start playing again, unfortunately the anthropomorphic cartoon scale saw fit to scold me for not playing with it. And that was when I decided I wasn’t going to take this lying down, or more accurately, slouching down.
When it comes to Japanese games, many gamers believe that the game play is more about punishing mistakes than rewarding triumphs. Perhaps this is the genesis of the culture of nag that seems to be growing in our community. Much of Japanese society focuses on the individual’s obligation (giri
) to the whole; it follows then that when gamers allow ourselves to slowly melt into our respective seats, we are doing anything but. That isn’t to say this is the only way Japanese game developers think; a country that put out the lions’ share of games for a very long time has to have some sense of the importance of down time. However, I am hard pressed to think of the last American made game that seemed like it was trying to deter me from playing.
Perhaps I am misinterpreting genuine concern for me not only as a consumer but as a fellow human being. Maybe the good people who are making these games are just pushing me to be the best version of myself; the me they know I can be. But then why all the passive-aggressive chiding, why all the clucking of digital tongues? This may be something that is played out as the next generation consoles bring in ever increasing amounts of peripherals that seek to engage the players’ bodies more so than a simple controller can do. Either way, I must finish this piece quickly; my Wii Fit is nagging me to clean my room. read