In my relatively short time writing and recording podcasts for this web site, I’ve made a few impassioned cases for the benefit of the popular video game console, The Wii. It all started with a podcast called, “Playing Mario to the Glory of God,” in which I detail how the Wii has helped to bring my family together (sort of). I insisted that the Wii’s focus on real-life community-oriented gaming was its’ major strong point for Christians, and that it allowed video games to become less of a vice and more of an opportunity for building relationships.
Well, I was right for a while.
I played video games with my friends, my wife, my in-laws and my mom. It was like a miracle. Thanks to Wii Sports and a couple other key titles, I started to think of video games as a communal pursuit. But then, that was gone as quickly as it had arrived. The Wii’s huge success made me feel good about my system choice. After all, the financial success of a console usually points to the inevitability of a swath of great games.
Instead, those who sought to make an easy buck came out of the woodwork to produce games for the Wii. Worse, even Nintendo showed a penchant for making as much money with as little effort as possible. Game after game appeared on store shelves, but very few were worth more than a rental. In community-oriented terms, very few were worth more than a single weekend with the family.
This all makes a certain amount of business sense. But they have unnecessarily lost a key demographic simply by ignoring them, and they stand to lose the “casual gamers” they have attracted for the same reason. After Nintendo’s now infamous E3 keynote speech, I wrote:
The problem is that as more and more families and friends try video games, they will want to try them even more. Many of them will become the very people Nintendo seems to be ignoring: hardcore gamers. You might point out that the future hardcore gamers will be used to the sorts of games Nintendo is offering, but this can’t be the case. There’s only so much you can get out of Wii Sports before you start wishing it had levels, unlockables, and online play. It’s not just that games become less fun: it’s that the Wii becomes this generation’s treadmill, bought in a blur of optimism and abandoned after bowling and throwing frisbees at a dog gets a little too old.
This has been the key problem with Nintendo’s management of the Wii this year and it is the key reason I switched.
All of us have hobbies and things we are passionate about. Some of us read books, some of us watch film, some of us hunt, some of us write. One thing I love is video games. This love has increased as video games become more and more respected and self-aware as an art-form. I began to feel that while Nintendo’s community focus worked wonders in helping me glorify God in my gaming by sharing it with others, they began to neglect the simple concepts of beauty, goodness and truth in the games that tended to benefit most from the system. World of Goo was a rare exception to the general rule of overly simple and straight-forward games that merely dedicated themselves to the lowest common denominator rather than make themselves accessible yet challenging and full of depth.
So, as a Christian, I did a lot of thinking about how I can best glorify God with my gaming time. I decided that it would be more beneficial to sell the Wii and buy an Xbox 360. It’s a decision that worked for me. I don’t regret it in the least. But it’s not necessarily a decision that works for others.
Take my in-laws, for instance. They’re the ones who bought my Wii. And I can’t wait for this Christmas, when we’ll go down to Florida and play Wii… for the weekend.