August 26th, 2005

“Bright Lights, Big City” (over at Planet GameCube) doesn’t, in all honesty, have much to do with gender or sexuality in gaming, but it is an editorial written by yours truly, and it does feature tons of little boys… you know, if that’s what floats your boat. Mostly, it’s a review of the Nintendo World Store, which opened a few months back up in NYC. I won’t give away the action-packed ending, but it involves cramped seating, sugar-coated merch and a lot of glaring parents. If you’ve been thinking about turning your shopping dreams into reality and making the trek over to Nintendo World, you might want to check out this piece. Or, if you’re just dying to see a picture of a Pikachu poncho complete with stick-out ears and a water-proof lightnight bolt tail, then ladies and gentlemen have we got the thing for you!

Tags: Blog

5 Responses to “Editorial: “Bright Lights, Big City””

  1. Kelly A Says:

    One statement in the editorial caught my attention…

    “It's hard to deny the physical proof that Nintendo still believes their products are meant exclusively for children. ”

    Ohhh, I know I’m going to be in trouble for saying this, but…

    Nintendo has always made me feel like they expect, nay, demand their audience to be 9 years old. I was turned off even when I was in my late teens (nearly 25 years ago) by the whole incredibly cutesy game program design. I realize that Nintendo games are worshipped as an artform by some people, but I could never get past the obvious “people who play this game are 9 years old” designs.

    This carried through every game design and every piece of hardware I’ve seen them produce, right up to the Gameboy DS. Nintendo hardware always looked like Fisher Price stuff to me: clunky, big buttons, ugly colours, but you could throw it at a wall and it would bounce right back. Intellivision, Atari, Sega, Sony, heck, even Coleco always seemed more “adult”: the shapes of the game devices, the advertising, and the games seemed aimed at a decade or two more “mature” audience. I never understood the overwhelming attraction to the entire Nintendo line of product: even today, the PSP sells half as much as the Gameboy DS, and to me its akin to the Barbie boombox outselling the iPod.

    I guess my bias makes me totally unsurprised by the “child-centric” design of the Nintendo store. Yes, I know I’m totally wrong about Nintendo: lots of really cool people think everything they do is really cool. But I couldn’t resist the chance to feel vindicated in my bias :)

  2. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    It’s hardly a bias. A lot of people understand that Nintendo has been struggling to overcome a “kiddy” image, while at the same time not losing their younger demographic which they fought for so many years to attain.

    The one point with which I disagree with you is that the family-friendly feeling of Nintendo games and devices make them difficult to play. Nintendo might not be catering to the 18-25 market, but they have always been known for an outrageous sense of quality, and a sort of perfectionism when it comes to game development.

    Sure, Nintendo games come out at a ridiculously slow rate (months can go buy without an in-house Nintendo title being released), but almost every game that is released is a gem, and dare-I-say an instant classic. For me, an E-for-Everyone rating isn’t enoguh to keep me from playing a good game.

    The one problem I think Nintendo must overcome is their adherence to popular characters. Original ideas almost never appear without some popular franchise backing them up. Donkey Konga and DK Jungle Beat are excellent examples.

    Even Pikmin, which was essentially free of old-school Nintendo flavor, had its two main characters modeled after Mario and Luigi. I understand that Nintendo worries about the popularity of their games without classic, staple characters, but when you’re playing the millionth Mario title it begins to seem a little like overkill.

  3. Kelly A Says:

    Scott, I’d never say that the Nintendo games (hardware and software) *are* difficult to play- as I say, I know too many people I trust who go on and on about the depth of the some of the games themselves and the quality of the devices.

    But for me, I can’t get past the seemingly intentional childishness of the designs. I know Nintendo has some great adventure games, but the super-deformed characters and “babyish” names they have cause an unpleasant reaction in me that echos back decades. Yes, I’m that old ;)

    To appeal to me, Nintendo would have to release an “adult” game system, with a series of “adult” games. I’m not talking about boobies or super-violence: just an experience that doesn’t make me feel like I just raided my 4 year old niece’s toy box or something. Sony does a good job (for me) in that regard- their game systems look like something I wouldn’t mind having in my den next to my DVR and my Polk Audio speakers. And Sony games visually appeal (for the most part): the characters look like people, not muppets.

    Does Nintendo need to change? It seems to me that the answer is a resounding “no!” They have always maintained a very loyal following and, in my mind, knowing what you do well and sticking to it is the mark of an intelligent company. But I’d personally never be surprised by the depths of childishness to which a Nintendo product or offering could go. I’d expect to be incredibly embarrassed walking into a Nintendo-branded store without a pre-teen in tow. Actually, I’d almost expect the security guards to start following me around…

  4. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    Design-wise, I’m inclined to agree with you. But given the early design of Nintendo’s “Revolution” (and the slick new Game Boy Micro), I’d say Nintendo has finally gotten the message, and is indreictly apologizing for past transgressions.

  5. Bonnie Says:

    And let’s also keep in mind that what we see as “childish” is dictated by certain societal expectations – as you said Kelly, things like color, shape, etc. Nintendo is releasing these products both for an American and a Japanese market, and each has a very different aesthetic taste. My bet is you wouldn’t be too hot on Japanese kowai items either (think Hello Kitty), but in Japan everyone loves them, not just kids. I guess my real point is that, while “kiddy” elements can only be judged subjectively, the quality games that Nintendo produces are more or less objectively and incontrovertibly good. Of course, I’m a sucker for cuteness, so what do I know…

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