If there’s one thing you should know about it me, it’s that I’m an old-school gamer. My first gaming systems were a Commodore 64 (Pole Position) and an Atari (Pitfall!). I hold entertainment, replay value and simplicity as the gold standard in gaming. Perhaps my favorite video game in the history of video games is Punch Out!! for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It was the only thing I kept my original NES around for, and as soon as Nintendo put it out on the Wii, I was hooked all over again.
My point is this: I value things like entertainment and fun more than graphics, gore and overly complicated story lines. I like my games to be quick and not suck me into 40 hours of gameplay. I can’t afford to play games like that anymore, anyway. I never would’ve been able to finish my novel (shameless plug: LostAtTheCon.com) if I were playing video games that involved.
But every now and again, a game of that nature strikes my fancy. The Force Unleashed series of games is a great example. I might be in the running for biggest Star Wars fan in the state—seriously, don’t try me—and I have a hard time staying out of the LucasArts sandbox. I tried the game on a PlayStation 3, and I have to admit, it looked gorgeous. It was a very pretty game.
Then I decided to buy it for the Wii, and the interactivity of the gameplay changed it from a pretty and mediocre game into an immersive experience I had a hard time walking away from to resume my life. My Wii-mote served as my lightsaber, and my nunchuk was my movement and force powers. I could stand in front of the television and act out my fantasies of being Vader’s apprentice. Sure, the graphics were half as good, but the involvement the unique gameplay offered pulled me into the game in a way I’d been dreaming of since I was a kid.
“Hardcore” gamers laughed at the way the Wii reinvented gameplay, overlooking its innovation by scoffing at its graphics. But a strange thing happened: After the Wii, Sony and Microsoft (makers of the PlayStation and Xbox, respectively) scrambled to come out with something that would offer the same gameplay experience, except they had to add a gimmick. They’ll do it now, years later, but sans controllers. Now, they can offer a Wii-like experience, but in HD.
At the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) earlier this month, Nintendo announced their next console—the Wii U—and gave us a glimpse of the next step in gaming. The new hardware is compatible with all of the old Wii controllers, displays full 1080p images and brings you a brand-new controller, but it’s essentially a tablet in the middle of the controller. You can draw on it and do videoconferencing, and the screen will interact with games in ways never before conceived.
This is going to create an even more immersive experience for gaming, particularly first-person shooters. They’ve even announced unprecedented third-party support. One game that was hinted at, Aliens: Colonial Marines, looks so damn good I might explode.
Nintendo showed how far ahead of the curve they are by widening the gaming audience and once again showing up Sony and Microsoft. It is my considered opinion that the Wii is hands-down the best console on the market, and they just doubled down with the announcement of Wii U.
Since Microsoft and Sony have proven that they’re incapable of being leaders in innovation, but rather followers on Nintendo’s heels, how long will it be before Sony and Microsoft incorporate tablets into their gaming? My guess is they’ll be out as soon as they catch up—some time in 2015.
In case you were wondering, Wii U hits shelves next year.