Don’t forget the “obvious” games!

Alternate title: Be the early career Michael Jackson of the video-gaming world!

If you haven’t heard about it yet, the controller for the next generation Nintendo video-game console is a doozy. It looks fairly modest, like a television remote control with only a few buttons. However, it has possibly the coolest feature ever to grace video game controllers: it knows where it is and where you’re pointing it.

The game developer and game player communities are ablaze with anticipation! What interesting, wild, crazy, and zany ways can games use this unique controller? What gaming wonders lay beyond this precipice of user interaction? My answer to both questions: not much you didn’t see coming.

Obvious does not mean bad

The brilliance of the new controller is how obvious it is. It maps intuitively to games where you have to move the controller or point it at something. We’ll be seeing games like: “point and shoot and things” and “virtual table tennis” and “hit things with stick” and “swing a sword” and “play air guitar”.

Forget about complex imaginings like the following:

  • “You could use three of them to play a flight simulator! One is the joystick. One is the hand accelerator (just put it in the chair next to you). Oooh, one can be used to determine where you are looking… they’ll release a helmet attachment so that you can put it on your head!”

It’s not going to happen! Or if it does, it’s not going to sell widely because it won’t appeal to a broader audience. Seriously, how many people played “EyeToy: Play” compared to “EyeToy: Something else we decided to try”?

Just like Michael

Now onto the Michael Jackson reference. This guy has got to be the most obvious person in the history of music. What’s entertaining? Singing and dancing and he does both! Okay, that one was pretty obtuse, but bare with me. Here are some imaginary conversations between Michael Jackson and his publicist.

On suggestions of lovey-lovey with Billie Jean:

  • Publicist: A woman is claiming she gave birth to your love child.
  • MJ: Hmmmm, I’ll release a song about it. I’ll keep it subtle with lines like “Billie Jean is not my lover” and “the kid is not my son”.
  • Publicist: … (huh?)

On Michael being a little prissy:

  • Publicist: People think you are a bit of a pansy.
  • MJ: Hmmmm, I’ll release a song about it. I’ll keep it subtle with lines like “I’m bad. I’m bad. You know it. You know”. I’d also release an album entitled “Bad” with a picture of me on the cover looking… bad… leather is bad right? right?
  • Publicist: … (huh?)

Concerning Michael’s racial identity:

  • Publicist: People think you are ashamed of being black and want to be a white person. By the way, how come you have white skin now.
  • MJ: Hmmmm, I’ll release a song about it. I’ll keep it subtle with lines like “It’s black. It’s white” and “It don’t matter if you’re black or white”.
  • Publicist: … (huh?)

Album naming:

  • MJ: I think that I’ll call my anthology “History”. You see it’s like a history of my music and it’s also my story and I’m a guy, so it’s really his story. Get it? Get it?
  • Publicist: … (I’m confident that every male singer has momentarily contemplated that titled and decided it to be far too lame)
  • MJ: Hmmm… I conclude from your silence and blank expression that you don’t get it… okay, I’ll spell if “HIStory” to make it a little more obvious!

Much like the many people who have attended to Michael Jackson over the year, the response to something obvious is often a doe-eyed “…(huh?)”, but they aren’t the people making millions of dollars. The fact is a lot of people “get” Michael Jackson’s music and a lot of people will get “use the controller like a golf club”. Far fewer people get Sonic Youth or Rez.

Another lesson we can all learn from Michael Jackson is that you can’t rest on your laurels. Nintendo can woo a few customers with retro games, but you won’t get any new fans. Please don’t release anthology after anthology! Look towards other long-running acts like U2, Madonna, or Greenday… actually, just ignore further music industry metaphors (they only go so far!).

In the end

Sometimes it takes genious to see the obvious. All gamers can probably remember seeing someone tilt a controller “just so” to try and get that little bit of extra distance in Mario’s jump, but it’s taken 20-odd years for a controller design that can let that happen.

As a final appeal to developers: It’s simple and elegant. Don’t try to overcomplicate it!

5 thoughts on “Don’t forget the “obvious” games!”

  1. You know, with the new Rev controller, new players wont look so stupid anymore when they tilt the controller (and body) as they turn in a racing game. 🙂 Kids will love it too!

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