Monday, May 01, 2006

Wii

As I mentioned on Friday, the Nintendo Revolution, the next console from the Big N has been given its new name. The new name is Wii, pronounced "we". The fact that it is pronounced like "we" lets them say silly things like "Wii are going to change gaming" and the double lowercase "i" is supposed to be evocative of both the controller and the ability for people to play together as it looks like two people standing next to each other. Two limbless, hairless, featureless people who live next to a giant "W".

As I'm going to spend the time today speaking about the reaction to this name, rather than the name itself, allow me to put out there that I think the name is pretty silly. Curiously enough, I think that the name functions better as a logo than as a written word, or a syllable to be uttered in a retail context, however I still think it's silly. I can see the need for codenames and real names, otherwise how would one get a feel for the contents of Untitled Tom Cruise Action Vehicle or Untitled Will Ferrell Comedy at the box office, but at the same time, Revolution was a pretty good name. Images of bloody upheaval aside, it communicated well that the console was an instrument of gaming change and the name's lack of numbers set it apart from Sony and Microsoft. Perhaps Nintendo didn't want its new console associated with Marxist rebels, or pitchfork toting French people, leading their rulers towards the guillotine, or maybe they just like saying "Wheeee!" Who knows. The latter is pretty fun, so I'm going go to with that one.

What bothers me most about the name change, and I can't blame Nintendo for this, is the usual, tired, insipid expressions of differing opinions that inevitably follow any announcement of this sort. This debate is even worse with Nintendo because Nintendo has the temerity, the utter gall, to make games that can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. The horror! Look, you can like Nitendo games or not like them, I don't really care, but it irritates me to no end to have people calling Nintendo kid friendly as an insult. It'd be like if you called me a "faggot" with the intention of insulting me. My anger at that act would not be because you think I'm gay, what the hell do I care, but at the idea that in this day and age, someone would still think that being gay is an insultable state of being.

But I digress. Yes, Nintendo makes a higher proportion of games that can be enjoyed by kids as well as adults. How is this bad? How is this something that can be used as an insult? As gamers, are we so insecure in how we spend our spare time that any association with children must be pounced upon and stamped out? Are we so desperate to appear legitimate to others that we can't stand to be linked with the activities of children? How fucking sad is that? Get over it. Do you hate Disney because they make movies that can be enjoyed by kids and adults? Does your soul burn with rage because Fox televises both 24 and Saturday morning cartoons? And no, I'm not saying this because I'm a parent. My kids are 3 and 1.5 years old. Video games are so far away from their sphere of activities as to be completely unknowable to them. I am saying this because the argument that Nintendo is lesser simply because they make games appropriate for children is as stupid and tiresome as the argument that a game is somehow elevated in quality due to the inclusion of violence and profanity. A game either entertains you or it doesn't. The audience for the game should play no part in that assessment, unless you're specifically reviewing a game who's target audience is significantly different from you.

I find it amusing that the people who, in reaction to this name, bandy about the "kid friendly" insult, are the ones who are quickest to use the new console name for bathroom references. Apparantly, it's ok to joke at the 3rd grade level, just not game at it.

The name also fired up the usual factions of lovers and haters that are so irritating in their eventuality. There are the people who like the name because they like it, and the people who accuse the former group of only liking the name because of blind Nintendo allegiance, or just because others hate the name. For this last group of people, I would ask you just how difficult is the concept of someone formulating an opinion outside of the influence of others? It is completely possible that people experience something, and formulate feelings in regards to that experience before they ever know of others' feelings about the same experience. You should try it some time. It's liberating. Then you have those that genuinely do like the name because others hate it, people who hate the name because it's Nintendo, or not Sony, or not Microsoft, people who hate the name because it's stupid, and finally those that hate anything that isn't a Dreamcast and are doomed to play Crazy Taxi until the end of time as progress marches inexorably forward.

When I read the anger, the unmitigated venom in the responses to the name, I am taken aback. I am known to hurl the f-bomb on occasion for emphasis, but I think the last time I posted in genuine blood boiling rage was after Katrina. That was a hurricane, the aftermath of which had such a stunning display of governmental incompetence at every level that people died. This is a renaming of an entertainment device, the purchase of which is completely and totally voluntary. Do you see the difference here? Now, maybe those that posted with rage about the Wii also posted in rage about Katrina, however after a while it's hard to tell one rage filled post from another and you're just the crazy person who's mad about everything.

The ignorance I've read is appalling as well. I've read countless posts from people who say that all support for this console has now evaporated. Why? What sane person decides to drop several hundred dollars on hardware and games simply because of a name? Similarly, what person can look at a console, look at the games, say "yes, I want to play those" but then doesn't because they don't like the name? Do these people, upon hearing that their friends' or relatives' new baby, who had, in the womb, originally been named Mark, is now named Christopher, swear off all contact with the new child? Is that child now dead to them as all support for the spawn evaporates? Maybe there people out there so shallow as to base their level of something based on the name of said object. If so, they better not be named Wendell, or they are doomed to a life of self loathing. No offence Wendell.

I wonder, as I read the reactionary posts, if our's is the only hobby that evokes such responses. Are there those on television message boards who love one network but absolutely can not stand another? Fervent supporters of CSI who won't rest until the Law and Order franchise is in flames and Dick Wolf is paraded in front of them in chains? Are there baking aficianodos who love Ms. Crocker but erupt in rage at the mention of Duncan Hines or that fat fuck at Pillsbury? I try to avoid message boards in general, due to the fact that the anonymity of the internet allows people to be complete and total smacktards and just write whatever they feel like, without genuine examination of their feelings or the influence their words may have. Now, I realize that I use the same internet to foist my opinions on you, dear reader, and while I certainly can't say that I am completely up front with name, address, contact information, etc, I can tell you that anything I say here I would have no problem telling you face to face. That's because I believe in the old fashioned notion of personal accountability, both in words and deed. I have been to message boards for other hobbies, my love of smoking meat for example, and I have yet to see venemous posts about Kingsford vs lump charcoal. The great Pork Loin Dustup of '05 got pretty hairy, but people kept things in check, for the most part.

So to those that are so afraid about being associated with children that they run in fear from a copy of Mario Kart, here's a some advice, free of charge, from me to you. Stop going online and acting like a fucking baby because you don't like something as unimportant as a name change. If you don't want to buy the console, don't buy it. It's all very simple. If it angers you that much, just move on and maybe pick a hobby that doesn't infuriate you so much. I hear knitting is all the rage now.

Finally, there are those that believe that this all some sort of ruse, that Nintendo will announce at E3 the real name and that this is all some publicity stunt to get people talking about the console. They cite, as evidence for this theory, that people in Nintendo have said that the point of announcing the name now, instead of at E3, is to give people time to get used to it so at E3, they can focus on the console and the games. Why, the theorists ask, would they announce a name early, if they knew we'd hate it and if they didn't plan on changing it? Nintendo must know that the name sucks, they say. No, Nintendo knows what anyone who has ever spent any time on the internet knows, and that is that you people hate everything. There is no announcement by any of the 3 console manufacturers that won't elicit the exact same response, only with a shuffling of supporters and detractors. Nintendo is just being smart. Yes, the name is unusual, so the outcry is greater, however it's no different than any other reaction I've ever read to a new console. Changing the name at this point would be a huge mistake because it would give the whining children exactly what they want, exactly at the moment you shouldn't, when they are pitching a fit. If I have learned one thing from my experience as a parent, it is that you absolutely do not give in to tantrums, ever, ever, ever, for it is the surest way to guarantee a reappearance of the behavior.

This is a global marketing strategy meant to define their space in the console world for the next 3 - 5 years people. Do you think they're going to scrap the effort simply because you don't like the name? You may be important, but not in this space. Your importance lies with your wallet. If you don't like what the console offers, even if it's simply because of the name, don't buy it. Don't buy it. Don't buy it. Don't buy it. If people want to know why you're not buying it, tell them. Eventually, if enough people aren't buying the console for the same reason, that reason will make it's way to Nintendo. Do you honestly think that they don't know why people weren't buying GameCubes? They know every reason, however just because they know them, it doesn't mean that they're going to change everything, so don't get pissy when they decide to keep making kid friendly games just because you don't want to play Zelda.

With E3 right around the corner, hopefully the name change furor will die down and people can start bitching about other things, including things related to other consoles. Why should Nintendo have all the fun? I'm going to try and keep my reading of the coverage to "news" articles rather than reader opinions because I find worthless, PR handjob previews soothing during these tying times. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to fire up the smoker. Yeah, with Kingsford. Why? Because lump is for asswipes. Want to make something of it?

6 comments:

Greg said...

Have you seen all the webcomics about this? Some damn funny stuff out there.

suburbanjoe said...

Yeah, I've seen them. As usual, the Penny Arcade post is perfect. I think the name is horribly, horribly mockable. Lets hope the games are better.

Headgamer said...

Um... I'm just impressed someone has enough time and energy to make a post that long about the name 'Wii' ... I'd be scared of your commentary on the word 'They'... a very conspiratorial and paranoid read I'd bet! LOL!!!

suburbanjoe said...

Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

Asphyxiate said...

I was forced to completely reconsider my position on this today when I read (can't remember where) that this naming strategy might simply be to stir up trouble and attention this close to E3, trying to steal some sony limelight. If true, I might have to flipflop from hater to remarking that it's simply a stroke of genius. No publicity is bad publicity, I strongly believe that.

I know, I know.. no middle ground with me. You get what you pay for.

Booster MPS said...

Great post and you are correct that at the end of the day, it is about the games