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Is the Wii a Toy?

posted on March 25th, 2007 by christian

I don’t really like the idea of commenting on other game-related blog posts, but I find this one worth discussion because I fear it may be a trend among game journalism in the next year or so. Game Revolution wrote this blog post, in which they claim the Wii should not be compared to the PS3 or the 360 because it is a toy.

There’s a lot to discuss about the post. If you want to believe GR (and their defenders in the comments), it is simply an innocent argument claiming that the Wii is not bad, just different, and that difference is enough to avoid comparison. But at least a few commenters there feel that the blog post is implying something a little nastier than that, and after reading it I tend to agree. Here’s what’s wrong with it:

1) It uses the term “Hardcore Gamer”, which I am growing to despise. Its an industry term that has no real definition, but everyone wants to wear it as their label. That means anyone can use it to mean anything they want, and people will agree so that no one can ever label them as a “casual gamer”. By GR’s definition, the fact that I can’t afford a 360 (but found a better value in the Wii) means I am not a hardcore gamer. Meanwhile, if I had to define the term, then the Wii would be quite hardcore thanks to the Virtual Console. Neither of us would be right.

2) The Wii has the aforementioned Virtual Console, and is backwards compatible with the Gamecube. It is one thing to argue that Wii originals are not games but toys, but there are most definitely games of some form playable on the console. That is, unless everything from past generations doesn’t count as games. Hey, if gamers on the Internet can get picky and technical in their debates, then so can I. The Wii has games, thus it is a games console.

3) GR is so strict about what they review that they only recently decided that handhelds were worthy of their time. If the Wii is so much of a toy and not a console, why the hell are they still reviewing for it?

4) I don’t buy the argument that the Wii doesn’t play video games because it can be played by a two year old. There are many (non video) games that two year olds are capable of playing. To say that video games proper are not for them is to follow a strict definition of what a video game is, a definition that no one actually came up with. I can’t read that argument without instead seeing “The Wii is a toy because it doesn’t fit the 18-34 male demographic that we and our readers fit”. I am crying for you all this very minute.

5) There seems to be an argument that we can’t compare sales numbers, because the Wii’s are skewered by the quantity of non gamers buying it. In any case, GR seems to believe that it is certainly not the choice of “real gamers”, thus no one should include it in discussion of the console wars. I hope they haven’t forgotten the DS. The fact that non-gamers are helping increase the Wii’s sales is a very big deal. The DS has sold so well because of non gamers, and now it is the host system to Dragon Quest IX. If the Wii continues to sell, then GR’s “toy” could be the new host to some of their favorite “real game” franchises. If there is anything to debate, it is whether the Wii can actually keep its sales high for very long.

All of this brings me to what I alluded to at first; if the Wii continues to succeed, we may see a lot of journalists write such fluffy articles trying to disclaim it from whatever silly console competition they have concocted. They see the Wii as a sign that the “mature” and “serious” games they love may not be the future, that simpler games and casual players could become a very big deal. For once someone in the industry isn’t catering to them, and they don’t like that. I’m sorry if that is the case, but its no reason to get pissy and make such foolish arguments. Let’s all get back to what really matters; criticizing third parties for their horrible uses of the Wiimote.

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4 Comments

  1. jay said on March 25, 2007:

    You put more effort into thinking about this topic than the GR guy. I’ve also thought a lot about it and I have this to add – all game systems are toys. A machine that plays games is a toy. Toys are fun and games are fun toys. Accept that this is true and does not make you sleep with other men (unless you already do), shrink your penis, make you a child, etc. Sony specifically has put a lot of emphasis on how they don’t make toys. I recommend reading my Do PS3 owners have small penises blog for insight into the mind set of people who are afraid to accept their game system is a toy.

  2. Max said on March 25, 2007:

    I think this argument is the just the other side of the long-running debate about whether or not video games are art.  "Art", you see, is not about fun, art is about serious artistic expression, storytelling, evoking emotion, etc. A game that is art is about those things first, and about fun second.  Like movies – a high-quality movie can be fun, but a movie that is simply fun and doesn’t have any of the serious "art" qualities will never be considered for an Oscar.  There is a group of people in the gaming industry who’d like us all to believe that PS3 and Xbox developers make games that strive to be art, whereas Nintendo spits at the whole "games are art" concept from a tall mountain and makes games that are fun, but not artistic.  In some sense this is true – Nintendo, I believe, has long chosen its path and motto, and it’s motto is "games should be fun, everything else is secondary".   Because of this, the same people who don’t think that an actor like Jim Carey or Adam Sandler should ever win an Oscar just because they are comedians call Nintendo’s games "toys".  Me, I think those two have more actual acting talent than a lot of the A-list dramatic actors, and similarly, I feel that Nintendo’s games are oftentimes much closer to being true art than some of the self-righteous crap that comes out for the Xbox and the Playstation.  There are a lot of games out there that try so hard to be "art" that they forget to be games – forget to be fun.  So if somebody wants to call the Wii a toy – fine.  But it’s a toy that has its heart in the right place – a toy that knows what a good game should be better than any other "real console" out there.  And all the game "artists" in the world will not change that.

  3. jay said on March 25, 2007:

    Huh, that’s an interesting angle I didn’t consider, Max. I have encountered the standard insecure gamer who declare things "toys" and "kiddie" so often that I hadn’t stopped to think that the idea of a game system being a toy isn’t just blasphemy to them, it’s blasphemy to the game snobs who push to rename games "interactive entertainment" because the word "game" isn’t respectable enough. This is all very strange since I both demand games be seen as toys and fully accept they are art.

     

    Maybe someone needs to define what the word toy means. Let’s see what the internet has to say –

    1. An object for children to play with.

    2. Something of little importance; a trifle.

     

    Ok, going with this I don’t think any system must be considered a toy but all can be seen as possible toys. The idea people who call things toys are trying to convey is that the console they are attacking is not mature and sophisticated. The dictionary doesn’t exactly agree with me, but I’d argue the connotation of the word would look something like – "An object or thing that exists for fun and play, often made for children." Going with this made up definition, all systems are toys.

     

    My point may be that ultimately calling something a toy is a vacuous attack. It means very little and is said only to imply people who like it are immature. Is my PS1 a toy because it’s less sophisticated than modern systems? I can certainly find children who enjoy games on the system, so it must be a toy! If I buy a rare Spawn toy on eBay (Malebolgia, you will be mine) is it not a toy because it was expensive and looks really cool and evil?

  4. Max said on March 26, 2007:

    I agree with your definition.  As far as immaturity goes, I think that trying to promote something by artificially degrading the competition is the most immature thing of all.  Just look at our political campaign process :)

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