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Video games for spectators

The big video game convention, E3, was last week and I was watching some highlights and reviews over at GameSpot and caught an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto – otherwise known as the Father of Mario. He’s an interesting character that seems to have a great personality, definitely a man you could invite over to the BBQ. Since he is the brains behind Mario and 90% of Nintendo’s first-party games, he was interrogated about the Wii and it’s game future.

The Nintendo Wii has gotten most of its press because it appeals to “everyone,” including the non-gamer crowd, like your mom and grandmother. But he mentioned something at the end of the interview that I always realized but never gave it much stock, but now it seems so obvious. He talks about how a part of being good entertainment is it’s ability to look fun. Not only does the player’s experience need to be fun, but it should also look fun to spectators. If you witness somebody enjoying and playing, then you believe you can do it too because you can easily see what is involved. It’s not a bunch of hidden skill and quick hands (at least not at first).

This theory is directly responsible for why Guitar Hero, DDR, and any other game that doesn’t require your typical controller is doing well right now. It’s why I bought Guitar Hero pretty much sight unplayed and the Wii too. Sure, I researched the games on-line, but by watching others play and seeing videos reassured me that it was going to be fun – no test drive needed. This is why the Wii continues to catch the eyes of the world and picks the pockets of people that wouldn’t have thought of buying, let alone playing, video games before.

These new “fully interactive” games will make better gaming rock stars in the future and should help move video games more into the mainstream media. They already air game tournaments on TV…at the ass crack of dawn on a Saturday, exactly when the gamer audience is sleeping…smart. Anyway, how exciting is it to watch people playing Halo? Not very – it’s like watching poker – a bunch of folk in their various hats and sunglasses with headphones plugged in for maximum deep thought potential. But how about watching someone play what essentially translates into air guitar? That’s very entertaining. It’s entertaining because it’s funny and because you’re watching someone doing something that you would like to be doing but aren’t for one reason or another.

And with games like Rock Band that involved four people mimicking an actual rock band – drums and all – business should start picking up.

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Originally posted on Jul 16, 2007

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