Christmas as a child was always spent building up to the big day when you would wake early, rush to the tree and start shaking the boxes underneath it that mysteriously appeared during the night before. In years gone by we got excited about our 16-bit state of the art Super Nintendos and MegaDrives, only for the unpacking and plugging-in to create a divide between the gamers and non-gamers in the house. This has largely remained the status quo whenever a new console or game was given as a gift, but surely the ideal would be for the whole family to gather round and enjoy it together?
These past few Christmases have bucked the trend with the release of SingStar and Buzz games on the Sony PlayStation 2, not to mention the success story of the Wii. In each of these cases it seems that the main barrier to non-gamers, namely the complicated control systems, has been bridged by innovations in user inputs. For SingStar anyone can pick up the microphone and start singing – the main problem lies in whether they can sing in tune!
What was seen as a haven for gamers became an accessible forum for budding singers who had their sights set on the pop music industry. Practising alongside their idols, every singer is comfortable with a microphone in their hands and the success of SingStar proves this.
It was this innovation that led to the creation of a new input to accompany the Buzz series of games. For anyone that has ever watched a quiz show and thought they’d be able to do better, now is their chance. Buzz, with its simplified controller and multiple rounds of random questions based on TV game show formats, has allowed all the family to gather around the TV and be a part of the entertainment. It is not uncommon to see parents revelling in the delight of triumphing over their children in an arena normally renowned as belonging to the kids. Since the original music quiz version there have been another seven Buzz titles (with more in the pipeline) including versions specifically for younger children, realising the goal of inclusive gaming across generations.
Not to be out done and taking things one step further, Nintendo developed their most recent console with this ‘gaming for the family’ idea at the core of the project. The end result was the release of the Nintendo Wii with its distinctive controller and advertising campaign all new to the video game market.
We’ve all seen the adverts that focus on lots of people of all ages, genders and nationalities playing, especially family groups all enjoying the game of choice, but the focus is not on the game anymore, it is on the people playing. This is no gimmick; the Nintendo Wii has outsold its Sony and Microsoft counterparts and bares no sign of losing popularity any time soon.
On the internet you do not have to look far before you come across forums extolling the Wii for bringing new avenues of joy to family get togethers. From pensioners to youngsters, the intuitive controls have brought the whole family to the video game arena and it’s been such a success that one chain of retirement homes in the US has implemented the Nintendo Wii games system into the everyday life of residents after a grandchild brought in their new toy to show their grandma!