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Resistance Is Futile

And so, apparently, is Seth Schiesel's memory (which I completely understand, to be fair). In a glowing portrait of Mario/Zelda/Wii creator Shigeru Miyamoto, Mr. Schiesel compares the man to Walt Disney (accurately, I think) but then makes this strange blunder:

There is nothing objective about why a goofy guy in blue overalls like Mario should appeal to so many, just as there is nothing objective in how Disney could have built a company on talking animals. Rather, the reason I stood in line at a pizzeria more than 20 years ago to play Super Mario Bros., the reason Mr. Miyamoto is almost a living god in the game world, is that his games have some ineffable lure that inspires you to drop just one more quarter (or, these days, to stay on the couch just one more hour).

There's just one problem with this assertion: Super Mario Bros. was not an arcade game; it was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) video game console. So Mr. Schiesel didn't stand in line, 20 years ago, to pump quarters into these game.

And before anyone claims this is a simple mistake--the original and similarly-titled Mario Bros., was after all, an arcade title--that game was almost a complete bomb. No one stood in line waiting to play that either. My guess is that he is thinking of Donkey Kong, one of the most successful arcade games of its day, which also happens to be the first game to feature Miyamoto's Mario character.

This and other recent fawning articles about Shigeru Miyamoto that I've seen recently remind me that the Wii has reached mass success specifically because it is not a traditional (i.e. "real") video game system but is rather a completely different kind of entertainment device. Looking around my home, I see things like toasters, coffee makers, and alarm clocks, all of which probably have simple computer-like electronics, just like the Wii. (Sorry.) And just like the Wii, that doesn't make them interesting ... to me. But clearly there is a much bigger market for this kind of thing right now than there is for hardcore (i.e. "real") video game systems. Which makes sense, when you think about it. But in the inevitable Wii vs. PS3 vs. Xbox 360 debate, I'd like to point out that the same thing is true now that was true back when the Wii was called the Revolution: These devices aren't directly comparable, not really.

Mr. Schiesel describes the traditional/real/hardcore video game world as a "niche world of fetishists." That's a bit harsh, I think. But it's just another way of describing the difference between Nintendogs/Wii/Hannah Montana and Call of Duty 4/Halo/Haze. The first is just generic kiddie entertainment. The second is, yes, more hardcore. Each has its place.

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