The Theory of Chaos

Friday, May 12, 2006


I guess this means I don’t count as a “hardcore gamer” – maybe I never really did. But as the bloops and yelps of E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo, annual Uber-Orgasm of the video game world, for you non-geeks) radiate across the landscape, crowing about the awesome graphical prowess of the next generation of video gaming hardware, I’m just not as impressed. When I was young, there was a simple and easily-grasped distinction between what the 8-Bit Nintendo Entertainment System could do and the 16-Bit Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo could do. The visual and audible leap was dramatic. And just one number to track. Simple!

Now Sony and Microsoft are in a kind of technobabble arms race, publishing thicker and thicker sheafs of impenetrable numbers in an effort to prove that their little miracle box will have, I don’t know, 2 billion more…somethings, than the other guy, and somehow this will make the games awesome.

Except, we’ve really learned that lesson too many times now, haven’t we? How many times are gamers going to be suckered by shiny technology? Tetris was programmed on a Russian clone of a PDP-1 mainframe, and Night Trap still sucks. You can’t buy fun with processing power.

I was having dinner with some friends one night – one an agent a few years older, one a teacher old enough to be our father, he wanted to know more about which system he should look into. I tried to break it down cleanly – Sony gets you the most games, especially with their library backwards-compatible to PS1, while Nintendo has the exclusive franchises that are always high-quality, along with the indefinable fun factor.

The agent next to me puffed up in his seat: “Me…I like power. I’ve got an X-Box. It’s got the most power. Best graphics.

And I thought to myself – wow, you’ve got a wife and a kid and a house and a six-figure income, and your ego still needs that, doesn’t it? I guess there’s more out there like him.

I knew I was a hopeless rube doomed to have less gigaflops than the other guys on the block when I saw the presentation trailer for Nintendo’s Wii (formerly code-named the revolution). Graphically it’ll be behind the curve, no one’s pretending otherwise, but when I watched it, I understood it, and it looked like fun. The new motion-sensing controller looks fun. Using it as a sword or a gun or a tennis racket or a drum stick or a steering wheel looks fun. Having a new Zelda game, a new Mario game, a new Super Smash Bros. game (with Solid Snake and friggin’ Kid Icarus!?), a new Metroid game – we’re talking about the greatest fun franchises in videogaming, and they won’t be on PS3 or X-Box 360, and as long as that’s so, Nintendo will always have a foothold in the business. And, to top it off, to be able to download and play games from the Sega Genesis, Turbografx, and every previous Nintendo console ever made?

I’m sold. You can keep your bleeding edge anti-aliasing techniques and cloth physics. I’ma get a Wii, and I’ma going to have fun with it.


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