Integrity and vision

Some time back, I had an epiphany. Last night, another one struck me.

It’s understandable that I don’t see games in the same way as some folk out there. I’m not a superficial gamer. Having spent some time in games development there’s some things in games that I’ll notice or appreciate that aren’t immediately apparent to others. I imagine that if you’re a muscian you appreciate music in a more involved way than a non musician. This may go some way as to why my views don’t always fit in with popular opinion but history tends to show that as power as popular opinion may be, it’s rarely an informed opinion.

Anyway, whilst thinking about games and, of course, Nintendo, I realised what it is that impresses me about some games that others may find unremarkable – and conversely, why I find some very popular games totally unremarkable.

Some games, to me, show a level of integrity in their design and execution that speaks volumes to me. To name a handful of games such as God of War, Burnout 3 or Katamari Damacy some might say I’m just naming big, popular game names. Certainly, these are great games. But the story behind them – and something I can see in the game whilst playing it is integrity.

Take God of War for example. It’s a fairly brainless action and gore fest. At the same time it’s a game that knows what it is and, more importantly, doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s not there to define a new genre. It is precisely what it set out to be – a balls-to-the-wall action game. It’s a study in visceral gameplay and one of the finest western examples of the effort/achievement/reward dynamic that is the core of all videogames. The impression I have of the game is that it had it’s goals and it achieved every single one of them. Put simply – it delivers on it’s promise and doesn’t ever apologise for what it is, or what it isn’t.

Much can be said of Burnout 3 and Burnout Revenge. Oh, you can add some anti-Electronic Arts schtick if you must, but to do so you’re failing to understand what I’m talking about here. In as much as a magician is really not about magic or illusion but showmanship – to complain about his outfit is really missing the point. Burnout is it’s own game. It has it’s own goals. It’s not trying to be Outrun or Gran Tourismo or even Buggy Boy. The game is great because of the vision of it’s design and the integrity of it’s execution. Once again, it’s a visceral blast.

Take this approach to other games such as the majestic Shadow of the Colossus, Ninja Gaiden, Katamari Damacy, DRoD, Gridrunner++, Metal Gear Solid or even Halo and I hope you’ll see what I mean. Even Killer 7 – a game that is woefully short on actual pure gameplay can be regarded as a success due to it’s vision and integrity.
Licenced games aren’t automatically without integrity – but the great ones are few and far between because the vision is so rarely about the game as opposed to the licence.

And then we get to Nintendo.

I now understand that the core issue of my attitude against Nintendo is that, for all their claims and the claims bestowed upon them by superficial gamers, I find them totally lacking in integrity.

I do not get excited about a new Zelda game or another installment in Nintendo’s range of IP because such games, although carefully designed are not motivated by vision but by demand. The demand of those superficial gamers who claim they want something new but actually just want more of the same thing and the demands of Nintendo’s accountants.

Likewise, the Revolution lacks integrity because not only do I not beleive it is a ‘solution’ to bland gaming as Nintendo and their supporters claim but I refuse to acknowledge that gaming suffers any ailment that needs a cure. This machine is here to do one thing above all others – to make Nintendo money. Just like Sony’s machines and Microsoft’s machines. However, those companies are not presenting their box of circuits as a solution to some imagined problem. They are presenting them as games consoles which play games and blu-ray and make their developers and manufacturers money.

Nintendo’s charitable claims do no stand up under scrutiny and they lack integrity as a result. Apart from the overly-indulgent name of “Revolution” they marketing schtick is claiming that game controllers are too complex and put many off games. Hundreds of thousands of gamers suddenly agree.

But who made game controllers complex in the first place?

Who added more surface buttons? Who added shoulder buttons? Who added analogue control? Who added rumble?

Many of the Revolution’s staunchest evangelists will claim that the answer to all those questions is Nintendo. But Nintendo, in their PR and hype are doing all they can to suggest that it’s the competition that has made gaming complex and they are the ones with the pure vision.

When you stop and think about it you start to see through the hype. And you’re left seeing just what a company like Nintendo is up to and how happy it is to let facts go to the wayside.

My disdain for Nintendogs accolades is well documented. But to add to this I’m disgusted with Nintendo for releasing the same game in 3 flavours on the same day. I’m disgusted that they sell brand new hardware by launching it with years old games. I’m disgusted that they launch every new Pokemon game in pairs. I’m utterly disgusted with the speed at which the added sequels to Brain Training – taking mere weeks to make one product into a franchise of 4 or 5 volumes.

No other company in this industry has the nerve to do that. Electronic Arts – for all the bad press gamers love to give them – don’t do anything as mercenary as this.

In every new piece of news I hear, I fail to grasp any suggestion of integrity from Nintendo – yet they have commandeered the label and present it gleefully with everything they say. I would be less critical if what they said and what they did were similar things. That is why I find it easier to swallow hype and PR delivered by Nintendo’s competitors than from Nintendo.

Integrity, for me, is what makes me love the games I love. It’s something that can be seen in Outrun 2006 but in hardly any Zelda game in the last 10 years.

Great games are everywhere, but games with integrity are rare beasts indeed. And that is why Nintendo can rot in hell as far as I care – they’ve taken integrity away from gaming and too many gamers have thanked them for this.
Popular opinion, more often than not, is wrong.