How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Hate Nintendo

The source of my irritation.Improbably, my son is a sports fan. Hockey is his first love, but he’s also a fan of football, basketball, and baseball. Unfortunately, we live in Vermont, which means that good weather is sometimes hard to come by. When the weather is bad, he gets his sports fill by watching me play video games. I’m admittedly in the Stone Age as far as these go. Because EA Games hates PC users, I’m stuck playing Madden NFL 2008. My only baseball game is Wii Sports. It is playing through the latter that I started learning to hate Nintendo.

I’ve never exactly been a Nintendo fanboy, but I’ve generally preferred their consoles to the alternative. I bought a Game Cube as a way to help out my brother years ago, and I found a lot of enjoyment in the Nintendo-only offerings such as Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing. I picked up a Nintendo DS because the DS is awesome, and eventually nabbed a Wii because I figured it would offer me similar joy. And now, even though I’m a generation behind, I’m pretty sure that I’m done with that treadmill because Animal Crossing and Wii Sports, games that I used to like, have now taught me to hate the tyranny of video game developers.

There is a problem spreading through the video game industry that seems particularly bad in Nintendo games. And that problem is that the developers want to tell me how to have fun.

I first learned this lesson while playing Animal Crossing on the GameCube in college. I had to go somewhere but was nowhere close to my house where I could save the game. Figuring it didn’t really matter, I just turned the console off. A bit of lost progress, but no big deal, right?

Wrong. When I turned the game back on again, I was introduced to a mole named Mr. Resetti.

What fresh hell is this?

What fresh hell is this?

For those unfamiliar with this game, Mr. Resetti is a character who shows up to chastise you for turning off the game without saving. Apparently, Nintendo doesn’t want you to try to cheat the game by resetting if something bad happens, so they try to annoy you into submission.

I later bought Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS and met Mr. Resetti again when the game froze on me and I was forced to turn it off. This infuriated me because the goddamned reset wasn’t even my fault. But really, Mr. Resetti is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Animal Crossing. If you don’t play the game every day, your town falls apart, animals move out, and general chaos reigns. I currently have my copy of Wild World collecting dust and destined to be sold off because I have no intention of going back in there and dealing with the post-apocalyptic landscape that my town has become. What should be a fun game that I can play for 15 minutes at a time has instead turned into a chore that is not worth bothering with.

My god...they're everywhere.

My god…they’re everywhere.

Animal Crossing isn’t the only Nintendo game to punish you for not playing every day, although I think it’s the worst offender. Wii Fit tends to chastise me if I don’t use it religiously (fuck you, you shitty little board), but at least it doesn’t take away my ability to do the exercises once in a while. By playing Wii Sports to appease my son’s baseball lust, I’ve been introduced to a similar problem with Nintendo’s games: Nintendo thinks they know what I find to be fun better than I do.

There are no difficulty levels in Wii Sports. Instead, when you win, your skill level increases. When you lose, it decreases. So by playing a lot of baseball, I’ve now reached the “Pro” level, where the game because obnoxious in its attempts to “challenge” me. Suddenly every pitch I throw becomes hittable, my outfielders can’t catch a ball without bobbling it and giving up a single, and my home run shots become pop flies and easy outs. It’s like the game is punishing me for being good, because the higher my skill level goes the more incompetent my teammates become.

Playing Madden NFL, I get to set sliders to determine how hard I want the game to be. Admittedly, I set them slightly in my favor, because I like to win at video games more often than not. But the control is still mine. I can tweak the length of field goals, alter rosters to fit my desires, and do anything else I want. I deserve this right because it’s my fucking game.

Beyond sports games to appease my son, the other type of video game I tend to play often are the Bioware role-playing games, ranging from Baldur’s Gate to Dragon Age: Origins. Maybe these spoil me, because I can tweak them and mod them to my heart’s desire. I recently started up a new game of Dragon Age and decided that I wanted to play a female elf. I also wanted to go through Morrigan’s romance plot, which is barred to female PCs in the core game. After five minutes of searching for a mod, I now have something that will allow me to play exactly as I want, and Bioware isn’t punishing me for playing the game to my liking.

Effectively, I have gone from being somebody who enjoys Nintendo a lot to somebody who is wary of the company. I object to:

  1. Their insistence that I play their games every day. That turns a momentary diversion into a chore.
  2. Their refusal to let me decide how I like to have fun.

I liken the whole thing to the days of PC gaming yore when SimCity ruled the world. If you wanted to build a city, wreck it up with monsters and fires, then reset to your old pristine metropolis, you could do so. And why shouldn’t you be able to do that?

I’m just glad that I don’t live in a day and age where this type of nannying is extended to video game classics like SimCity

Oh good. EA has come to spoil the day.

Oh.

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