7.19.2008

Wii Music Drives The 'Hardcore' Crazy

I believe I'm witnessing one of the most amusing temper-tantrums to ever play itself out on the Internet.

Wii Music, since its re-unveiling at E3 on Tuesday, has sent many video game fans into a tizzy. They seem to decry its very "simple" form of play, which is for some reason very offensive to their sensibilities. They demand and hope that it fails at retail because it is not even a game, by their definition, and therefore it apparently is a product not fit for retail. Why they don't merely politely express their disinterest and disappointment, elect not to purchase it, and continue on their lives, I'm not sure. For some reason, though, they feel they need to turn up the drama level and moan and groan about how Nintendo doesn't love them, how Nintendo's purported "casual" audience is going to turn on Nintendo, how Nintendo is going to regret ignoring the 'hardcore,' etc.

Essentially, it makes the mind liquidate.

Oh, and they're also infuriated over Shigeru Miyamoto's off-hand comment about Wii Music being better than a video game because it is a toy. Read the comments there. Seriously. I read up to 265 yesterday, but as of this writing there are now exactly 300 comments.

Reading the overly dramatic commentary on this situation is quite aggravating, and yet it is also quite humorous. It shows that the shift is occurring, and that the battered 'hardcore' are flipping out over a game that exists with the goal of allowing users to play music with their Mii's. And like Wii Sports and Wii Fit before it, Wii Music is being dumped on. Whoop-de-doo. The negative reaction that Wii Music is stirring up amongst the 'hardcore' is nothing new, but this mass hysteria the product is currently generating merely shows, to me, that it is headed in the right direction. Wii Music cannot stir up a profound change without rubbing some people the wrong way, and if these are the people it will rub, then so be it.

I can understand the 'hardcore' not liking the game, but why they feel the need to whine and moan like two year olds and use Wii Music as 'evidence' that Nintendo isn't creating games for the core audience is beyond me. I can't remember the last time I've seen such a complete and utter lack of logical thinking.

As for Miyamoto's words, I believe he absolutely has a point. The linear definition of video game provides for a potentially limited experience depending on any individual game's structure. For example, Super Mario Bros.' levels and game structure doesn't change every time it's played. The player primarily uses the game's tools in order to complete the game from beginning to end, and after that, he/she may play it again, or he/she may not.

But if Wii Music can create an environment where the player uses the game's tools in order to create games for him/herself, to create his/her own fun, to entertain him/herself, then that is incredibly powerful.

Of course, even Super Mario Bros.' mechanics allows players to create their own fun, and Super Mario Bros. mechanics also provide for replayability in that the game is easy to pick up, its convenient, and it simply strikes an excellent balance between difficulty, challenge, simplicity, playability, fun, and entertainment.

But I believe something like Wii Music allows for many more opportunities for this creation of fun to happen within its open-ended structure. I also feel that it is essential to explore the concept of play, and not just in the context of a traditional video game, but instead as a form of human behavior. By then taking that information and applying it to video game products that are designed around both human behavior and jobs that consumers must get done, I think we can create many new, rich, successful experiences for people.

But that's just my two cents.

Regardless, it is quite clear that Miyamoto's comments were a semi-snooty response to a semi-snooty question, but the positive discussion they can generate is incredibly useful.

As you can probably tell, I'm personally incredibly excited about Wii Music. I'm not sure if that results in me being biased in this situation, but I wish the 'hardcore' of today realized that the games that a good chunk of them grew up on, such as Super Mario Bros., were the 'casual' games of yester-year. Games like Wii Music, ultimately, are experimental, and they will push the boundries, definitions, and uses of the video game to new places, and these places can only bring new and healthy industry growth.

I don't see what's wrong with that.

UPDATE: Joystiq hands-on and more angry comments here.

6.08.2008

The Postcard Says It All

"In The Great Hall Of The Justice League!"

Every once in awhile, you run into something from your childhood that brings you infinite joy. I think I ran into something quite amazing yesterday.

It's "That Time Is Now" by Michael Kohler. It's one of the Cartoon Network Groovies that used to air several years ago, and it's basically a really awesome remix of the Superfriends theme with some really awesome extra components.

Have a looksie:

5.30.2008

Allergies

So, it's that time of the year again. My friends have been suffering from allergies for weeks, but today it was finally time for them to prey on me.

But you know, those kinds of allergies aren't really that important.

With everything that's happened today and this past week, it's more clear than ever to me the dangers of mental allergies. The allergies of stupidity and ignorance. The allergies of intolerance and hatred. The allergies of arrogance and excessive pride. The allergy that causes an acute lack of understanding and loving other people.

Perhaps more important, however, is being allergic to yourself. The act of self hatred, the act of mental punishment, the act of not trusting oneself, the act of being a recluse, the act of growing ugly inside, and the act of giving up. The cycles of human growth and development, cycles that are both natural and unnatural. Life, growth, prosperity, and most importantly, true happiness are essential to living. Good people, good friends, and good times are ways to cope with being allergic to oneself; that is, if you're not so sick that you can't or won't take advantage of them.

Being allergic to oneself certainly isn't desirable, but it is something that is very much a reality for many people. And it hurts. The lack of personal acceptance coupled with the lack of acceptance from peers hurts. And like an allergy, being in the dumps in that kind of a way is difficult to get out of. It requires a reworking of the mind and soul of both you and the people in your life who matter to you.

Mostly, though, it requires a new relationship that is positive and new. A relationship built in the image of happiness, passion, wonder, amazement, and understanding. And it requires the courage to start such a relationship and see it through.

Perhaps, then, with some understanding, some courage, and a whole lot of luck, it may be possible to beat being allergic to oneself. But there are some people whom this will not affect, because they are so immensely bogged down.

To them, I apologize. If any of you are reading, perhaps it is aggravating that you're reading the same things you've heard people tell you for years. I wish I could say something, but I don't think I can, because I'm in your boat, too.

Until next time, I try to remain hopeful that we'll find a solution to this problematic allergy. Until that day, hopefully we can stick together. Hopefully, strength can be grown by numbers. Hopefully, our love and passion can bring us forward. Hopefully, we'll be better people when this is all over.

It's 11:20 PM, and it is time for bed. I hope to wake up tomorrow with a sense of vitality and motivation so that I may hunt for an answer. Please join me.

5.26.2008

Yo Dawgs.

Whoops, brain lapse. Please excuse that.

I'm writing because one of my favorite people has started up his own blog. And it has an incredible name.

He's a good, smart kid, and I'm sure his stuff will be of value. Not to mention that he's hot.

So, please, if you see this and have a moment, check him out:

Coffee and T.V.

5.24.2008

Tomorrow Begins "Write 'Love' On Your Arm" Week

Beginning at 6 AM tomorrow and ending at 9 PM on Saturday, May 31, "Write 'Love' On Your Arm" Week is incredibly important to me.



If you have Facebook, you can see the event here. For everyone else that wants to participate or at least know what the event is about, I've taken the liberty of copying and pasting a snippet from the event description:

"[This event is] In Honor of:
18 out of 274,000 teens kill themselves
1 in 5 teens consider (think) suicide.
1 in 6 made plans
1 in 12 had attempted suicide
8 out of 10 ask for help before the commit suicide"

Depression and suicide are both very real problems that affect a great number of children, teenagers, and adults every year. Being depressed makes it difficult to be a contributing member of your school or your job, it makes it difficult to be involved in social situations, and it destroys your self-esteem. Thankfully, depression is both preventable and treatable. For more information about Depression, please go here. For more information regarding suicide and suicide prevention, please visit this site. Finally, if you or someone you know is suicidal and needs help, please head here.

Above is a graph that displays data regarding teen depression and dysthmia.

It is my sincerest hope that most people will participate in this event. Although the action of writing love on your arm does little to solve the problems of depression and suicide, it does help bond people together and raise awareness of the serious issues that are depression and suicide.

Friends, random visitors, and readers (all two of you), as someone who has lived with depression for several years, I ask you to take part in this event. The simple act of writing love on your arm can and will mean the world to me and many other people whose lives have been affected by depression and suicide.

Thank you.

5.22.2008

Newspapers and Disruption: School Edition - Part 1

Having read a lot about disruption in the video game industry over the past few months, I've begun to think about disruption in other industries, and how disruption can fix problems that schools such as my own are having.

At my high school, we have a small and under-noticed newspaper called The Buzz. In my first two years of high school, I commonly attended weekly Buzz meetings and tried to write for the paper. I found, however, that I tired of writing the types of articles I was expected to put out.



Sometime near the beginning of my second year, mostly due to my own personal issues coupled with a lack of motivation, I decided to quit writing for The Buzz. Ever since then, however, I began to question many things about The Buzz and my experience there.

Before I can begin to talk about these things, however, some additional background must be given. First, in Graphic Design in Freshman year, I attempted to construct a web-site for The Buzz using Dreamweaver, a program that I had absolutely no experience with. Obviously, this web-site did not work out.

Second, at the same time that I was writing for The Buzz, I was also (and still am) volunteering my time editing, organizing, and putting together my town's intermediate school's newspaper, The WISard. Yes, the name is a terrible pun that is only partially understandable without knowing the school's name.

Even after I quit The Buzz, I continued to work on The WISard. Even now, as a junior, I spent a good chunk of time today creating the latest edition of The WISard using Microsoft Publisher.

Before we continue, please allow me to compare the environment and set-up of these two newspapers, for they are significantly different from one another.

The Buzz has an extremely small staff, and the paper itself is generally around four-pages. Perhaps, then, it can be more accurately described as a newsletter. Additionally, being that it is a high school newspaper, The Buzz is a lot more serious than The WISard. Importantly, The Buzz's layout is quite consistent, and it looks relatively clean. Additionally, only a few issues of The Buzz are printed every year because it is merely a club, and its members have so many other obligations that producing content is difficult for them.



The WISard is essentially the opposite of The Buzz. It has a 30+ person staff, which includes a panel of editors and me. Its length also greatly fluctuates from paper to paper; one issue, the paper will be 24 pages, and another issue it will be only six pages. Completely unlike The Buzz, not only is The WISard has an inconsistent layout that is often relatively messy, it generally has a good amount of content to be edited, the content generally has extreme quality issues, and the content may consist of poems, stories, reviews, and other topics, but it is very rarely current events-related.

This lack of current events articles is largely due to The WISard's irregular publishing schedule; there are generally around four to five issues published each year, each with a different length, and all of these issues are being worked on for months at a time. Since each issue takes several months to be completed, formerly current events are now old news, and so, in this sense, The WISard can hardly be called a newspaper in the conventional sense.

As I took control of the desktop publishing for the last issue of The WISard, I really began to ponder ways that I might be able to change how the paper is run and published. Then I began to wonder if The WISard needed to be delivered in the form of a newspaper at all.

One major commonality and flaw that both The Buzz and The WISard share is a lack of readers. No one seems to want to read these newspapers. The Buzz's advisor, a very smart English teacher who has worked with this newspaper for many years, continuously advocated the use of quotes and interviews with students; she believes that interest will arise out of students seeing their friends appear in the paper. I believe that she's right.

However, I also believe that a more major problem is the method of delivery for The Buzz. Distributing papers is difficult in the high school, and The WISard is also difficult to circulate in the intermediate school.

How do we develop, organize, and deliver our content to children and teenagers, our primary audience? I believe that Disruption is the answer.



According to this article, which was published at the beginning of May 2005, newspaper circulation is declining. Rupert Murdoch is reported to have admitted that young people harness the Internet for their news fix.

And of course, that makes total sense to anyone who uses the Internet frequently, like me. The instant gratification the Internet grants users is incredibly important. Whereas someone has to pay for a newspaper every day to get his or her news, or someone has to watch the news on TV or listen to it on the radio at a specific time of the day, anyone can access the Internet at any time of the day and find articles and news pieces that he or she is interested in.

Most importantly, using the Internet allows for infinite customization of the type of content the user can see; there are plenty of news feeds and news sites that people can access, and there are many sites that allow users to search or filter news based on a multitude of categories.

Then there are applications like the News Channel on Nintendo's Wii console, which allows the user to sit comfortably at home and flick through the news using his or her TV and interacting with a very simple and attractive user interface.



Many newspapers have merely published a good deal of their print content on their websites. But this simply is not good enough. Using the Internet to look for news is a worlds different than sitting down and reading a newspaper. Reading long articles on a computer isn't attractive to a good chunk of people, especially if its presented in a boring format. A major problem caused by simply replicating a newspaper on the Internet is that the whole set up lacks convenience, something that is incredibly important to people in the 21st century, and importantly, it's something that people can find at many other Internet locales. It's far more important to create a news experience that is tuned to take advantage of the Internet's capabilities, while at the same time matches user behavior, remains simple, remains attractive, and remains convenient. My original intent with the website I was unsuccessfully designing for The Buzz was to merely copy and paste our newspaper content onto this site and archive it. Clearly, this would have failed.

My town's public school system has a web-site set up for each of its schools, but all of these sites lack detail and content. Some of them are rarely updated, and all of them have extreme grammar and professionality issues on various pages. Every student and teacher has an email address, and many students and teachers check their email quite frequently, but the school does not make adequate use of the services it has provided. Even more aggravating is the school's and the state's approach to the Internet, which is essentially to "block first, ask questions later." Legitimate news sources and educational sources of all types and spanning several industries are unnecessarily blocked because of the minority of students that abuse them. YouTube being blocked and feared rather than embraced and incorporated into lessons is a prime example of the educational system's reluctance to change and morph with the times. The school's use of the Internet is so restrictive, in fact, that it hinders the productivity of the computer classes that the school offers; oftentimes, many sites featuring tutorials, resources, and how-to videos for topics students are studying and practicing are blocked for reasons that are unknown to me.



How can we disrupt the newspapers in our schools if such needless blocks are placed on students? And should the term "newspaper" even be associated with our disruption? After all, as we've established, newspapers are quite inadequate for students' needs. What's more important is to name several goals and to create an experience around them. An experience that is tuned to the needs of students, an experience that matches student behavior, an experience that works with the educational system, and an experience that works with students' daily in-school and out-of-school computer usage. Perhaps using computers isn't the correct direction to move in in order to disrupt these school newspapers. Regardless, extensive research and planning will need to be done in order to successfully plan for a disruption of The WISard and The Buzz, and perhaps, in the process, perhaps even cause change in our schools' educational policies.

For now, I will continue to ponder and pursue potential methods for fixing this situation, first with The WISard, and then, maybe, with The Buzz. Part 2 will come when and if I manage to find a disruptive or even non-disruptive solution. Thank you for reading this lengthy piece.