One of the interesting new possibilities the Wii U presents for The Evolution of Gaming ™ is more ways to integrate the gaming screen with our daily lives. The Wii U’s U Pad is somewhat tablet-like. And this is cool. But let us think fourth-dimensionally…
You know what I miss? Cocktail table video games. Who says we have to play our video games on the TV? I want to play them within my breakfast table! This is why it is so incredibly important for Nintendo to provide a good E-Shop and for the games to be account bound. These old games will have new contexts depending on the evolutions or multiplications of the screens. For example, if the Wii U can play Virtual Console games on the U Pad, suddenly nearly every 8-bit, 16-bit, and Nintendo 64 game enters the handheld context. I would like to see these contexts expand more with time.
I would love to play these games within my breakfast table. Maybe Nintendo will release a Wii U XL which is a cocktail table which is like a GIGANTIC U-Pad.
The Wii U revolution may seem surprising but let’s zoom out and look at gaming in its entire lifecycle.
You want to play Pac-Man. Where can you play Pac-Man?
At first, just the arcade.
Then, in really bad ports for the home console (lol at the Atari 2600 Pac-Man).
And then, more ports on the home computers.
Ports spread to the home consoles. NES Pac-Man sells because people hated that Atari 2600 Pac-Man.
Pac-Man eventually appears on Gameboy.
In more recent times, Pac-Man appears on your cell-phone.
The Video Game Revolution seems to want more screens and to spread itself out nearly everywhere. If we can play Pac-Man on our cell-phone and on our controller (with the Wii U), why stop there? Pac-Man will be playable within tables, maybe within books?
Like the Neanderthal, the Hardcore Gamer also has many stages of evolution. Today, our Hardcore friends cannot imagine the idea of video games not using one giant television set. But once upon a time, the hardcore could not imagine gaming not being in the arcade. The evolution of gaming seems to be directed as spreading gaming out horizontally. The hardcore only see progress vertically. The game must be ‘taller’ and more ‘inaccessible’ to others or it isn’t fun to them.
The little screen on the U Pad will not stay little forever. For some reason, I imagine people unfolding their screen, not unlike how they unfolded the Power Pad, and doing whatever they want with it. Some might put it on the wall. Some might put it on the ground and sit on the screen for some sort of new gameplay (maybe a dance game? Hey, it is a ‘touch screen’). And this screen can be resized and placed on table tops. When you left, you could take the console and the folded screen with you.
“Foldable screens? That sounds ridiculous.”
As you know, I don’t live in the present. I tend to live much in the past… and in the future.
The U Pad, not yet released, will seem archaic and an oldschool reminder of the times in 2040 when all this cool screen technology becomes mainstream (and it will). Perhaps in 2070, children will be playing Pac-Man within their clothing as screens will have adventured to that point.
The games we play won’t be changing much (people still play similar games thirty years ago. Today, Battlefront. Yesterday, Battlezone. Today, NSMB U. Yesterday, Donkey Kong. The contexts of how we play games won’t really change much either. We will still play games for comfort, for competition, for social purposes, and to show off new electronic toys.
What does change is the wall between the game and uncomputerized reality outside. Due to the rise in computers, computers are becoming more powerful and getting everywhere. The wall between the person and the game keeps getting pushed back.
-In the 60s, the wall was so pronounced that reality was everywhere and video games could only be found on certain computers in universities. This is not accessible.
-In the 70s, the wall shrinks that a person can play a video game by going to an arcade.
-In the late 70s, the wall shrinks further in that a person can now play a video game on a dedicated game console connected to the TV. Or on an expensive personal computer.
-In the late 80s, Gameboy shrinks the wall so that video games can be played carrying a small device around.
Gaming growth really shoots up when this wall shrinks. The Wii had a good run, and it is largely based on shrinking the wall between gamer and non-gamer. But the Wii might be small example of what is to come (beyond the Wii U). If screens get everywhere, then gaming will get everywhere.
Is the Wii U making gaming more accessible? Yes. And if the above is true, it may be a small first step towards a greater revolution. Instead of looking at the Wii U as a ‘controller with a screen’, look at it as if its mission was ‘to free the screens and place them everywhere’. You can see where this is going.
Naturally, I expect Nintendo to botch it with the independent screens and, eventually, declare “Now is the time for 3D!” since they control the screens. And because of this fatal decision that Nintendo keeps repeating for some reason, Asus dominates the game console market in 2062. Pachter’s descendant will be around to say that “It is finally time for Nintendo to go third party.” Some things will never change.