This blog has more posts about the Wii on it than anything else, but that’s okay because it deserves the attention.
I was just putting the “Everybody Votes Channel” to use on my Wii and thinking about what a concept of genius it is. Look around for thoughts on the Wii voting channel and you see a lot of complaints about how mundane the questions are. A lot of gamers seemed disappointed when they tried it out and realized the questions were irrelevant to gaming and others seem to expect questions of, I don’t know, more scientific value. However, people seem to enjoy it.
Today I answered the following poll questions (I’ve included my answers, just to let you know I take a stand on the issues):
I wish peole would say this more often: A. Hello B. Thank You
My Answer: Hello.
Which language would you prefer to learn? A. Chinese B. Japanese
My Answer: Japanese
Where can you eat the best food? A. Mom’s house B. Restaurant
My Answer: Restaurant
My friends, these may seem mundane, but this information is of the utmost importance to Nintendo! And I’ll tell you why.
First of all, Nintendo is an international corporation, serving customers of just about every culture, and therefore dealing with culture clash. As irrelevent to Nintendo’s business as these questions may seem, I promise you that Nintendo will be finding ways to use the redults to their advantage.
Secondly, the world of a video game is an entirely controlled environment, exactly like that of a film, completely predictable, except for one element: The player(s). By improving their ability to predict player attitudes and therefore actions, Nintendo can improve its ability to design effective games.
For example, let’s say Nintendo finds that most people prefer food at Restaurants over that of their Mother. If Nintendo then wrote an RPG in which the player’s Mom said “Say, want to eat out tonight?” they can bet that most people will take the bait. That in mind, they can write their game to fit what they expect to happen. Instead of plotlines with inevitable points of total open-endedness (created because the writers don’t know what the player will do next), Nintendo can figure 80% (let’s say) will agree to eat at a restaurant and make that branch of play more polished than the other. Furthermore, if Nintendo somehow found a correlation between individuals that voted to eat at Restaurants and individuals that wished to learn Japanese over Chinese (as spurious as it may seem), they can use that information to make assumptions during gameplay. If a player chooses to eat at a restaurant, the game can assume the player also wants to learn Japanese more than Chinese, and react accordingly. Obviously, that scenario isn’t very realistic, but you get the idea.
We all remember playing that classic scene in Metal Gear Solid, when Psycho Mantis reads your mind!! Or at least your memory card. It was such a cheap trick, but so extremely effective because for a brief moment the game caught us with our pants down. The game fooled us into believing it was alive, thinking and formidable. We eventually saw through the smoke and mirrors, but by then the game had already succeeded. Imagine if a game did better than read your memory card. Imagine if a game watched you play for a while, then told you your gender. Imagine it figured out where you lived and maybe even had odds on what your next moves would be. Imagine a game that knew how you felt at a given moment, not because it was hardwired it to your brain, but because it just knew the correlations. What if it could predict your next decision before you could make it? Those are the possibilities that polling opens up. Every question is relevent. You never know what aspect of culture, of people, you’re going to depend on in your next game.
Finally, they’ve made voting fun! Nintendo is a game company and they’ve made a voting game! But why should we be surprised?
People enjoy talking. People enjoy having opinions. Just look around the internet. It is saturated with opinions from real people around the world and often on topics that have no relevence to the rest of the population whatsoever. But despite their irrelevence, we read them! We read tabloids, diaries and rants, the fodder of the masses. On youTube some of the most popular videos are kids in front of cameras complaining and telling bad jokes. I have a myspace account, I read blogs, and I’m spouting my own garbage right now on one of them! I’m a part of this gabbing culture and I don’t even mean to be! You are too!
But why must we gab about meaningless crap like Nintendo apparently wants us to? Why don’t they ask us about the real issues? I believe it is because we don’t want to talk about them. What’s the rule about social occasions? No politics or religion. Politics and religion are the real issues! Those are what need talking about. Unfortunately, they’re so real they lead only to conflict. They lead to headaches we’d rather avoid.
Most of us don’t want to stop for a poll on the state of Iraq unless it is simplified to the point of near meaninglessness. We don’t want to discuss abortion because we don’t like thinking about dead babies. George Bush’s approval rating has bounced down into the coldest depths of American hatred, pulled him up into sainthood and plunged back into disgrace, repeating the cycle again and again. So what’s it mean when we’re angry with the President? What’s it mean when we’re happy with him? No one asked because we’d rather not discuss it. We are the silent majority.
However, ask us our favorite color and our first response will be a smile. Do you drink coffee in the morning? “Mmm, mmm, yep!” Or “No, sir!” Either way, we’re happy to share.
So how do you get more information out of the people? Is it by getting a few outspoken answers on the “real issues,” or everyone’s answer on the simple things? Yeah, I’d be interested in information on heavy topics too, but I can appreciate Nintendo’s unique approach.
Moving on, the channel also allows us to make predictions on future results, which may be the most fascinating part of the entire exercise. We can find out what truths can be derived from a prediction, what our estimations of others mean about ourselves, and how we as a group view ourselves as a group. These predictions are at least as valuable as our initial poll results.
Maybe Nintendo did start polling just because they thought it would be fun. Maybe they’re not going to use any of the data to any end. But I doubt those possibilities and hope Nintendo pushes the industry forward with an innovative use of their new information.
-Christopher J. Rock