Saturday, August 8, 2015

Kids and Games, Games and Kids

Today I'm going to ramble on a bit about something I have been noticing a lot lately. This is kind of an aimless commentary, and I don't know exactly where I'm going with it, so I'm just going to start talking. Hold on to your butts!

Rated E to M.
Various factors influenced me to write this. The first was the other day at work when two young boys, who were at most maybe 10 or 12, bought a copy of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare for Xbox One. Their father bought it for them, just so you don't think kids were buying mature rated games on their own without a parent's consent.

They seemed pretty excited about getting it. As they were walking away, they began excitedly discussing the guns found within the game. I assume they were talking about guns, as I myself know nothing about firearms other than they are loud and they kill. I can only imagine them rushing home, putting it in their Xbox One, and casting some mad shade into their headsets at the faceless people they're "owning." Because, as we all know, kids excel at first person shooters. They're first person shooter prodigies.

From what I have been told, online shooters such as Call of Duty have a lot of young boys playing them. The games are obviously meant for older players, but young players flock to games such as this like a moth to the flame and eat up every yearly release in the series. This is the kind of stuff that kids are into now.

I have been browsing in GameStop and heard kids in the background going on about these hyper-violent shooters and exceptionally dark and gritty games. They know these games. They've played these games. They own these games. Most of all, they're excited about these games. Those same kids, do you think that they're going to even glance at a new Mario game when it comes out? I'll go ahead and answer that for you with an emphatic no.


Now, I'm not saying young people shouldn't play mature rated games. I was playing Doom well before society thought I should have been. I turned out okay! That's not the point of this commentary. I'll get to that in a minute. For now, here's another story.

So "kiddie," yet no kids play it.
The second event that influenced this piece was something I saw at a restaurant recently. While waiting to be seated with my girlfriend, I saw a group of four young boys all playing with their cell phones. Maybe they were all sending lengthy texts. Maybe they were on the internet. Maybe, and what I like to assume they were doing for the sake of this commentary, was playing a game on them. The thing that stuck out to me was none of these young boys were playing a handheld video game system.

There was a time where if you saw a kid sitting anywhere in a situation where a kid would normally be bored, in their tiny little hands a portable Nintendo system would be clutched tightly. At the doctor's office, at a boring family event, even waiting to be seated at a restaurant... you more than likely would have seen a Game Boy or a DS used in these situations. Now, it's just kids scrolling through things on their phones. Truthfully, other than my girlfriend and myself, I don't know that I have ever seen anyone, child or otherwise, doing anything at all with a Nintendo handheld outside of the house.

When her and I go out we usually bring our 3DS systems with us to try and get some street passes. By the end of our evening, typically the only ones we get are from people that work in the stores we visit (or in the case of last night, we only passed each other). Obviously you can't really tell who is a kid when you street pass them, but in these instances it's pretty apparent.

Confuses adult consumers and kids don't want it!
Which finally brings me to the point of this commentary. If Nintendo has the reputation of being for kids, then who are Nintendo games for if not even kids seem to want them?

A customer at work wanted to know which system was better, Wii U or PlayStation 4. I asked some questions to determine who the system was for and what kind of experience they were after, as both systems are different and have different pros and cons. The customer said that they wanted the one that "looked the best" and had "staying power." Well, knowing what I know about the Wii U, the choice was clear that the customer would be happier with PlayStation 4. Then they said that the system was for a 7-year-old boy.

Well, there was a time when this would have been a no-brainer. Obviously the PlayStation 4 is superior to the Wii U under the hood, but are the parents going to be able to find enough to buy a 7-year-old on a system whose main draws are teen and mature rated software? Based off of previous observations, the answer is probably... yes. Depending on how closely they monitor what their kids play, I guess. Parents don't seem to care about violence, just sex and language. I've had parents refuse to buy Call of Duty for their kids not because of the killing, but because they're swearing when they do it. That's where they draw the line!

The fact is, that 7-year-old has probably already played at least one Call of Duty game. He probably plays it online at a friend's house. I'd actually say it's more likely that 7-year-old has pulled off a sweet headshot than stomped on a Goomba. I feel like a 7-year-old boy today would be disappointed that he got a Nintendo system as a gift instead of a Sony or Microsoft one.

I don't really feel like kids would go to a friend's house and gasp and say, "Oh, man! You have a Wii U?! Awesome!" Now that kind of reaction from kids would be reserved for a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.

For the nostalgic Nintendo fan.
Nintendo relies heavily on nostalgia. They milk the same franchises over and over again and the people that are nostalgic for it buy it. That's all Nintendo has going for them. You want to play another Mario game? You'd better get a Nintendo system. No one buys a Wii U because they want to play anything on it other than Nintendo franchises and the occasional exclusive title. No one chooses a Wii U over an Xbox One because they want to use that game pad instead of a controller when they're playing Call of Duty: Ghosts.

The realization I had is that the people Nintendo caters to aren't kids, they're adults. Used to be Nintendo was "kiddie" and had an immature reputation. Now, games that fall into that category are games predominantly adults enjoy. Kids don't get together and play Mario Party. Adults do. Kids don't lose their mind when a new Zelda is announced. Adults do. Kids don't care about this stuff anymore, and if they don't now, will they ever?

Nintendo, now, is for people like me: The people that grew up with it. And even then, the people that grew up with it are getting older, working more hours, starting families. How much time is left in the day for gaming in the life of someone working 40 hours a week, spending time with their significant other, and taking care of a child? Not much. But maybe that's a good thing for Nintendo. Maybe these people will return to the series that they know, rather than use their hard earned dollars on something that they know nothing about. Again, nostalgia.

Enigma! "Cooler than any amiibo."
Another observation, kids don't seem to care much about amiibos. At least not as much as they care about Skylanders and Disney Infinity.

So who is buying up all the amiibos? Scalpers (adults) and adult collectors. I have never seen a kid browse the amiibo section and get excited after finding a Samus amiibo like I have seen a kid browse the Skylanders section and get excited after finding a Krypt King figure or a Kaos Trap. And who the heck is Krypt King? I don't know, but he's obviously doing something right. He's got more clout with kids than any amiibo character.

No kid is going to be in line waiting for the new wave of hot amiibo figures. Do you think a kid is going to be all, "Mom! We have to go to Toys "R" Us today! The amiibo of the Duck Hunt dog is coming out!" No. No they're not. It's all grown ups, and it's all either people who grew up with these characters or people who are going to resell them to people who grew up with these characters. You'd better believe when a new Skylander is released that there are kids outside the store before open waiting to get their hands on it. If it isn't a kid, then it's an adult obviously buying it for a kid. You don't see that with amiibos. Kids interact with the Skylanders display constantly, but I've never seen anyone do anything with the amiibo one. And it even has Mario knocking on it and talking to me like I'm a baby.

That's another thing. Mario talks like adults talk to babies. Truth.

The Nintendo 64 generation is grown up now. They're the ones who are nostalgic for Nintendo. Are there going to be twenty-something year old people nostalgic about the Wii in the future? I just can't see that happening. When we reach that point, will Nintendo be in trouble? Maybe they'll have their head in the game by then. There was a time, after all, when they were unquestionably the best. Time will tell, I suppose.

Obviously all this isn't the case 100% of the time. There are always exceptions to this. I have seen kids browsing the 3DS section. But did they actually ask for a 3DS and want it or was it given to them as a gift by someone who thought it was age appropriate for them? Food for thought.

Then again, parents think the 3DS is going to destroy their children's sensitive little eyes, so who the crap knows...

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