The ultimate non-gamers’ game

Video game awards tend to feature the triple A titles that get a mainstream crowd foaming at the mouth and beating their chest in excitement. Television channels like Spike TV have hyped up the medium and what’s expected from the ceremonies to be a glamorous affair mostly filled with traditional gamers and the odd B list celebrity who “remembers playing that Mario thing” with a relative. But this year saw the start of something very interesting by the people who organise Nottingham’s annual GameCity festival. The aptly named GameCity Prize 2011 gathered not the hardcore but the extremely casual and even non-gamers to award what they felt was the best game of the year.

The group included actors, comedians and politicians and were given the Summer to play through seven unique titles that GameCity hoped would start conversations about where video games are today and what they mean to the players. As you would expect, the nominees are all cult classics in their own rights and included: Child of Eden, ilomilo, Limbo, Minecraft, Pokemon Black, Portal 2 and Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP. A formidable list if ever I saw one and to me, there are two titles that stand out because of what they’ve done for the industry. They are Portal 2 and Minecraft. Now, for full disclosure, I haven’t played Minecraft but am fully aware of its impact and the unfaltering love of its players. Personally, I wouldn’t call it a video game in the traditional sense and instead would say it’s more if a fantasy toy box, a modern day Lego if you will. And while I would have preferred to see Portal 2 crowned king, it was Minecraft that picked up the award.

So does the fact that Minecraft isn’t as much of a game as the others (there are very strong arguments for and against and to play devil’s advocate, I’m going against it) mean that the awards are a bit of a farce? No. The fact that GameCity got a group on non-gamers talking and playing games is already a huge leap in the right direction and all the games in the list are the perfect examples of what makes the industry great. Minecraft may not be a ‘game’ in my eyes compared to, say, Limbo, doesn’t mean that’s not to say its influences will be felt in more traditional games in the future. And like it or not, the folks that nominated it the best game of the past year are the kinds of people publishers are desperately trying to figure out how to attract. From Minecraft you can jump to Angry Birds and from there onto the slightly dubious world of Facebook gaming. All three areas are huge and have companies like EA altering long term strategies for. They’ve even favoured such areas over the 3DS in the past.

Back to the point, the awards are an interesting if not altered view of video games and one that should arguably be taken a little more seriously than the aforementioned glitzy shindigs normally promoted. What would be even better is if there were two parts, one with non-gamers and one with a mix of hardcore enthusiasts. Two winners would be announced and how close they were to each other would be an even more interesting conversation.

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How often do you Wii?

A study by discount hunters MyVoucherCodes.co.uk (via TVG)has revealed that almost half of the Wii owners who participated haven’t used their console in six months. 48% to be precise. The main reason for their neglect was down to a lack of gaming time with 41% saying they were too busy but 29% felt the novelty of had worn off of all the waggling. One of the smallest percentages happens to be the most damaging. 22% of consumers stated their purchase of either Kinect or PlayStation Move is why they stopped using the Wii.

It was thought that Nintendo had secured a market completely unique to them and could easily separate themselves from the competition. But reports like this suggest those days are coming to an end. Of those who had bought the Wii in the last month, 39% said they only use it to play Wii Fit which means either they have no interest in gaming or are getting their fix elsewhere. If it’s the latter, games like Your Shape Fitness Evolved on Kinect could swallow up that market too.

A lack of games is another reason why consumers are leaving their Wii’s to collect dust and Nintendo boss Reggie Fils-Aime spoke with IGN as to why this is. Unsurprisingly, the company is focusing on the launch of the 3DS and are still promoting the new Pokemon release. Fils-Aime said: “Candidly, we’ve pushed out some Wii launches so that we can focus on our handheld business. We’re already juggling two big balls. To add a third would be a little bit challenging.” He did however insist that new content is coming soon and that E3 will definitely have something new.

The 3DS and new Pokemon games aren’t exactly weak choices to feverishly support though since both have broken records already. Pokemon Black and White sold over one million units day one in the US and the 3DS will have the most successful console launch in the UK thanks to 100,000 plus pre-orders. For now, the handheld space is where Nintendo are dominating but the anaemic 2011 Wii release list is going to be a hard thing to rectify.