Game of the Year

This article was originally written for someone I know on another site, but I thought I would post it up here for all the Sumeans to enjoy - or dispute. Comments are most welcome.

Game of the Year

Foundations of the Future

2006 was a big year for gaming. The final two new consoles launched, the third moved into its second year of releases, the two handhelds came in full swing, and PC technology began preparing for the Vista launch. Significantly, 2006 was year that finally kicked off the next generation of gaming. The roads have been paved for the future, but where they will lead in 2007 and beyond no one can rightly tell.

Certainly the big three have high hopes for where their roads will lead them:
Sony to the 'future proof' HD home entertainment and communication hub;
Microsoft to the 'HD era', with network integration reaching out to mobiles and Vista;
and Nintendo to a broad, non-gamer audience;

And indeed 2006 saw the foundations of this. Sony finally released their PlayStation 3, with connectivity to the PSP and access to the online store (albeit in limited capacity), Microsoft continues to build upon its Xbox Live service, and Nintendo found whole new audiences with the DS Lite.

But at the centre of all this were the games. While Sony is yet to justify the PS3, Microsoft has supported Xbox live with a number of quality games, and success of the DS would have been nothing without its strong supply of groundbreaking titles.

But what about Game of the Year? What was the defining game of 2006? What game will we look back on in ten years time as a milestone of the medium?

Certainly everyone has their own opinion. Various websites and podcasts will do their Top Ten, and millions of fans will dispute them on message boards across the web. Any Game of the Year award is always subjective, and so I make no apologies for my choice. Indeed my Game of the Year is influenced by very personal experience, but in the context of everything previously expressed, I believe it deserves the top honors.

Game of the Year

My Game of the Year was not one of the 'big' titles. It was not excessively hyped leading up to its launch,
it did not cost tens of millions of dollars to produce, it does not take over forty hours to complete, it does not make leaps and bounds in graphics, and it does not run in high-res.

It is not Guitar Hero II for improving on an already great formula;
nor is it Dead Rising for its novel use of Next-gen tech;
nor is it Zelda for its excellence in gameplay and beautiful art direction;
and nor is it Gears of War for because everything is so high res;

No, my Game of the Year is far more modest.

My Game of the Year is Wii Sports.

Personally I'm not that much into Wii Sports myself. I played it for a short time when I first got my Wii home as a means of getting used to the controller, before I popped in a 'real game' in the form of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and I've played it at various times over the Christmas break. But I never would have considered it a contender for Game of the Year.

But for three days over Christmas I stayed with my parents and younger brothers. I bought the Wii with me to show then the new system and play with my brothers, them being gamers themselves (though perhaps much less now than when I lived with them). What happened I certainly didn't expect.

You may all have read stories on the web about parents and family enjoying the Wii, and about non-gamers picking up the controller. A lot of people are excited about Wii Sports, and certainly we have all heard Nintendo's rhetoric about expanding the audience. I had no idea how true these stories where.

Quite simply, Nintendo were right.

Even while setting it up my parents were curious. Certainly they have seen plenty of consoles before as I was growing up, often accompanied by cords and games strewn across the floor. But this one bought different responses: ?Why are you moving the table out of the way?? ?What's that on top of the TV?? ?Oh you stand up to play it??

Passing the controllers around my family one by one (and making sure the wrist straps were secure), the results were astounding:

Booting up Tennis the first comment was not so reassuring: having heard a little bit about the Wii and knowing full well he held in his hands a motion sensitive controller, my brother asked : ?How do you hit the ball??. A quick slap over the head helped him see the stupidity of this question. Moments later we were into the game, I only just manage to beat him.

And it only got more surprising from there:

My very much non-gaming mother beat my other gaming brother 2-1, much to her excitement and his annoyance.

My father, after complaining that Wii Golf is not a perfect simulation after a few strokes, soon wanted to attempt the harder courses and improve his score. Afterwards he would talk to me about how he would like to use the controller to play this sport or that.

My grandfather, a golfer himself, and little interested in technology (having only recently bought a DVD player), also played a round. I have never seen him having such a good time, and everyone enjoyed watching him play. My grandmother asked my how much it was, and Nintendo almost got another sale until I told her it was $400. Still to expensive it seems.

Friends of the family visited Christmas eve, and again the Wii proved the highlight of the evening. Boxing, Baseball, and Bowling all got a run, and nobody was disappointed.

I also visited my other grandparents and family (on my father's side) over the Christmas break as well, and though I didn't bring the Wii with me there, I wish I had. My Grandfather recently bought his first laptop the week before and was enjoying every minute of it. I'm sure if I had shown him the Wii he would have bought one the very next day. Potential to reach new demographics? At 97 years old I'd say so.

It was played again several times before I left a few days latter, and I came home with a new understanding of the Wii, Nintendo's intentions, and games in general. All this talk about reaching new markets, expanding the audience, and defining a new way of playing all sounded good in principle, but Wii Sports finally showed it to me in action.

2007 and Beyond

And so my 2006 Game of the Year goes to Wii Sports.

Not because it is the epitome of gameplay, not because it is the next leap in graphical artistry or technology, not because it defines a genre for the next generation, and not even because it is my favorite game of the year.

But because it is the most important game of the year. Because it brings gaming to new people, expanding the audience; because it represents a new way of playing, and because it brings families together to play.

Wii Sports represents an important step in the future of gaming, doing things never before seen, and seldom thought possible. It is the first step a road that has hidden out of sight until now, a road that may very well change the face of gaming in 2007 and well into the future.

And it is for these reasons above all others that I consider Wii Sports to be Game of the Year.

Addendum

Some people might like to argue (quite rightly) that games such as Brain Age (or Brain Training) could also be considered Game of the Year for similar reasons. This is certainly true, as Brain Age has proven a huge success for the DS in bringing new demographics into gaming, and was also among the first of these demographic expanding games released this year. However I have chosen Wii Sports over Brain Age because Brain Age is not a social experience, it cannot be shared with others or bring people together the way Wii Sports can.

This should not be seen as a detriment to Brain Age, inclusiveness is not it's purpose ? it is designed to be a solitary experience. Nonetheless the inclusive aspect of Wii Sports makes it far more effective in reaching out to non-gamers, and its ability to bring people together socially is something that cannot be ignored.LiveWire2007-01-11 06:45:21

souri's picture

I purchased a Wii before Christmas so I could play it with family and friends during the holiday season, and like what you and many have experienced, it was definitely a favourite. It was played everyday during Christmas, nonstop, by everyone. We took it to our holiday at the coast, and it was played non-stop there as well. It was my dad's birthday last weekend, and heck, it didn't get a chance to sit idle much of the time. We've been through eight batteries already for the wii-motes.

I thought Wii Sports was a *great* introductory game for the Wii as well, and Nintendo definitely made a great decision to include it. It doesn't have that much depth though and on the art side of things, it is not impressive by any means, but game itself as well as the controller make this game extremely fun.

After I had my chance to play Wii sports for the first time, I got the feeling I had for games back in the eight-bit era, where the experience was new and highly enjoyable, and the possibilities seem endless for other new types of game experiences. Personally, I loved the Winter / Summer games on the C64, and I'm hoping someone does something like that eventually on the Wii. I wished they did it with Wii Sports, where you can some of tournament and have lots of players go through the whole selection of sports. That would be awesome

As far as difficulty goes, I am a bit ashamed to admit it, but I usually get my ass handed back to me by my nephews and nieces (as young as 7 years old) in Wii-sports, particularly in bowling. I'm making spares and the occasional strike, but these guys are doing strike after strike. My niece did 6 strikes in a row, and got a score over 250.

And yeh, I haven't played too much of the Wii when I'm by myself, it is an experience best enjoyed with many, many other friends around.

Malus's picture

I actually like the lack of depth in Wii Sports, it means just about anyone can play it.

Its enabled me to play a few rounds of golf with my old man, bowl a few sets with my mum and get my arse handed to me in tennis by my wife and sister.

I loves playing games and I hardly ever have a chance to play them with my family, most games are too difficult to just start playing if you are one of the thumbstick impaired.

I bought Zelda, Gears and R6: Vegas on my holidays and spent most of the time playing Wii Sports with those closet to me.

... it was magical    

Oh btw Souri I'm a bowling demon lol