I have been having some of the busiest and most stressful weeks of my life ever since 2014 kicked off. Knowing that I am about to graduate from college is exciting, but along with it comes all the preparation for the next phase of my life. Currently, I am applying to law school and will be taking my LSAT this upcoming weekend. Actively aware of how all my hair is falling out, I’ve been on the lookout for things to keep me sane and take all the stress off my shoulders, if at least for a little bit.
And it hit me, during times when I just needed a break from all my work, that I couldn’t be playing games. I just don’t have the time nor energy to immerse myself in grandiose titles like BioShock: Infinite or The Last of Us right now. I think it’s safe to say that in order to totally enjoy games like those, players need to invest themselves a fair bit.
I am presently enrolled in a video games & culture course, which naturally covers a fair bit of the industry’s history. Recently, we’ve hit the era of the Nintendo Entertainment System, also known as when Nintendo began its relentless global takeover. Ever since that day in class last week, I have been subverting my stress with Nintendo.
I don’t have a Wii U, I stopped playing my Wii quite a while ago, and I’ll admit I have barely touched my 3DS since Pokémon X/Y launched. That said, I have been quite out of touch with my inner Nintendo fan. My gaming efforts for the past year have been dedicated almost exclusively to the more “high-profile,” more “mature,” titles that Microsoft and Sony tend to boast.
I’m getting to the point, I promise.
This week, more than ever, I have rekindled my love for Nintendo and grown to appreciate the niche it has maintained in the industry for years. I have rediscovered and re-experienced classic titles of my youth through their soundtracks as I study. This in turn has prompted me to pick up some old Nintendo games during my study breaks. Picking these games up is both effortless and instantly enjoyable.
And that is exactly where I think Nintendo, holistically speaking, has succeeded where Microsoft and Sony never really have. I don’t think it has been said enough that Nintendo is pure fun. Don’t misunderstand me, Xbox and PlayStation games are wonderful as well, but many titles require players to do some work before they can really enjoy themselves. They may have to trudge through the opening of a narrative, dedicate much time in learning and mastering controls, deal with often dramatic and depressing narratives that grip players. I love these kinds of things, too, but they certainly don’t bring the sort of smile to your face than do, say, the sound of Yoshi as he flutters through the air or the simple, yet alluring bravery that it takes for Link to set out on a quest.
As I type away, I am listening to the soundtrack of Super Mario Sunshine, which I think is just one of many examples that illustrate the charm of Nintendo’s work. The soundtrack just exudes fun and happiness: tracks are upbeat and lively, reflective of the overall “happy” worlds that Nintendo tends to create.
It is in these atmospheres and joyous gameplay experiences that I think Nintendo has its edge over Microsoft and Sony. I know it’s a weird concept to think that playing games, something you do for recreation, can be stressful, but I think it’s a fair judgment to make for many of the titles that are released by Sony and Microsoft. I’m not arguing that they run your life down a spiral of negativity by any means, but there is some stress to be had in dealing with sadness in games, deaths of characters, sympathizing with a character when they recount all the tragedy in their life, etc. These sorts of things aren’t all too common in Nintendo titles: players simply bask in bright colors, cheery, even if cheesy, characters, and perform simple actions. I think it is for these reasons that I have successfully turned to Nintendo over the past few weeks in relieving some stress. I can pick up a Nintendo game and instantaneously have fun. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that exceptions exist in all platforms’ libraries: there are Nintendo games that are dark and brooding all while there are games in Sony’s and Microsoft’s archives that are fun and cheery. I’m looking at the companies in broader terms.
While I love the types of games being released on the Xbox and PlayStation, I’m glad I was able to remind myself, after so long, of why I love Nintendo and why Nintendo has been around for so long. As a gaming community, we’re all generally growing older and more mature. All of a sudden we can buy those rated M games and enjoy the drama and realism that can be found in the more mature titles by Sony and Microsoft. But if you’ve ever been a fan of Nintendo games, I think you owe it to yourself to revisit some of those old favorites of yours and let that little kid inside of you loose again. Maybe you’ll find that you enjoy picking up a Yoshi egg just as much as you enjoy picking up a gun or knife.