Looking through the online dating sites (lookout people — it’s a lonely single guy!) I have noticed a common demand for “no mind games”. Apparently, some women have a problem with guys who play games that involve thinking. Does this mean no chess? Do they really only like guys that play games that don’t involve their minds?
That’s right, not only have I gone and bought a hand-held console, but I’m playing a game that requires that I pet it, talk to it, blow air at it, and generally make a fool of myself on a regular basis.
But — and here’s the clever part — it really is fun. The Nintendo DS (and the as-yet-to-be-released) Nintendo Revolution are returning much of gaming to its roots. Fun games that allow you to connect with whatever world it is that you’re playing in.
For too long now, game designers have mistaken gloriously rendered 3D graphics for real immersion. You can make a game look and sound and move as realistically as you like, but if you’re stuck behind a tired interface, you’re still poking at a screen with a mouse.
Nintendogs certainly makes the most of the Nintendo DS’ technology. Training your puppy requires you to voice commands, while petting it with the touch screen. You play ball and frisbee with it. You brush it. You shampoo it. You play with a bubble blower that requires you to actually blow at the screen to make the bubbles come out.
It is a very natural way to interact with the game, and it makes it so much more realistic to play. Romilly picked up the interface for playing ball in about 2 seconds, and spent a little while playing ball with my virtual pug, Budd. Later, while we were out shopping, she enquired what Budd might be doing now. Even later, she seemed concerned that he was inside the “little computer” and might want to play again. Romilly was instantly immersed in the game. Budd reacted when she called (screamed at top volume) his name, and obviously enjoyed being petted.
It’s games like this that have recaptured my imagination. They’re not tired reflex tests; they’re actual games. They’re fun.