(submitted to The Platformers 6-11-07)
You would not be reading this if it were not for Shigeru Miyamoto.
You’d be reading a very different Platformers, perhaps instead called The Flight Sim Pilots, expounding on the genius of Microsoft Flight Simulator or some other dreadfully bland topic. No, this article and indeed this site could not exist if it were not for Miyamoto, for it is without hyperbole when I say his games saved console gaming from the Crash of ’84 and as a result rescued the industry.
Were it not for Shigeru Miyamoto’s work on Donkey Kong, Nintendo would never have entered the home console market with the Nintendo Entertainment System, without the NES there would have been no recovery from the Crash of 1984, and with it likely no further videogame consoles. Console gaming, moribund and lacking Shigeru’s spark of imagination, would have slipped under the waves, videogames shackled to the personal computer, lost in a soulless pit of flight simulations and grognard-obsessed wargames.
He invented the platformer genre itself with Super Mario Brothers, the action RPG in Zelda, mentored the men who created Metroid and Pokemon, was named a Chevalier; time and again hailed as a genius by his peers. He is, if any one man can be called so, our hero.
Meanwhile, Johnathan Wendell- Fatal1ty, as he’d preferred to be called- is very good at Quake. And that’s pretty much the best you can say for him.
I mean, we know he’s good at Quake and Quake clones, he’s won something along the lines of a half million dollars doing so. He has a reputation of something of a primadonna, throwing tantrums when bested. He likes to bill himself as the world’s best-known professional video gamer, and between the money he’s won at Quake clones and his line of “gaming” mice, motherboards and other branded PC parts and accessories, he’s probably right.
Shigero Miyamoto. Savior of Console Gaming.
Johnathan Wendell. World’s Best Advertised Quake Player.
There’s about as much in common in them as John Lennon would have to Fred Durst.
Meanwhile, Time magazine in their recent Fifty Most Influential People issue, decided this connection connection, however tenuous, was enough to justify hiring Wendell to write an article on Shigeru Miyamoto’s influence on the videogame industry.
In Time’s defense, they may have intended Johnathan Wendell as Shigero Miyamoto’s spokesman for the sake of juxtaposition. In the same issue they pegged Conservative stalwart (and former House Speaker) Newt Gingrich to pen an article describing the impact of the thoroughly Liberal current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They pegged noted Intelligent Design proponent Micheal Behe to write an article on outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins; coac Lovie Smith, (the guy who coached the Chicago Bears into defeat in Super Bowl 41) to write the article on coach Tony Dungy (the man who would go on to lead the Indianapolis Colts into victory in that same game.). But truth is, we’re talking about the mainstream media here, saying that they get the idea that Newt is to Nancy what Doom Marine is to Mario is giving them entirely too much credit.
No, I think it’s far more likely that in the view of Time magazine- and by proxy the mainstream media in general- Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendell isn’t just very good at Quake. He is, in fact, representative of how the public at large view gamers and gaming. Thus, he is now our spokesman.
Not that we should be surprised. The general public- you know, the guys who insist on calling your PSP a Gameboy- still view gaming as a children’s diversion. The only real difference they’ve noticed is that somewhere in between the NES and the Xbox we stopped obsessing over toadstools and turtles and have become foul-mouthed Mountain Dew-fueled reprobates ogling the blue backsides of holographic women. They do not (and perhaps cannot) see gaming as a medium for subtle, sophisticated emotion. It’s as if someone had wiped the public memory clean of Heat, Leon, The Constant Gardner and Blade Runner and left the movie spectrum represented entirely by Chicken Little and The Fast and The Furious.
Now gamers, we know better, we know Johnathan Wendel is a bullshit fraud of a spokesman, that gaming has explored places he’s likely never touched in his six-hours-a-day practice with a railgun. He never knew the joy of rebuilding the cosmos from gumdrops. He never wept as Agro carried him to the last Colossus. He never stood and cheered as he sank the Master Sword into Ganon’s black, black, heart. He never sought his true name amid the streets of The City of Doors.
As for Time, (and by proxy public), how can we expect them to understand the depths of Johnathan Wendell’s duplicity? Ours is an industry fronted by space marines and malcontents with shotguns. The last thing the people in charge of our industry want is art. Art ruins the profit margins for the Madden roster updates. You can’t sell Axe body spray billboards within art. And art makes for lousy sequels. In such an industry Johnathan Wendel, Voice of Gaming doesn’t just make sense, he’s damned near tailor made for the task.
How did we get to the point where the general public honestly believes we are nothing more than a bunch of foul mouth reprobates with a fixation for high explosives and gravity-defying boobs?
I contend the fault is our own. We should have demanded better.
Not that some of us haven’t been trying. There is Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik’s Penny Arcade, long a voice of advocacy within the gamer community. There is Edge magazine, one of the last brave bastions left of good game writing. There’s are select few quality gaming news and blog sites such as Four Color Rebellion, Next-Gen and The Escapist.
But for the most part, gaming press is a reflection of the public’s view of us: unprofessional, focused on hype, obsessed with sex and violence. Gaming journalism is nothing more than a tool for the industry itself, used to re-word and disseminate industry-approved PR literature. No real news is ever reported, only the information the industry wants revealed exactly when it wants revealed. Anything more would be breaking non-disclosure agreements. And we’ve seen first hand what happens when you allow the press free reign with actual reporting- a lobotomized, industry-friendly E3, free from any sort of community oversight.
There’s no attempt to raise the public discourse to something that may be worthy of Miyamto’s legacy, or of the artists and dreamers who build games we love. There’s no desire to expose the inadequacies of the industry, no journalistic fire to hold anyone involved accountable for anything that happens within it. There is no great desire, whether it be from gaming press or the retail establishment itself, to promote art over the mundane.
We have sought no voice. As a result, we’ve been assigned one.