Check Yourself: How Nintendo Labo Revealed My Gamer Snobbery

During a brief check of my Twitter feed at work on Wednesday, I received a pleasant surprise – Nintendo would be making an announcement at 5 PM that evening (7 AM on the 18th over in Nintendo’s homeland) about a new product. They advertised this thing as a new way to play the Nintendo Switch, and stated the product was for the young and young-at-heart. Speculation ran wild about what the new kid-focused product would be, but I didn’t see anybody successfully predict what was ultimately unveiled: the Nintendo Labo, a cardboard craft project that can be used to play with the Switch in different configurations.

Now I had set my expectations somewhat low for this presentation – after all, as an adult I wasn’t really the target audience for whatever this project turned out to be. Still, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit disappointed when the Labo was revealed. Crafts, construction, and all forms of putting small pieces together into a bigger thing do not come naturally to me, and so naturally since I’m not good at it I don’t enjoy doing it. My dismissal of the Labo was cemented by the fact that it obviously would not feature any real video games.

Long Neck Meme
“Wow Ian, way to be totally judgmental about a product that is obviously not intended for you. Why don’t you go rain on the parade of all the happy children out there?”

My immediate negative response to the Labo only lasted a moment, but a moment was enough to get me reflecting a little bit. I started to unpack some of my thoughts and feelings about this weird cardboard robot piano racecar gaming peripheral, and it took me back to another time recently where I had some pretty negative feelings about a game. The name of that game? Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. A game that I purchased on Day One, played to completion, and will probably buy the DLC for.

Mario + Rabbids sounded like a terrible idea for a lot of reasons. I hadn’t played a Rabbids game before but they reminded me of the Minions, obnoxious slapstick nonsense-spouting morons only appealing to those with the lowest brow sense of humor (and weirdly, elderly people on Facebook). I didn’t want these disgusting things running around in one of my favorite game worlds. And why the heck was Nintendo working on a roleplaying game that wasn’t a proper sequel to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door? Mario + Rabbids was everything I thought I didn’t want, and I hated the concept until E3 2017 revealed the man behind the curtain.

Davide Soliani

This is Davide Soliani, the creative mastermind behind Mario + Rabbids and an employee of Ubisoft. If you haven’t seen this picture before, this is him at E3 crying tears of joy because Shigeru Miyamoto, his childhood hero, is showing off the game that this man created and is talking about how amazing it is. This was a pretty touching moment for a lot of people, and for myself this was the “aha” moment where I realized that for every game I think is stupid, there is a human being who believes wholeheartedly in that project and who has poured themselves into its success.

Of course, seeing this guy proud of his project wasn’t enough to make me want to play the game. But on top of seeing the developer’s love for his creation, I also saw footage of Mario + Rabbids in action. And golly, did this game look cool. Mario was getting tossed into the air by his buddies to pounce on enemies’ heads, then rolling away behind cover to fire off a sleek Bullet Bill arm cannon that blasted his Rabbid opposition with laser beams. It took about five seconds of gameplay footage for me to go from “this game looks stupid” to “I’m gonna buy this the minute it comes out.” I stated online when the game was released that I have never been so eager to eat crow.

Now I don’t know if the creator of Nintendo Labo was watching the unveiling tonight and crying about how proud (s)he was of their creation. But I can guarantee that all of the folks who put their time in energy into this idea truly believe that it is a worthwhile project. They didn’t create this just to make money, or because they were bored at the office. They genuinely felt this would be fun for a lot of people, specifically for the kids who might revel at the opportunity to use their Nintendo Switch in some really clever ways.

Nintendo Labo 2
Yeah kid, you show that pesky building!

There was one particular part of my negative response that I wanted to analyze on a deeper level: the idea that the games compatible with the Nintendo Labo aren’t “real games.” I’ve seen concepts for gaming peripherals plenty of times, and most of the times they are ideas that don’t impress me. I never wanted a Kinect, I wasn’t into the idea of VR – the Nintendo Labo feels similar to those things for me. It’s a gimmick, a novelty, some kind of clever thing where the focus is all on the action of playing with the device rather than experiencing the Traditional Video Game Experience (TM).

It’s the same kind of generally negative feeling I have towards mobile games. These short, contained experiences with simple mechanics and little narrative depth have very little appeal for me. And I certainly would never pay money just to unlock a few more levels or get some free passes when my puzzle gets particularly challenging. Yes, by a purely technical definition these things are “video games,” but not real games. A true gamer would never waste their time on something like that, and the people who just play Candy Crush on their smartphone don’t earn the right to identify as gamers at all.

Sneetches

While I’ve exaggerated my above statements for the sake of making a point, I honestly think a lot of us traditional console gamers can get into this mindset if we’re not careful. We see our favorite developers developing these crazy peripherals or trying to appeal to the mobile market and say “but what about our games?” It’s a sort of entitlement, a strange classism built only on the fact that our video games are played on machines that don’t also make phone calls. And, of course, egged on a little bit by all the doomsday articles that say console gaming will disappear because the mobile market is where the money’s at.

Here’s the thing. Candy Crush is a video game. So is Angry Birds. So is that weird Strawberry Shortcake Temple Run spinoff that my son likes to play on my grandmother’s Kindle for some reason. And whatever “gimmicky, narratively shallow, artistically-lacking” games come out for the Nintendo Labo will also still be video games. And that’s okay. Not every movie has to be Citizen Cane. Not every painting has to be Starry Night. And not every video game has to be Journey or Breath of the Wild or HZD or NieR or whatever else. Just because I wouldn’t like a specific video game doesn’t mean that the product doesn’t deserve to exist so that other people can enjoy it.

I ultimately decided to check my negative feelings about the Labo and to try and appreciate the product for what it is. This is a really engaging form of gameplay for kids. If my son were to want this product, would I say no just because I personally am not interested? My sister is six years in age, very smart, very artistic, and she’s just starting to get a little interested in video games herself. This sort of thing might be right up her alley, and I can imagine how fun it would be to take her make-believe to the next level by giving her a screen that makes her ideas come to life.

Nintendo Labo 3

If you, like me, have a negative perception of gaming peripherals or specific video games because they don’t appeal to you, I encourage you to consider if it is productive to express those negative feelings out into the world. At the very least, think about a healthier way to express those feelings. After watching the presentation, I initially tweeted out a snarky joke with the implication that the Labo isn’t an exciting product or something worth paying attention to. I decided to delete that tweet simply because it came from a mean-spirited place. Throwing out negative thoughts – even in the guise of a joke, even when not worded in a hateful way – isn’t productive and it doesn’t show any respect to the real human people who created this product or to those who want to experience it.

So what do you think about all of this, adventurers? Are you excited for the Nintendo Labo? Are you, like me, probably not gonna pick it up? Have you struggled with managing your negative responses to games and devices that don’t appeal to you? What do you use to help you be respectful to those who might be excited about the product? Let me know in the comments below, and thanks for reading, adventurers!

22 thoughts on “Check Yourself: How Nintendo Labo Revealed My Gamer Snobbery

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  1. How funny… I had a mixed reaction to the announcement. One was of excitement because I loved making things and building things when I was little, so how *cool* that you can build a little, working piano? And my other reaction was annoyance that, while this is an imaginative way to use a video game, its still limiting a child’s imagination to what the cardboard can build and what the console can handle. I’m a bit of a snob about that, I know, because while the toys are exciting, I worry about how it will affect the development of attention and problem solving skills.

    My mind never went to the video game aspect, and now I feel like a bad gamer haha. But you raise some good points about tribal thinking and the lines gamers tend to draw around themselves. That is something I always find so fascinating, and isn’t something that people are readily willing to admit, so thank you for being so honest. I hope other people find your story resonates with them as well!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Don’t worry, we have tabletop games for attention and problem solving! 😉
      As I think about the Labo more, the technology of it really becomes the thing that fascinates me. As you said – this device can make a working piano out of the Nintendo Switch and cardboard. The little RC car is powered by nothing more than the HD Rumble function of the Joy-Cons. If there’s nothing else to be said for Nintendo here, they took all those weird secondary functions that make you wonder if they’re necessary and found a way to justify them. The Switch’s capabilities are finally being utilized in a clever way, which is pretty cool in my view.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellently put. If I saw this before my son was born last week, I would have dismissed it outright. Now, I can’t wait to check it out myself and show him all the possibilities that exist with gaming outside a screen.

    You make a great point about current gamers and their apparent snobbery of anything outside the norm. Years ago, I also considered mobile games to be lesser than their console counterparts. Today I say otherwise: Clash Royale is one of my favorite mobile games and Sega’s released games from its catalogue that function pretty well on mobile devices, for example.

    This was a great read. Good way to start my morning. With coffee, of course. ☕😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine the need for coffee increased exponentially after the birth of your son! 😀
      I personally am still not sold on mobile games, but I try not to look at them as not being a legitimate form of gaming anymore. Because as you just pointed out, just because they don’t appeal to my personal tastes doesn’t mean there’s not something that mobile games can offer to gamers. And then for the folks who don’t have time to invest themselves seriously in the hobby of gaming, they can kill twenty minutes on the bus playing Angry Birds or Bejeweled or whatever and that’s cool. I think for me, I was pretty hateful about mobile games because of the whole idea that cell phone games were gonna ruin the console market and they would be all that’s left – that’s obviously not the case, so my defensive reaction was unjustified.

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      1. Indeed 😀. My blood is literally coffee at this point.☕☕☕

        It’s great your perspective has changed regarding mobile games. Sometimes, we traditionalists just need to let go of our defensiveness regarding gaming. ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I honestly thought the product was pretty awesome. I used to make different things out of cardboard when I was younger and so this was like a blast from the past.

    I know that I don’t think like everyone else, but I thought more people would be excited for this! Maybe it was meant for children, but maybe I’m a kid at heart and this looks neat.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think my original reaction to the Labo puts me in a minority. I had a buddy of mine who follows Nintendo stuff pretty closely message me yesterday with a screenshot of his Facebook feed – multiple people talking about the Labo, how awesome it looks and how much they wanted to get one, and I believe two of the three weren’t even hobby gamers or Switch owners. I think the product is definitely drawing positive attention to Nintendo – just maybe not from guys like me who enjoy a more “traditional” console experience. And that’s totally fine – they don’t need me to buy it for the product to be successful, and I already owned a Switch anyway. The Labo is trying to reach a new market and I think it is doing exactly that.
      Also, I’m glad you’re into the idea of it! I hope you’re able to get it and that the Labo lives up to your expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think it looks very neat, and an imaginative way to use the hardware. I’d like to think that it will encourage a group of kids to become the next designers and innovators, and felt pretty happy that the software will feature some creative elements (from what I can tell) along with descriptions of how the system is interfacing with the models.

    Will I be running out and buying it? … Likely not, I think I’m outside the target audience and wouldn’t really get my money’s worth. Having said that, another Switch product that caught my eye recently was Korg’s interactive music thing which again looks like an innovative way to use the hardware.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m with you on the imaginative ways of using the hardware. Someone obviously did some very out-of-the-box thinking about what the IR cameras and HD rumble and whatnot would allow the Switch to do.
      There was an article going around recently talking about how Miyamoto has said that they like to hire people who aren’t experienced in the game development field – I think this is showing the fruits of that. Someone so established into the idea of what “traditional” game design looks like probably would have never come up with this application of the hardware. And having those new ideas within their company is definitely working out for them, if the positive press around the Labo so far is to be believed.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t seen that article, but I can believe it given their track record. Innovation in gaming is such a tricky business; stay too far from box connected to TV and ‘core’ gamers accuse manufactures of being gimmicky, and for everything innovation success there are a good handful of costly fails… But without taking risks we’d never have seen some of the great gaming moments over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For sure! Ultimately I think there’s a place for all sorts of philosophies in the gaming community – there’s stuff out there for the more traditional folks if they want to stay away from “gimmicks,” so this is a good opportunity for those who need something a little extra to draw them to the idea of gaming.

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  5. Although I do think the cardboard craft items do look pretty cool, I don’t think this is for me. But, I could see my kids getting in to it… IF the software works and for that, I guess we’ll have to wait and see on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My son is too young right now for the Labo, but if it’s still around in the future I could see this being the sort of thing that he and my wife could really get in to. She loves to build stuff and if he inherited that talent as well, this would be a cool way for them to combine that with the hobby of gaming.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I laughed when I got to the ‘elderly people on Facebook’ part – I have so many older relatives who share Minion memes, for some reason. 😂

    It’s so easy to fall into that ‘but what about our games’ way of thinking and I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of it too. We forget about the people behind the projects who have poured their heart and soul into it for months on end, and just see what’s in it for us. It’s post like this which give us the opportunity to consider things from a different view – so thank you for sharing and giving us all something to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is it with older folks and Minions? That’s such an odd association. I guess if memes made too much sense they would cease to be what they are.
      Until I saw Soliani’s reaction to seeing Miyamoto talking about his game on stage, I never thought too hard about the people who make video games. But once I was able to associate it with my own passion for my projects, it made me question how I would feel if someone just dismissed my creative endeavors based on premise alone. Ultimately, the internet and the world in general have enough negativity without guys like me getting all tribal about video games or whatever else, so it’s better to just focus on the positives and let other people have their fun when something comes out I’m not interested in. It’s still a philosophy I am trying to get better at applying, but I try to be honest when I catch myself being unnecessarily negative.

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    1. That’s how I see it. I personally won’t buy this, but I’ve seen a lot of parents geeking out about how their kids will like it – and a decent number of adults seem to be excited as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I respect that you acknowledged your fault and corrected it, but…

    “This was a pretty touching moment for a lot of people, and for myself this was the “aha” moment where I realized that for every game I think is stupid, there is a human being who believes wholeheartedly in that project and who has poured themselves into its success.”

    I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily true. I think sometimes developers are aware that their game is a passionless hunk of junk. Take the Mario Tennis game on Wii U, for example.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I get where you’re coming from. I’ve definitely played games where I get the sensation that no one who worked on that project cared for it at all. Ultimately what I meant to communicate here, the lesson that I learned from the whole Mario + Rabbids thing, is that making a subjective judgment call about a game and then acting as if it is an objective one is unfair to the people who care about that game. I tend too often to look at something uninteresting to me – the Labo, in this instance – and to make negative declarative statements about how awful it looks without even being willing to engage with that thing directly to determine if it objectively is bad or good.
      I guess another way my point can be summed up would be the old saying “don’t knock it til you try it.” If I try a game and feel like it’s bad, I can express that from a more objective position than I would be if I just watched the commercial and then declared it was bad.

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