I recently spent some time in Austin, Texas with my family, my in-laws, and my brother-in-law’s family. No, that’s not the start of some kind of joke.
We did lots of stuff… the Children’s Museum, ice skating, replacing a fence, out to eat… and video games. With an age demographic spanning decades, from 3 1/2 years old to 50+, there was a variety of experiences with some of the most recent gaming consoles and games. Interestingly, there was a game for pretty much everyone: Wii Sports, Rock Band (pictured above), and Halo 3.
This is by no means a comprehensive video game review. It is simply a social commentary on how gaming consoles have integrated themselves into family life.
This was my first time using a Wii… and it was a lot of fun. The learning curve for figuring out how to use the controllers was next to nothing: my wife, my 6 year old daughter, and I were all able to secure the safety strap and start playing with next to no instruction. My daughter and I played tennis. My wife and I did some boxing (she kicked my ass – I’m a lover, not a fighter). My 7 year old nephew and I did some bowling. Even without the numerous articles and accolades the Wii has received, when your wife says, “That was fun! I could see getting one of those…” you can clearly see why Nintendo has such a hit on their hands.
Wow. Having played Guitar Hero for the first time a few months ago, I’ve been stoked for the release of Rock Band. Expanding beyond the single guitar of Guitar Hero, Rock Band introduces vocals, guitar, bass and drums. With the ability to have 4 people playing together as a band, this was hands-down the most fun game that my brother-in-law, wife and I played together. We performed to adoring crowds, winning fans and money along the way. The songs and instruments were a bit difficult for the kids to master, and it was somewhat frustrating that in QuickPlay mode you couldn’t access all the songs – you have to “earn” the ability to play new songs through touring and earning fans, money and points. All that being said, this is the kind of game that brings people together to achieve a shared goal: MAXIMUM ROCK AND ROLL.
Earning $300 million in the first week of it’s release in the United States, Halo 3 was one of the most anticipated games of 2007. So after all the kids, spouses, and parents-in-law went to bed one night, my brother-in-law and I booted it up to check it out. Visually, it was amazing. And I could see how a group of people could easily spend hours online playing it. It’s a cool game, and I’ll probably play again (once Substance gets an XBox 360, we may spend a few minutes playing…). But I just didn’t find it as fun as Rock Band; it was serious work. Maybe I’m beyond the first-person shooter age demographic and into the first-person rocker age demographic…
above: Substance believes in Rock Band.
Three very different games. And just like brands, each game and gaming system is creating a relationship with people. They may not be the same people across all games and platforms. Or, it might be the same person at different points in their day/interpersonal relationships. That’s okay. What’s important is they’re creating meaningful relationships with the people who care. The games don’t need to be everything to everyone. They simply need to have meaning and purpose for the interests and intent of individuals.
p.s. Super special thanks to my brother-in-law and his family for hosting us and providing food, beverages and cheering fans. Plus, he wore his Substance t-shirt to the Austin Children’s Museum. Thanks