We need Nintendo - so don't let the magic die


This week, I really need you all to trust me. Some of you will look at the words I have written and dismiss me as some overly optimistic, head-in-the-clouds fairy princess. Others will think I'm just an idiot. And there will undoubtedly be a small, vociferous selection of people that insist on telling me that their black box is better than all the other black boxes because it has a better disk drive or something. But please, just for 15 minutes, turn off all the negative voices in your head and sink into the soft, marshmallowy beanbag of niceness with me, because I am going to tell you why Nintendo should make you happier than a puppy riding a Roomba.

We love to tear apart games companies. We'll tell them that their games are buggy, their characters are boring, their dialogue uninspired. I've read 9/10 reviews that focus more on tackling the reason they took off 10% than the reasons they think it's cracking. Games writing can sometimes be a very negative, stressful and cynical place. And that's okay - cynicism can be fun, and it's a way to stay cautious.

Being kind makes you vulnerable, right? Much easier to swaddle yourself in the bubble wrap of criticism so you don't stand out. But Nintendo, the adorable, brightly-coloured paragon of sweetness that it has always been, relentlessly presses on with its brand of happy, fun video game magic. It's got incomprehensibly silly mascots - a green dinosaur that licks things, a pink ball that eats things, a plumber who really loves jumping - that just can't be compared to the gruffness of the Lara Crofts and Nathan Drakes of other AAA games.

And every time Nintendo looks like it might be trying something new, like with its mobile gaming division, people get snotty - because Nintendo is different. It looks at the things we take for granted, like shooting and killing in games, and questions it. As we learned this week, Miyamoto apparently said about Goldeneye, the N64 James Bond game, that "it might be nice if, at the end of the game, you got to shake hands with all your enemies in the hospital." In this instance, he's not wrong - it would be lovely, wouldn't it? - but it's not exactly MI6 policy.

The news this week is that Nintendo has finally announced one of its mobile games, named Miitomo, which looks like Tomodachi Life had a baby with a Tamagotchi and it grew up to be a Social Media Manager. It's not super clear what exactly the game entails yet, apart from having conversations with your Miis and answering questions shared among friends. It sounds odd, but it also sounds adorable as hell, and as if the seven-year-old version of yourself wouldn't go crazy to know that some day, in the future, Nintendo would make a freakin' tamagotchi.

It's also clear that Nintendo is thinking carefully about how to use the platform. It would have been easy to just stick a new Zelda adventure on smartphones, throw in a few microtransactions and push it out - and the money would have poured in. Miitomo proves that Nintendo is thinking about how people use their phones - the primary function being communication, of course - and forging its own path.

It's easy to make the conclusion that Nintendo is basically Video Game Jesus, come to save us from brown cover shooters and RPGs with plots so frail that a light cough blows them away. But optimism reaps its own rewards, like believing in fairies really hard makes them exist… harder? Not sure I ever got that one, actually.

Nintendo has always stood for fun. It was burned by the Wii U but it will learn and adapt like plenty of other companies before it. Hey, if anyone can adapt, it's the company that went from making playing cards and love hotels to building video games. But as it adapts, we should be ready for it to do so in its own way - because Nintendo has rarely followed in the footsteps of others.

If we keep believing in Nintendo, then maybe our happy little child selves - ready and willing to have faith in everything - won't shrivel up inside our bodies in the face of tax returns and responsibilities. We owe it to the kids we used to be, the ones that loved Tamagotchis and wished for an uncle at Nintendo. Don't let the magic die.