The Highs and Lows of Video Game Gimmicks

Wii U Gamepad

Gimmicks have a long history in the gaming industry. From the spectacular 3D failure of Virtual Boy, to the dizzying heights of Wii’s success, we’ve come to know these inessential but standout features. We either love them or hate them, but one thing’s for sure: when properly executed, gimmicks can come to define product generations, especially in gaming.

Back in the late 20th century, Nintendo took a gamble in the failed Virtual Boy, a 3D console. You might know of the recent success of the 3DS in that area, but with early knowledge of the technology, the NES maker couldn’t do anything but to present migraine-inducing red lines. It was a massive flop. Fast forward several decades and they’ve learned their mistakes with the new 3DS.

It can’t be denied that Nintendo’s record of gaming systems is far from perfect. There are some really bright spots though; Wii’s 100 million-strong fanbase is a testament to that. Sony’s Eyetoy for PS2 sold well in Europe back in the day, but in the worldwide stage, Wii was the first truly successful stab at motion control for a gaming system. This was achieved with the WiiMote, the primary controller that included some of the customary gamepad’s buttons. The real highlight was the remote’s motion control functionality. It’s a stretch to say the implementation was perfect, but for the most part it served as the console equivalent of Apple’s touchscreens. Wii was far from revolutionary, but the motion control’s accessibility exposed it to the wider market.

The Nintendo DS was released some time before the Wii, but it too had its own gimmick; the design allowed for two screens, the bottom one serving as a touchscreen. Released in 2004, the DS went on to become the best-selling handheld of all time, racing past the Philippines’ preferred PSP. Call it a gimmick, but the two screens and touch control allowed the system to stand out and allow for an additional layer of immersion as players could interact with their games on a “physical” level.

Both of these systems were very successful, but take a look back at the other end of the spectrum and you’ll see a familiar sight for Filipinos, the PS Vita. Released in 2012, Sony’s handheld tried to keep up with iOS, which had taken a large chunk of the mobile gaming pie. It included a touchscreen, dual cameras, an accelerometer, and even a rear touchpad. Vita went on to disappoint sales-wise, and it’s easy to point out its main difference from Nintendo’s successes: instead of using a forward-thinking approach, Sony took on the role of the follower and adapted to the changes Apple had made. One could argue the rear touchpad points to the contrary, but in hindsight, a touchpad on the back of a handheld could only have limited uses as opposed to Wii/DS’ more apparent functions.

The bottomline is, gimmicks can be used to great effect, even if it’s a risky proposition as opposed to following the traditional path of standard inputs. It’s better reserved to companies who thrive on serving as the disruptor, like Nintendo. Sony tried it and failed. Companies with the right people though, can go the extra mile and try their hand at revolutionizing an entire industry.


For Gamers, By Gamers

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It was a year after my first true encounter with the internet. A year ago I just signed up for a Friendster account, and delved into a world of “friends”, comments, profile backgrounds and apps and the like. It was addictive, a new frontier for my generation. Social networking, wow, I don’t even remember if they called it that back then. But this isn’t about Friendster, it’s about something more precious for me in this web of memories.

That same year as my real-world social life degraded thanks to Friendster, I discovered a video games website called GameSpot. And here my passion for games took to the next level. My GameMaster collection was growing at that time, and the video games section of K-Zone I’d anticipate every month. Metal Gear Solid 4 amazed me, even more so than the fantastic Killzone 2 E3 2005 trailer which was disappointingly 100% CGI (thanks a lot, Sony).

This is where I benefitted from Friendster’s early influence. Making and setting up an account was a breezy task, but…what is this thing called unions? I clicked at the link to the union directory. There was The Elder Scrolls Union, The (hugely influential) Headcrab Union, a whole lot of PlayStation unions. Well, it seemed interesting. They didn’t function like Facebook groups now or even blogs, they were more like mini-websites built on community in their potential and features. The Version 2 thread spells out one person’s ultimate vision of GameSpot unions. Search that in their forums if you’re interested.

It was tough not to be swept by the next-gen hype back then. The promise of cinematic gameplay and near-photorealistic graphics fooled me (the end result was honestly a bit disappointing). It led me to convince my family to buy me a 20 gigabyte PS3 just months after launch along with a bunch of unremarkable games in Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom and Need For Speed: Carbon. That hype influenced me to choose the PS3 as the subject of my newly-created union. After all, Sony themselves said the “supercomputer” was future-proof and would last ten years a la PS1 and PS2.

My early years as PS3FC (originally The PlayStation 3 Fan Club) leader were unremarkable at best. I figured modelling my union on my favorite website would serve it well, as I’m already familiar with its workings and the formula is there. Those were the first times I really wrote something, with GameSpot’s news, screenshots and the other unions as my sources. My writing was really bad and my gamer language needed a ton of polish; expected for a 12-year old trying to make his pseudo-website work. If you’ve read my About page then you know my union grew to great sizes considering the majority of its kind had already died when it was deleted.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing: I went inactive for years before I came back to revive PS3FC. And that maturity in my passion for gaming brought with it new growth and community engagement tactics that helped a lot in making PS3FC the best it can be. I sent out invites regularly to PS3 fans in GameSpot, I hired consistent officers to help me in managing the union, and I made a progression system with experience points rewarded for activities performed.

We grew from a measly twenty inactive members to nearly 2000 with a bustling forum and comments sections, tens of thousands of visits, 250 Twitter followers and thousands of YouTube views. We were really a major presence in the GameSpot unions community. The icing on the cake is our 2nd place finish for the Union of the Year Award. Something told me it was a close finish.

GameSpot had to close the entire unions system as part of its transition into a modern, streamlined and easy to use website. I had my regrets because I was absent for the better part of the year that happened. I came in too late to ask for some data to be given to me before they erased them all. I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye and thank all my members and officers (I’ll never forget XVision84, ChrispPerson and JasonDarksavior for all the help). I wrote in PS3FC’s description that we were a union for gamers, by gamers. I can’t imagine a more apt description.




It all comes back to me
Surprising me in that familiar way
Like that old Linkin Park song
The sounds of yesteryear
To this day, I remember every word
Shimmering in the dark
Lighting the way for me
A tool I used in my youth
I remember everything now
As if no time had passed
I’m back in that place
Word by word, piece by piece
I toil away at my desk
Waiting for my inevitable death
I felt it in my skin
But it never came

A Downward Spiral


Few bands have ever captivated me all these years like Linkin Park. To this day I remember the first time I was instantly hooked to In The End when I was a kid. I marched on, discovering new music from them through YouTube when I was in high school. Then starting with A Thousand Suns, I collected as many of their albums as I could (I still regret having my stone age laptop prevent me from unlocking the Burn It Down teaser), the others being: Meteora (Special Edition), Minutes to Midnight and Living Things. I would’ve bought the Collision Course and Songs From The Underground EPs if they weren’t so pricey, and also Hybrid Theory if it wasn’t so rare these days and The Hunting Party if it didn’t come out so damn late in the Philippines.

After that adolescence stage though, my relationship with Linkin Park all went downhill. Music didn’t influence my emotions as much, and that passion for the medium faded into obscurity. Now I only listen to music occasionally, much less Linkin Park, which accounts for a fraction of that time. In this perspective though, I can see why there were many haters (even if the fans far outnumber them). The quality of music went on a downward spiral since bursting with all guns blazing with the fantastic Hybrid Theory. Meteora was a small step backward, Minutes to Midnight a bigger one, then came A Thousand Suns which was the first time my beloved band underwhelmed for me. Living Things was a similar downgrade between the first two, and The Hunting Party was the final nail in the coffin.

I wish I could care more, but no matter how hard I try, I’ve just…moved on. Maybe it’s true that for every Points of Authority, there’s a Burning in the Skies. Chester, Mike and the rest, get your act together. You were all a great part of my life in my formative years, and I don’t want it to end this way. Find your identity, your true genre. Your 60+ million fans deserve it.