Video Game Wii-ealism

Curator's Note

On June 19, 2007, more than two years after RESIDENT EVIL 4 (RE4) was first released on the Nintendo Gamecube, the game’s developer and publisher, Capcom, ported their highly acclaimed horror title to Nintendo’s “next generation” platform, the Wii. The notable media buzz that the Wii generated last November was due in no small part to the system’s unique non-gamepad-style wireless controller--the Wii Remote (or Wiimote)--which promised to amplify the physicality of gameplay, appeal to casual and non-gamers, and inadvertently destroy TVs ( After hearing that Capcom was bringing RE4 to the Wii, I searched the web to see how the game would exploit the console’s unique control technology. I soon discovered this Japanese ad (where the game is titled BIOHAZARD 4). The video advertises a gameplay experience that is so visceral, so embodied, that the fictional narrative escapes its diegetic and technological boundaries. If Nintendo’s recent sales and this ad (and, indeed, others like it) are to be believed, Nintendo and their third party developers have figured out how to successfully design and market this unique gameplay style for new and old games alike. How, then, might the Wiimote alter (or promise to alter) one’s basic gameplaying experience, as well as current notions of video game realism (or wii-ealism)? Is this heightened media interaction akin to Andre Bazin’s “myth of total cinema”? Or, is the Wiimote just another fancy joystick?


Nifty question, Matt, and one that seems to pull at the long and diverse history of the industry’s attempts to intensify immersion with unusual controllers and peripherals. Remember the disturbingly-realistic revolver of the Wonder Wizard Sharp Shooter? How about the abstract but by no means less “stimulating” Rez Trance Vibrator, or the heavy metal of Steel Battalion? What makes the Wiimote different, I wonder? I mean, haven’t there been other controllers that dramatically amplified the physicality of game play and appealed to casual and non-gamers (e.g., the Dance Dance Revolution platform/pad)? Hmmm… Anyway, great prompt.

Really interesting clip, Matt. What was fascinating to me was the way the commercial not only emphasizes the "wii-lism" of the game interaction by recoding gendered fairy tales of damsels in distress as virtually attainable, but also discursively constructs gamer reality as hip, complete with hot girlfriend who enjoys passively watching him kill animated monsters. There almost seems to be the suggestion that by virtue of wii being more interactive, it can provide both a more realistic gaming experience AND a better reality for gamers as well, where fantasy (whether sci-fi or hetro-normative) bleeds into the real world.

Matt - I was having a conversation with a student who is working on Gender and computer games. What we both see in this is a great problem in how they are trying to sell the Wii. I question if the producers are even aware of the demographics in computer gamers - or if they are trying to recapture a particular kind of hetero-normative young male consumer.. This hip appeal - is perhaps to draw in some specific newbies? Or is there a perception of Nintendo games as not being "macho" enough so that they feel the need to re-emphasize the particular construction of masculinity? I am sure it is much more complex than this - just some thoughts...

I'd like to respond to two things about this video: marketing and gender. First, because the wiimote is trying to sell itself as more immersive, gameplay footage and people actually playing the game has become the marketing schema. We might see this commercial in relation to other wii commercials, even Nintendo DS commercials or the Guitar Hero commercials that came out when it released on the 360. And if you're showing people playing the games, you want them to look cool (although I think they failed miserably on this one). Having played both versions of the game (Gamecube and Wii, although not far along into the Wii version), I would argue that the wiimote works very intuitively, and it's one of the few successes on the Wii to really capture the potential of the new peripheral. However, I think that immersion in this particular game comes not just from the input device, but from the style, story, and ambience of the game. There were several times playing this game that I was utterly creeped out by the music and the onscreen images. Now, on to gender. I'm not really sure why Nintendo/Capcom marketing chose this direction. Do they think this is a male fantasy to protect the damsel and look cool while doing so? Do they think the girl wants to be saved? While the ending hug in the commercial is meant to mirror the ending of the video game, what you don't see is that Leon (the main playable character) rejects Ashley (the girl) as a potential love interest. He sees protecting her as just a job, meanwhile his heart is given to Ada, the kickass badgirl in red. Even more curious is that the Resident Evil franchise actually has some fairly strong heroines in the series, and that Ashley, while annoying (as stated by many fans on the internet) throughout most of the game, does have moments where she is helping out Leon to escape. If Nintendo is trying to get everyone to play (read women), I think it would be much more successful showing those moments rather than playing up the damsel in distress scenario. Also, I'm totally better at this game than my boyfriend.

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