When I was a kid, my parents wanted to reward my brother, my sister and myself when the report cards came in with good grades on them. I remember working extra hard on my math homework and science projects because I knew that when it came time to show mom and dad that report card, it could mean a trip to Toys R Us. My parent’s system of rewarding us wasn’t like the monetary reward system pioneered by Carl and Harriet Winslow, my parents rewarded straight As with a brand new Nintendo game. My personal favorite of the “report card reward games” that we were awarded over the years was a game for the NES that we played endlessly. I don’t remember exactly why we chose the game but it was probably due to our fondness of the TV show. Ducktales was, and still is, a great game.
I sincerely hope that every kid who is into video games has experienced the thrill of getting a new game the RIGHT way. The trick is that you have to be handed the game from your mom or dad and then you have to unwrap the game during the car ride home. I could never understand how anyone could wait the whole ride home before opening your fresh new game. The entire reason the ride home was invented was to give kids a few minutes to look through the manual so you knew a little backstory and what the A and B buttons do when you press them (spoiler alert! Jump and shoot). After you open your game, you need to place the game alphabetically with your other games and you are ready to rock.
I remember loving everything about my new game, right down to the packaging. I read game manuals cover to cover, which brings me to my point. Do you remember the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality? It was a small golden stamp that was printed on the packaging and in the manual of every NES game I’ve ever owned. It stated “This seal is your assurance that Nintendo has approved and guaranteed the quality of this product”. In 2003, the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality was renamed to the “Official Nintendo Seal”. Are you kidding me? Nintendo’s stance on gaming changed from “We simply will not allow any product to be approved for use on our system unless it is of the highest caliber possible” to “These people paid us some money to put a crappy game on one of our game systems, here’s a seal to prove it”.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Nintendo. I just feel like there has been a substantial shift in the quality of software (especially third party) and I can’t tell if it’s a product of Nintendo being so successful or a product of the consumer paying fifty dollars for mini game collections. Whatever the reason is, I think it sucks that kids who are getting into games for the first time now have to sift and wade through so many more mediocre games than we had to when we were young. As adult gamers, we sometimes take for granted how meaningful a new video game can be for a kid. I hope that Nintendo can once again be a platform where magical and memorable experiences can happen on a regular basis. The focus has to shift back to quality over everything else. It is a daunting task, given the state of the industry as well as the company, but if anyone can do it, it’s Nintendo.