Revisiting Troy (2004): An Anti-War Epic?

(Image and Video Credit: Warner Bros.)

Wolfgang Petersen’s film Troy, a  (very) loose adaptation of Homer’s Iliad, hit theaters in 2004, part of a wave of sword-and-sandal epics throughout the early 2000s that looked to achieve the same critical and commercial success first enjoyed by Gladiator (2000). The film stars Brad Pitt as Achilles, Eric Bana as Hector (the role in between the abomination that was Ang Lee’s Hulk and Stephen Spielberg’s critically acclaimed Munich), Orlando Bloom as Paris, Brad Pitt’s abs, Brad Pitt’s terrible accent, Sean Bean as Odysseus, Brian Cox as Agamemnon, Diane Kruger as Helen, Brad Pitt’s terrible accent again, Peter O’Toole as Priam, and Brad Pitt’s terrible accent a third time. Rather than a direct translation of the Greek epic poem, Peterson’s film ignores the mythological aspects of the conflict and condenses the war from 10 years to a few days of fighting. Instead of a retelling of an ancient story, the film alters the narrative of the Trojan War in an attempt to make history modern.

In this vein, one particular scene stands out as a reflection of contemporary events rather than sole focus on a conflict of myth and legend. After Achilles and his Myrmidons establish a foothold on the beach of Troy, leading Agamemnon and the Greek kings to believe the war will be brief and a swift victory, the combined Greek army fails to breach the city walls and suffers heavy casualties. That night, Agamemnon laments to Odysseus and his adviser Nestor, “They’re laughing at me in Troy, drunk with victory! They think I’ll sail home at first light.” Nestor replies, “If we leave now, we lose all credibility. If the Trojans can beat us so easily, how long before the Hittites invade?” Odysseus follows, ” If we stay, we stay here for the right reasons: to protect Greece, not your pride” before urging Agamemnon to make peace with Achilles to defeat the Trojans.

It is at this point, factoring the contemporary context for a film released in 2004, that one cannot help but think about the state of the War in Iraq at the time. The invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003, with coalition forces sweeping through the country and ousting Saddam Hussein in seemingly decisive fashion, leading President George W. Bush to declare an end to major combat operations on May 1, 2003, the now infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech.

Of course, the War in Iraq did not end after the initial invasion, as continued violence and atrocities mired the region and bogged down military forces. This along with the revelation that the United States entered the war under false pretenses, with the Bush administration allegedly making 935 false statements as part of an orchestrated campaign to effectively galvanize public opinion and misrepresent the security threat posed by Iraq under Hussein, led domestic and international public opinion to turn against American military involvement. Likewise, the initial success and hubris of the besieging Greek army was met with a protracted conflict that did not go according to plan. Agamemon’s offensive against Troy, with the stated casus belli to rescue Helen, differed from his true motives, extending Mycenaean power and influence across the Aegean. For both Agamemnon and President Bush, desert based offensive military action devolved into a war they dare not lose rather than one that could be won.

For those that would argue that drawing parallels between the plot of Troy and the events of the War in Iraq is reading into the text after the fact, Wolfgang Petersen, the director of the film, would like a word with you. Petersen himself equated President Bush’s actions to those of Agamemnon in his film, explaining,

“Just as King Agamemnon waged what was essentially a war of conquest on the ruse of trying to rescue the beautiful Helen from the hands of the Trojans, President George W. Bush concealed his true motives for the invasion of Iraq.”

In press notes for the film, Petersen contended, “I don’t think that any writer in the last 3,000 years has more graphically and accurately described the horrors of war than Homer,” believing that the poem itself revealed that the Trojan war was a disaster for everyone. In a German interview before the film’s release, Petersen lamented, ”People are still using deceit to engage in wars of vengeance. […] It’s as if nothing has changed in 3,000 years.” Rather than parallels emerging out of coincidence, Petersen’s understandings of geopolitics and conflict in 2004 fundamentally influenced his adaptation of Homer’s Iliad. Rather than a direct adaptation leaping directly from the source material onto the screen, for better or worse, Petersen’s understanding of the present shaped his narrative of the past.

So, with the director’s work undoubtedly informed by the unfolding of the War in Iraq, looking to condemn those in power using deceit for their own aims as well as the violence and bloodshed caused by war, why are the most memorable moments from this movie the scenes of violence and bloodshed? Though the film depicts Achilles as nothing short of a jackass until he finally fights for more than himself by rescuing Briseis, his most famous on-screen moments are battle scenes portrayed as “cool” rather than brutal or sickening. In an effort to replicate the success of sword-and-sandal epics of the past, Troy is built around its battle scenes and grandiose set pieces, muddling the director’s anti-war sentiment and the intended message of the film. Instead of a clear repudiation of warfare, something that would truly separate Troy from other films like it, what results is the South Park method of “having your cake and eating it too” at best or a movie that chickened out on its premise at worse.

In her analysis of feminist theory in the Transformers franchise (really), Lindsay Ellis explains that though it is Megan Fox’s character of Mikaela Banes that truly has a character arc in the first two films in the franchise, overcoming her past positively adapting to the new world of machines, the framing and aesthetics on how Fox is shot on film casts her as eye candy rather than a character in her own right. “Framing and aesthetics supersede the rest of the text, always, always, always,” an axiom that rings particularly true for Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy. Rather than an epic truly devoted to a protest of war, Troy limits its effectiveness as an anti-war film through cinematography and production design overtaking the text.


Nationalism for Children: How ‘Avatar the Last Airbender’ Explores Violence and National Identity

(Image Credit: Nickelodeon)

(This article was originally published October, 2017)

Avatar: The Last Airbender aired on Nickelodeon from 2005–2008, chronicling the adventures of Aang, a 12-year-old boy who is the most recent incarnation of the Avatar — the person who can bend Water, Earth, Fire and Air — and his companions Katara, Sokka, Toph, and eventually Prince Zuko. Aang and his cohort (calling themselves “Team Avatar”) must put an end to the war with the Fire Nation, led by Fire Lord Ozai.

Featuring complex characters, mature storylines, great animation, a celebration of Asian cultures and a successful balance of humor, tragedy and Eastern philosophy, many consider ATLA one of the best cartoons of all time, a show that adults and children can enjoy. ATLA treated its audience with respect and addressed adult themes and concepts despite being a children’s program.

In particular, ATLA tackles the concept of nationalism, an ideology involving national identity formation and acting in the name of protecting and promoting this identity, through its portrayal of the Fire Nation. Rather than simply a generic term to signify difference from the Earth Kingdom, Water Tribes and Air Nomads, the Fire Nation embodies the development of national identity and horrifying results of hypernationalism. The Fire Nation represents the epitome of national identity formation, an “imagined community” defining “self” as opposed to “the other” and the ultimate extension of this logic.

In 1983, political scientist and historian Benedict Anderson published Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism to theorize how people tied identity formation to the idea of a nation, leading to nationalist ideology and political agitation to form a nation state. Rather than being a primordial identity, national identity formation only occurred through “imagining a community” fostered through modern printing (what he calls print capitalism) and a decline in the belief in “rule by divine right,” both of which occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution.

An “imagined community” links a diverse group of people under a single identity. For example, a person in Oregon and a person in South Carolina are both “American” despite separation by thousands of miles and likely never meeting face to face. The conceptualization of the nation explicitly delineates a physical space for the “imagined community” with borders separating “self” from “the other.”


The world of ATLA, with regions defined by the elemental benders that live in the respective area. ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ [Credit: Nickelodeon]

While Waterbenders constitute northern and southern tribes, Airbenders populate specific temples, and Earthbenders live in the Earth Kingdom, Firebenders define their region as the “Fire Nation,” a space for an imagined community of Firebenders to live and operate. Unlike the other benders, the Firebenders consider themselves a nation, a continent for the “self” as opposed to the “other.” Nationalism can certainly be benign, a tool to unite a diverse population or a method to refute colonial rule, but Fire Lord Sozin and Fire Lord Ozai represent heightened nationalism that serves as a threat to “the others” in the world of ATLA.

In the Season 3 episode “The Avatar and the Fire Lord,” Fire Lord Sozin shares his idea for a better world with Avatar Roku, Aang’s predecessor.

“Our nation is enjoying an unprecedented time of peace and wealth. Our people are happy, and we’re so fortunate in so many ways. […] we should share this prosperity with the rest of the world. In our hands is the most successful empire in history. It’s time we expanded it.”

The Fire Nation, an industrial power utilizing coal-powered tanks and warships, represents the pinnacle of civility and modernity according to Sozin (modern industrialization being a prerequisite to nation formation per Anderson). He asks Roku — his best friend and fellow Fire Nation citizen — to extend his nationalist project, looking to form colonies in the Earth Kingdom and spread Fire Nation culture throughout the world. Being the Avatar, Roku recognizes the important of balance between the four elements and their landholdings, leading him to reject Sozin’s proposal. Later in the episode, when Roku chastises Fire Lord Sozin for setting up Fire Nation colonies despite his warning, Sozin replies:

“How dare you, a citizen of the Fire Nation, address your Fire Lord this way. Your loyalty is to our nation first. Anything less makes you a traitor.”

Sozin declares that Roku has betrayed his nation, the imagined community of the Fire Nation. Roku remained the biggest obstacle to Fire Lord Sozin’s ambition, but with the Avatar’s death, Sozin advances his project, extending the ideology of “self” and “other” to its most extreme.

Roku and Sozin

Roku and Sozin, both Fire Nation citizens, but with vastly different ideologies. ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ [Credit: Nickelodeon]

After the death of Avatar Roku, Fire Lord Sozin recognizes that the next Avatar in the cycle will be an Airbender, leading him to conduct the genocide of the Air Nomads, leaving Aang to discover that, after being frozen for 100 years, he is the eponymous “last Airbender.”


The remains of Monk Gyatso, Aang’s mentor, after the Fire Nation genocide. ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ [Credit: Nickelodeon]

In the series finale, Fire Lord Ozai attempts a similar genocidal campaign, harnessing the power of Sozin’s comet and adopting the title of Phoenix King, aiming to burn down the entire Earth Kingdom and establish himself as the ruler of the world. Though violent and horrifying, the actions of Sozin and Ozai represent the ultimate extension of national identity formation, where the “self” removes or eliminates the “other” to maintain the homogeneity of the nation.

Phoenix King

Ozai, bequeathing the title of Fire Lord and becoming the Phoenix King. ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ [Credit: Nickelodeon]

Rather than being separate from or a corruption of nationalism, ethnic cleansing and genocide have served as processes of national identity formation throughout history. Totalitarian regimes use violence to quell threats to the ruling power, while the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi Holocaust represent the worst of human atrocities conducted in the name of Turkish nationalism and fascist ideology, respectively, “protecting the self” from “threats to the nation.” Thus, the Fire Nation is the epitome of national identity formation, an imagined community defining “self” and “other” while using violence as an extension of nationalist rhetoric.

Rather than shy away from mature themes or adult concepts such as nationalism or mass violence, ATLA embraces big ideas and presents them to a young audience while balancing them with fast-paced action, humor and heart. Though nationalism does not automatically result in violence and is not inherently evil, the Fire Nation demonstrates the harm in hypernationalism, a rigid definition of “self” that precludes others.

Not only do show creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko illustrate the dangers of rampant nationalism, but they also present a solution: multiculturalism. Aang, Katara, Sokka, Toph, Suki and their allies hail from all across the globe. The embrace and celebration of differences helps the protagonists resist the attempt by the Fire Nation to eliminate difference, a worthy lesson coming from a smart, well-written and forward-thinking television program for children.


Offensive Marketing? Explaining the Aggressive Marketing of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(Image Credit: Universal Studios)

So in case you’ve been living under a rock, you are likely aware that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens this weekend. Hell, even if you have been under a rock (I assume the rent price was too agreeable to pass up), you’ve likely seen an advertisement for the fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. The marketing for this film, a direct follow-up to the decent 2015 film with an amazing final sequence, has been inescapable. Last week, NBC dubbed its programming part of “Jurassic Week” (sadly, none of the dinosaurs ate Jimmy Fallon) and Dairy Queen is serving a “Jurassic Blizzard” (sadly, it is not made with pieces of actual dinosaurs) along with the inundation of commercials across NBCUniversal stations.

Aggressive marketing campaigns for studio tent-poles, especially big budget sequels, are nothing new, stoking interest among the general public and creating a sense of demand to see the new film immediately, with box office grosses relying on a substantial opening weekend. With two and three year gaps typical for movie franchises, advertisements aim to rekindle interest in the brand and ensure that fans show up for opening weekend.

But, the marketing for the new Jurassic World seems particularly saturated and largely unnecessary. After all, the preceding film opened to $208 million, the largest opening weekend at the time until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens later that year, and went on to gross almost $1.7 billion dollars worldwide, the fifth highest grossing film of all time. Through nostalgia for the original film and the continued interest in the property through sequels, toy sales, and, umm, questionable video games, it would seem as though everyone is aware that of the Jurassic Park franchise, making the aggressive marketing of the new film superfluous and potential detrimental through overexposure.

Yes, the advertisements for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are too much. But, rather than an attempt to capture new fans or spark interest among people unaware of the film, the aggressive marketing of the new dinosaur flick is a defensive measure by Universal Studios, almost an act of desperation to ensure a big opening weekend along with the viability of the studio’s immediate plans.

Turning the clocks back to 2015, and Universal Studios was sitting pretty. The box office haul of Jurassic World exceeded the studios lofty expectations, and the substantial grosses of Furious 7, Minions (collective eye roll), Fifty Shades of Grey (even harder collective eye roll), along with modest hits like Pitch Perfect 2 and Straight Outta Compton resulted in a very successful year for the studio. In fact, 2015 marked the highest grossing year for a single studio in history, with Universal eventually earning $6.9 billion from the earnings of all of its films.

However, just like the impressive box office records for Jurassic World, Universal’s massive success was short-lived. Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke the opening weekend box office record merely six months later, and Walt Disney Studios became the dominant movie studio a year after the best year in Universal’s history. The collective performance of all of its films surpassed $7 billion dollars in 2016, and another successful year in 2017 made Disney the first film to make $6 billion dollars in back to back years. Again, before Universal did it in 2015, no film studio ever made more than $6 billion in a single year, and the fact that rival Disney did it in back to back years nullified Universal’s breakthrough swiftly and decisively.

The future also looks to favor Disney. The company that owns the rights to Marvel Studios, the Star Wars franchise, along with many of the most successful animated films of all time, legally owning your childhood, looks to continue producing successful hits with reliable franchises and intellectual properties, the impressive box office haul of Avenger: Infinity War making up for the “disappointment” of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Universal, does not have it so easy. While the films released by Illumination (the Minions people) will likely fare well, the interest in the Fast and Furious franchise appears to be waning, and that’s before the tension behind the scenes between Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Launching the “Dark Universe,” Universal’s attempt at a sprawling cinematic universe by reviving the Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.) in the same manner as Marvel proved to be an utter disaster both critically and commercially.

Thus, the Jurassic Park franchise appears to be the most reliable property for Universal Studios, likely feeling encircled by the success of Disney as well as forthcoming agreement to purchase Twentieth Century Fox. Though the new Jurassic World will almost certainly be a hit, what Universal wants and arguably needs is for Fallen Kingdom to equal the box office haul of Infinity War, a movie still playing in theaters that has already surpassed $2 billion worldwide. Though the sheer volume of advertisements may seem offensive, it is purely a defensive strategy by Universal Studios to keep pace in the current box office climate.

Guys, Waluigi is just Awful

(Image Credit: Nintendo)

At E3 2018, the annual event where video game studios subject themselves to immediate fan backlash and deliver awkward presentations to investors and shareholders that likely haven’t picked up a video game controller since skipping classes in favor of a house Goldeneye tournament, Nintendo announced the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a brand new game in the long running series rather than a port from the less than successful version for the Nintendo Wii U. One of the biggest points of emphasis was the fact that every character from a previous version would be available on the new game. Characters like Mewtwo and Roy which were DLC characters in the Wii U and 3DS version, fan favorite Solid Snake (censored for the innocent among us), and even characters no one particularly wanted back like Ice Climbers and Pichu will be available in the new game, along with new characters like the Inklings from Splatoon, Princess Daisy from the Mario franchise, and Ridley from the Metroid series.

After the initial hype for the game died down, people of the internet took to their keyboards and gathered to complain about a character that was not announced for the new entry in the Smash series. While numerous characters from the Super Mario series, a collection of video games that has grossed more than the GDP of numerous countries, one character was left off the roster for the time being. This, of course, is the purple, altitudinous Waluigi.

First appearing in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 in 2000, Waluigi was to Luigi what Wario was to Mario, an evil twin alter ego. Waluigi has since reappeared in other Mario games and was even a non-playable ally (assist trophy) in preceding Super Smash Bros games. But, the decision not to include Waluigi as a playable character (again for the time being) sparked internet outrage, some protesting ironically (MEMES) while others seriously wish for the ill-tempered irritant to enter the fray in the new game.

Waluigi 2

(Look at him, he just wants to hit his companions repeatedly until they fly off a stage to their death. Credit to a Facebook friend for sharing this meme)

Guys…Waluigi is awful.

I mean…really, he’s really awful.

“Sir, we know that, we just like him for the memes.”

Doesn’t matter. The creation and celebration of Waluigi represents the same kind of “edgy” thinking that prevailed throughout the 1990s and 2000s to create other awful ideas like Venom, The Death of SupermanSpawn, and even Wario (Wario is also awful). Clamoring for a terrible character representing a terrible idea and terrible thinking, even sarcastically, rewards said terrible ideas and terrible thinking and encourages video game creators to continue terrible ideas and terrible thinking until all we are left with is anti-versions of the characters we actually like.


(I hate one-note “dark” and “edgy” villains Kif, it sickens me)

So Nintendo, don’t do it. Don’t put Waluigi in the new Smash game regardless of internet outrage or reducing stock prices due to a lackluster showing at E3. Waluigi is not a good character regardless of what the internet thinks. Ironic cult following or not, “Luigi but evil” represents the worst form of thinking rather than a creative character, a product of 1990s and early 2000s media trends rather than a true representation of Nintendo’s creativity.


The Three Kings of ‘Salem’s Lot

(Image Credit Cemetery Dance Publications)

(This article was originally published October, 2017)

Written in 1975, Stephen King’s second novel ‘Salem’s Lot answers the age old question, “What would happen if the story of Dracula occurred in a small town in Maine?” Both Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot were heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a favorite of King’s when teaching high school, in tone, style, and subject matter in the latter case (by the way, if you haven’t read the original Dracula, do it, it’s really good). ‘Salem’s Lot centers around Ben Mears, a writer returning to the eponymous town where he spent a portion of his childhood in order to complete his next book. He reminisces about the horror of the Marsten House, meets and falls in love with Susan Norton, and eventually encounters true evil, as vampires decimate the town’s population.

Yet, the most interesting scene in ‘Salem’s Lot doesn’t involve vampires at all, but centers on King deep in self reflection. Many of his works are semi-autobiographical; for example The Body (which was later adapted into the coming of age classic Stand by Me) serves as King reflecting nostalgically on childhood. ‘Salem’s Lot represents another iteration of this trend, with three characters representing the author’s reckoning with his own psyche.

Ben Mears, the writer, arrives at the town bar and meets up with Ed “Weasel” Craig, a boarder renting a room in the same building as Mears who is friendly enough but also a raging alcoholic. “Weasel,” well into a drunken stupor, introduces Ben to schoolteacher Matt Burke before excusing himself to the restroom. Realizing that “Weasel” has been gone for some time, Ben and Matt discover him passed out, “propped against the wall between two urinals, and a fellow in an army uniform was pissing approximately two inches from his right ear” (‘Salem’s Lot, 194).

In Dickensian fashion, this scene depicts King’s past, present, and future. Matt, a schoolteacher, King’s profession before becoming a writer, and Ben, the famous writer and stand-in for the author in this book, look down on the passed out “Weasel” Craig, the possible “future King.” King’s struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism throughout the 1970s and 1980s is explored in greater allegorical detail in The Shining, but this scene serves as a brief “moment of clarity” for King, recognizing his fate if he continued on the path of addiction. As Ben, the “present King” looks down on “Weasel,

“His mouth was open and Ben thought how terribly old he looked, old and ravaged by cold, impersonal forces with no gentle touch in them. The reality of his own dissolution, advancing day by day, came home to him, not for the first time, but with shocking unexpectedness. The pity that welled up in his throat like clear, black waters was as much for himself as it was for Weasel.

Requiem For The Nintendo Wii


(Image Credit: Nintendo)

(This article was originally published August, 2017)

So the Nintendo Switch, the console/handheld hybrid from Nintendo, seems to be doing well, with sales surpassing industry expectations. Since its worldwide release in March 2017, Nintendo sold 4.7 million units of the new system, leading to higher stock prices due to investor confidence and an increase in revenue of $1.38 billion from April 1 to June 30. As a system, in the 30 seconds I got to experiment with it, it seems to be fine, deftly transferring the graphics and computing power of a console to a handheld but having cumbersome control scheme that takes some getting used to. The success of the Nintendo Switch is particularly interesting for its role in the narrative of Nintendo as a gaming company; some say it serves as the last chance for Nintendo to prove it can make a successful system, otherwise the company would have to resort to selling off its characters and brands to mobile developers and third parties in the same manner as Sega.

Common narratives of Nintendo’s history as a video game company cite the original NES as an icon of the Golden Age of video games, with the SNES and N64 as worthy follow-ups before a decline in console and game quality in the twenty-first century. Because of its failure to attract third-party developers and match the computing power of its rivals Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo needed to adapt to modern trends in video game sales and development, or else become a dinosaur stuck celebrating the glory of the past while failing to adapt for the present and future.

Yet, this narrative ignores or dismisses the Nintendo Wii, considering the 2006 console as an example of Nintendo’s faulty corporate strategy or a gimmick that made Nintendo a lot of money initially but hurt the company in the long run, as the casual fan base that made the system so popular ditched the Wii for mobile gaming, leaving Nintendo with its core fan base and a system of lower quality than the PS3 or Xbox 360. Rather than being a failure, I argue that the Nintendo Wii was a resounding success, a console vastly superior in sales to Sony and Microsoft that still produced quality games and led to a lasting impact on subsequent game development and gaming culture as a whole.


While the PS3 and Xbox 360 sold at an even clip compared to each other, with both systems selling about 84 million units according to company sales reports, the Nintendo Wii sold about 102 million units, surpassing its rivals by a significant margin. The curiosity of new motion controls and loyalism to the Nintendo brand led the Wii to outperform the Sony and Microsoft in sheer sales, a point often overlooked or in narratives of the success of seventh generation video game consoles or disregarded as consumers buying into a fad. Moreover, games released for the Wii vastly outsold games released for the Xbox 360 or the PS3, as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Sports Resort, Mario Kart Wii, and Wii Sports are in the top 10 video games of all time. These games benefited as bundled copies, but other games like Wii Play, Wii Fit, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Mario Galaxy rank near the top among top-selling games of the seventh generation. Though remembered as better computing systems, the Xbox 360 and PS3 simply didn’t sell as well as the Nintendo Wii and its best-selling games. The Nintendo Wii mixed nostalgia with novelty, appealing to children and their families to create a unique gaming experience that should not be remembered as a failure.


Sure, games selling well is one method of calculating success, but how good were these games? After all, the Transformers movies are a financial success, but no one thinks those movies are any good. While the motion control system and lack of computing power scared away third-party developers and titles that were adapted to the Nintendo system suffered in quality as compared to their PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts (for example, Madden and Call of Duty), Nintendo managed to produce its own classic games, reusing characters and settings while simultaneously moving to new directions. Titles like Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessLegend of Zelda Skyward SwordSuper Smash Bros. BrawlSuper Mario Galaxy rank among the best in their respective franchises, while Nintendo capitalized on brand nostalgia by releasing a new version of Punch Out in 2009 as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns 2010. New Super Mario Bros. WiiMario Kart Wii, and Mario Party became local multiplayer favorites for families and dorm rooms, while games like Xenoblade Chronicles showed that Nintendo could still develop new characters and franchises.

The narrative of a supposed fall from grace and relevance among video game production cities Nintendo’s inability to develop a successful online multiplayer system and failure to attract third-party developers as examples of impending doom for the video game company. After all, how could Nintendo survive as a gaming company while only relying on Nintendo games and characters? However, Nintendo’s reliance on its own franchises and characters is nothing new, it is the same model that made the company the dominant force in video game production for decades. Nintendo boasts a greater stable of popular franchises than either Sony or Microsoft with Super MarioLegend of ZeldaPokemonAnimal Crossing, and Metroid among others, so why would the company rely on inferior Wii versions third-party franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Grand Theft Auto? Moreover, as Sony and Microsoft battle for a gaming audience largely composed of young males in their teens and twenties, the Nintendo Wii appealed to younger audiences and families, cornering a valuable demographic ignored by Nintendo’s gaming rivals. Rather than copying the tactics of Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo recognized its strengths and weaknesses, focusing on its own characters and franchises to appeal to a different consumer base and producing quality games for the computing power of the Wii as opposed to attempting to attract third-party developers.

Lasting Impact

The most obvious impact of the Nintendo Wii on gaming as a whole is the development of motion control. The initial popularity of the Nintendo Wii led Microsoft and Sony to experiment and produce their own iterations of the concept, resulting in the Xbox Kinect and the Playstation Move. Even the Playstation VR represents an evolution of the Wii’s interactive concept; a change to the gaming experience as a whole rather than simply a new system with better graphics and computing power. Sure, the Wii’s motion controls weren’t perfect and the control scheme led to awkward game play for certain titles, but the Wii was the first major step toward a dramatic change in gaming rather than the culmination of motion control gaming; nothing is perfect the first time. The Nintendo Wii attempted to bring the future to the present, to change the gaming experience by fusing exercise and interaction with video game play.

The promise of more active and interactive video gaming, especially the promise that the Nintendo Wii was a “healthier video game console,” led to curiosity and purchase by casual gamers along with Nintendo fans, boosting the console’s sales as compared to the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Yet, the doom and gloom teleology of the Wii and Nintendo argue that the motion controls were only a gimmick, as casual gamers ditched the console in favor of mobile gaming and its easy accessibility, leaving only a limited Nintendo fan base and a gaming system inferior to Sony and Microsoft. Yet, I believe that it is precisely because of the Wii’s appeal to families and atypical consumers that led to the popularity of mobile gaming we see today. Nintendo became the dominant company in video game production and development after the video game crash of 1983 by marketing specifically to boys in toy aisles, and console producers continue to target young males as their primary demographic. The Nintendo Wii, by contrast appealed to younger audiences as well as their parents, offering nostalgia for those that grew up in the 1980s as well as casual, easily accessible game play. Rather than a simple shift by casual gamers to mobile games because of easier access and short attention spans, the Nintendo Wii fundamentally influenced gaming culture. Video games were no longer only toys for children, as previously untapped audiences adopted casual gaming as a fun diversion while waiting for transportation or avoiding awkward silence in social settings. Games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, easier to pick up and play and more popular with adults (especially adult women) than console games, owe their rise to the Nintendo Wii, which made gaming accessible and fun for people of all ages.

Far from being a small blip of success in Nintendo’s downward trajectory or emblematic of Nintendo’s archaic game strategy, the Nintendo Wii was a successful console based on sales, games, and lasting impact on gaming culture. Though the console certainly had limitations and the motion controls scared away third-party developers, Nintendo thrived because of the Wii. Combining innovation with nostalgia and recognizing the strength of internal characters and franchises, the Nintendo Wii was not only a successful platform upon its release but a development that influences game development and culture today and into the future.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me as I begin blogging, writing, haphazardly throwing streams of consciousness onto the internet. On this site, you’ll find commentary and analysis of movies, video games, television, and pop culture in general. Some of the stuff here has been written (by me, relax) in the past, but it is my hope to provide new content and thoughtful pieces going forward. Thank you for stopping by!