Friday, June 19, 2009

Demo Play

In an interview with USA Today, Shigeru Miyamoto of Mario fame briefly described an interesting feature coming to New Super Mario Bros. and future Wii titles. The feature, currently called Demo Play, allows the gamer to let the game play itself. Just imagine...

So its Christmas Day, and you're kicked back in your favorite easy chair playing your brand new copy of New Super Mario Bros. And you get get stuck. You can see the next platform, way up on the edge of your screen, but you just can't quite reach it. Normally, you'd have two choices.
A. Grab your laptop and scour the internet for a solution.
B. Throw your controller through a window while inventing half a dozen new words.

Naturally, most game companies love B. They sell a pile of new controllers that way. Sometimes new TVs and consoles too. But, with children in the house, your etymological inclinations should probably be curtailed, and besides, with the recession and all, no one wants to buy more controllers.

But with the game being so new, there probably won't be a solution on the internet yet. At least, not one that you'll be able to find within a few minutes. Is this the end of your Mario for the time being?

No! You just kick the game into Demo Play mode and wander in to the kitchen for a fresh beverage while the game figures out how to get onto that platform all by itself. Your gaming continues uninterrupted, your control doesn't get flung into the raging snowstorm, and your kids think you're an absolute genius for beating the game so easily.

Meet the future of gaming. As the industry pushes harder to make all kinds of games more accessible to all kinds of people, this sort of feature should become the norm in the coming years. It is optional, so it won't affect any of us who like throwing controllers through windows. But it should greatly reduce the frustration factor of just never quite making the absolutely perfect jump.

On the other hand, this creates a whole new set of problems for developers. If they can't rely on gimmicky puzzles or shoddy geometry to keep you playing their newest sequel for hours, they might actually have to resort to good story telling and new, interesting ideas to keep your time and your gaming dollar. Wouldn't that be a shame.

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