To devoted fans, Nintendo's frequent use of cartoony graphics is comfortable and familiar. To others, they represent the company's biggest hurdle when it comes to dominating the American market (again). Over at Next-Gen, however, there's an interesting look at the psychology of cartoon graphics even beyond the issue of the uncanny valley.
The Next-Gen piece focuses on "big heads" in Japanese games and points out that for many, those are familiar images associated with happy childhood memories -- and that association is a lock when it comes to selling games, whereas the discerning Japanese consumer might turn their collective noses (and wallets) up at a game that falls short of photorealism.
With the imminent release of Wii -- and Wii Sports -- the question of pure fantasy graphics versus near-photorealism becomes more important. Nintendo is marketing Wii Sports toward a huge all-ages audience, but how will big heads play at grandma's house in Peoria? Some might point at the response to Gamecube offerings like Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, but that may not be entirely accurate. To most gamers, the business of Zelda is a deadly serious one, after all; we care about Link and we want to see him grow up and get some Princess action. Childlike (or Hermey-like?) Link didn't do it for a lot of dedicated Zelda fans. But what if we'd had a Wiimote to keep us company on the high seas? The Wii controller seems designed to remind us that hey, these video game things are supposed to be fun! Sure, you can simulate real movements in a golf game, but that doesn't translate to real skill on the green. So forget about that and just have a good time.
The Next-Gen article is largely speculative, and doesn't have much bearing on those of us slavering for the Wii release, but it does raise some questions about the cultural gap between gamers of the East and West. Wii Sports may not have true big-head avatars, but they are definitely cartoony. Can these blocky characters break down the walls that separate gamers and everyone else? That may be the first challenge for Nintendo's Wii philosophy.
Wii and the psychology of cartoony graphics
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.