After spending a week in GDC, writing posts at midnight, waking up early for meetings, gorging on omelettes with ponderous amounts of 'cheese' it's good to finally be back in the office, and have the time to collect my thoughts. In hindsight GDC seemed to be the event where social gaming struck back, where iOS gaming demanded to be taken seriously.
It's a topic that had me asking myself - what is the value of gaming?
Iwata's keynote was telling, this quote - which seems to address the movement towards cheap, disposable game development - was particularly interesting.
Their goal is to just gather as much software as possible, because… that is how they profit. The value of video game software does not matter to them. The fact is, what we produce has value, and we should protect that value.
Plenty have criticised Iwata for this statement. Bryan Reynolds of Zynga claimed Nintendo were "missing the point", Michael Pachter brought the hyperbole, stating that Iwata's keynote - along with the announcment of the iPad 2 - was proof that Nintendo were "doomed" in the long term. As a huge fan of mobile gaming I personally felt that the keynote was reflective of Nintendo's fear of online, a reluctance to embrace new, innovative methods of consuming video games.
But during another presentation I had that assumption challenged. Dramatically.
Later that week I was dragged along to David Crane's Pitfall! retrospective presentation - by ex-Kotaku editor David Wildgoose believe it or not. The Goose, bless him, is a little bit older than me and had actually played Pitfall! I hadn't, and therefore wasn't too enamoured about sitting through a two hour retrospective about a game I'd never encountered before.
But roughly halfway through the speech, David Crane rattled off an anecdote that sent alarm bells ringing for me.
He spoke about the great Video Game crash of the early 80s. David Crane, creator of Pitfall! and co-founder of Activision, was partly responsible for this crash. By successfully setting up Activision (one of the first third party gaming companies), Crane helped open the floodgates for other third party publishers to produce games for the Atari 2600 - a move which eventually resulted in a tidal wave of third party games being released on the platform.
In the early 80s retailers like Toys R Us would literally have a barrel full of titles in the store - just cartridges - cheaply produced, barely playable games with no packaging sold at $5 a pop. According to Crane, when parents went in to buy an Atari game for their kids, they would delve into those barrels and pick up six terrible games for Christmas, instead of picking up the quality $40 game their kids had asked for. It got to the stage that retailers would no longer stock new games until they'd gotten rid of their massive stock of shovelware.
With perspective, the situation we're currently in sounds a little familiar.
If we don't learn the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them - so when Iwata talks about protecting the value of video games, we should probably listen. It was essentially Nintendo who rescued the games industry from the crash of the early 80s and they did so by providing games with a stable value, by attempting to guarantee their quality, by more stringently protecting the brand of gaming as a whole.
Don't get me wrong - I love iOS games. I love the ease of use, I love games with simple mechanics and I love cheap games. Doesn't everyone? But at some point we have to ask ourselves - how much do we value the games we play? How much do we value the experiences and production values that a top level studio can deliver?
When I was seven I had a dual tape recorder. I used to pirate games - excessively. If my friends bought a game, I would make a copy on one of the hundreds of blank tapes lying scattered around my bedroom. I played hundreds of games during that period, but if you asked me their names I could probably remember around 20 - and most, if not all, were the games I actually purchased myself with my own pocket money. I cared about these games because they had value.
Maybe that's hypocritical - maybe that's the cycle of consumerism at work - but if we don't learn from the pitfalls of history we risk losing the value of gaming.
Ultimately it comes down to this: if games don't have value, they don't have meaning. And if they don't have meaning what's the point of playing games at all?