... It's How You Use It!

[Originally posted on 1Up.com]

Killer App - "A killer application (commonly shortened to killer app) is a computer program that is so useful or desirable that it proves the value of some underlying technology, such as a gaming console, operating system, or piece of computer hardware.

The definition is sometimes extended to include any instance of a general principle or feature that becomes so successful that people will assimilate the application and the principle. In that sense, the automobile could be a killer app for the reciprocating engine, the light bulb for electricity." - so says Wikipedia.com

They go on to list some killer apps for game consoles:

  • Nintendo Entertainment System: Super Mario Bros.

  • Sega Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Super Mario World

  • Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64

  • Sega Dreamcast: Soul Calibur

  • Microsoft Xbox: Halo: Combat Evolved

  • Microsoft Xbox 360: Gears of War

  • Nintendo Wii: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

  • Sony Playstation 3: Resistance: Fall of Man

I've been thinking about the idea of an application, or in this case more specifically a game, being the killer app for the Wii. At first I thought that this was the first time that there really wasn't a killer app that made me want a games-machine, but rather the innovative control. I mean, how can Twilight Princess be a killer app in it's own, if the game is also available for the GameCube which I already owned? No, instead it's the revolutionary controls that where the killer app, or more fittingly killer interface.

I thought that this was something unique, that this was the first time this had happened, but as I started thinking back - trying to remember what my personal killer-apps have been for previous systems - I realized that this is nothing new, in fact I have almost exclusively been convinced to get a system based on it's interface\accessibility and not an application.

My first gaming systems where not ones that I bought or wished for myself, but rather just available at home as my dad had bought them. I stared out gaming at an age of 5 on the Radioshack TRS-80 Color Computer, and then later an IBM PC-XT clone. However in '87 I discovered the NES at a friends house. Although the graphics where superior to my then monochrome PC, it was the interface that sold me. The gamepad was such a fantastic input device - navigating in all four directions with just the thumb, and the tactile feeling of the buttons! What a difference compared to the stale keyboard!

Remember, back then PC-keyboards where build for typing and typing only. It didn't support several keys being pushed/held down at the same time and there was a built-in delay of about a second between interpreting a button press as a "tap" and as a "hold", so when you pressed down a button to indicate - for instance movement in a particular direction - the character would often jerk, stop, and then start moving in the indicated direction. If you should then (god forbid) "accidentally" press down the button to move in the opposite direction before releasing the first one, everything would just stop responding until you let up all buttons and tried again.

So, this was what was most intriguing for me about the NES, it wasn't Mega Man, Castlevania or even Super Mario Bros, it was the gamepad, which made gaming at home feel like it did in the arcades, also the fact that the system hooked up to the 24" TV instead of the 14" monitor was no minus and it brought gaming out of the home-office and into the living room!

A few years later, as I moved back from the US to Sweden (where console gaming had gotten a kiddy-image) the PC was coming strong as the developers where now more accustomed to designing games specifically for the PC:s main input-devices, which where now extended to include the mouse (previously an oddity reserved for AutoCAD and PC Paintbrush) as well as the keyboard. As an illustration of this, the classic text-adventures had developed into the point-n-click adventures of the day, this was the time in the early nineties when Lucas Arts as well as Sierra where at their very best. The RTS was born and the PC was soaring, and as the Amiga and Atari ST:s (that spread themselves too thin trying to be both console and computer) crashed and burned, it was delivering game-experiences not possible on console, all due to it's interface.

For several reasons, the main one being lack of time I did less and less gaming, for several years I almost exclusively played StarCraft and the odd hour GTA on my horribly out-of-date PC. I had previously shunned the Gameboy, not so much for it's monochrome-display and tiny screen, but rather since I was seldom on the go and when at home I would much rather play on a more powerful system. Then one day it hit me, I spent 1 1/2 hour each day going to-and-from work - time that could be spent gaming - and now here was the GameBoy Color with graphics equivalent to that of the NES and with a slimmer form and lower price, this all of a sudden seemed like a viable proposition. Being able to play on the move was basically all I needed to convince me, I knew nothing of the games available, and basically just picked up Link's Awakening DX based on my previous experiences with Zelda - God just thinking about it makes me all gitty for Phantom Hourglass thought... ehm, I digress.

With a Nintendo system once more in my sights and on my mind, came the natural upgrades to GameBoy Advance (my first system to be purchased on release-day) and later GameCube (although this was a gift and probably not something I would have bought on my own at that point). So with a modern gaming console and controller under my roof and another in my pocket, what more could I ask for, with time I learnt to control FPS:s with the dual-analogs and my fingers danced over the buttons during Soul Calibur II fights. What could possibly beat this...

Then during an evening at the local amusement park with my colleagues, the answer lay at my feet. Yes, quite literally... Dance Dance Revolution... playing a game with your feet? Sure, this wasn't a completely new concept, it had been tried before, way back on the NES even, but back then I didn't quite see the fascination or playing Track & Field with your feet, and I wasn't about to make a fool of myself with some girly aerobics game! But here I was, "dancing" (or rather stomping in time) to the sound of Euro-disco in public with a colleague, and enjoying it as well as being cheered on by total strangers! And this was available for home-consoles? I had to have it!

After another GameBoy upgrade (from GBA to GBA SP) I traded my old GameBoy Adnvance for a PSOne and promptly bought myself a dance-mat, again I was never convinced by the software on its own that the PlayStation was a system for me, and honestly it hardly was, the only game I ever bought was Konami's Dancing Stage with the dance mat. PlayStation for me was really DanceStation.

A year later, the DS was announced and I was immediately intrigued by it's interface, after three iterations of GameBoys with no change of the input devices other than added buttons, the DS was a fresh new start. I glanced at the PSP but could already see where it was going and that did very little to entice me. Touching, is good...

Like with it's predecessor the games for PS2 did very little to convince me that I needed the console. In fact, six years into it's life I still hadn't even planned to get one. Enter Guitar Hero, or more specifically, the SG Controller, when I saw that first footage of games journalist at GameSpot and 1Up with it in action I knew I had to play this somehow. When I later experienced my first evening with Karaoke Revolution, the ball was already rolling and a PSTwo found it's way into my home shortly followed my a plastic guitar, two USB-mics and many discs of tracks to perform. Had someone taken all my other games away from me during this past year, I would have been quite content with my Guitar Hero and SingStar games!

So here we are, the Wii is here and wiimotes are lying quite comfortably among styluses, dance-mats, mics and SG Guitars and the odd-men-out in the games-drawer are surprisingly the WaveBird and DualShockII, trying to hold on for dear-life so as not to be chucked in a box in the basement with the GameBoys, PSOne controller and old GameCube-controllers...

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