/// The Odd Joy of Nintendo’s Miiverse
I was skeptical of the Miiverse when I first started using the Wii U. I tend to use social networks in a limited fashion – message the friend whose email I don’t have, post links to my articles. So when it became clear that networking with strangers was going to be an integral part of my experience with a game like New Super Mario Bros U, I cursed our interconnected world and tried to steer clear.
Then something strange happened. I was struggling with a frustrating boss when I accidentally hit the “share on miiverse” button. I didn’t post, but I was connected up after that. Pretty soon, I could see other players post about their experience with the same levels. Things like “Big Fish + Mario = die.” Which is so true. I felt their pain.
From that basic function, I started to see other things popping up. Some user complained that their mom wouldn’t stop singing. Others scrawled across their little box with unformed rage scribbles. There were some moments of other languages and some stuff that made no sense. As someone who really doesn’t care what even close friends have to say on Facebook, I found it sort of engaging.
It’s a social network formed around a purpose. The real world equivalent might be going to a Nintendo-enthusiasts club rather than just a generic bar. Before you start interacting with other people, you have pieces of a common language – annoying levels, new strategies, and other things. In a strange way, it’s similar to the way that Facebook first took off – where Myspace just floated around in the ether, Facebook stood out by tying itself to the real-world communities of individual colleges.
The Miiverse has similar potential to develop. Not only does it function inside of games, it’s the first thing you see when you log into the system. You also see what games other people are playing, and you consider playing them yourself. With a userbase as committed as diehard Nintendo fans, I can imagine certain corners of the Miiverse developing into real, functional social networks, sort of like moderator-less subreddits.
We’re bound to encounter this sort of thing with the next Xbox and Playstation. Microsoft already has the beginnings of it with avatars and Xbox live, but it isn’t fully integrated the same way that the Miiverse is. I wouldn’t be surprised if Xbox moved ahead with full-Facebook integration, which would rob the Miiverse of some its particular quirks, while further establishing Xbox as the mainstream console. Whatever it is, it’s a form of social networking with a little more charm than generalist services, and I’m glad to see Nintendo pushing this weird little community.