Kami Heart Nintendo Switch
I just wanted to share my experience with the Nintendo Switch to those who are interested and I thought that perhaps starting a reddit post could be a starting point. First of all, just to clarify that 'Kami' means 'We' or 'Us' in my language (Bahasa Indonesia) and I used because my experience with the Nintendo Switch have been uniquely communal. This is an unnecessarily long post (much apologies) but I just hope that can write everything down before I lost the moment for writing. Thank you for your time. ^_^
Kami Heart The Hybrid System
Impact to Choice
I was fortunate that I received the Nintendo Switch as a Birthday present from my wife on March 8, 2017 - the first week the Switch was released. And like everyone else who got their Switch ealy on, I was hooked on Breath of the Wild. Yes, Hyrule was undoubtedly a supreme experience on its own, but it was the Hybrid nature of the Switch that caught me off-guard about the overall experience of playing the newest adventures of Link.
Through my adult years; with marriage, family and work - I have learnt to plan my days by making time for things that are important and things that are urgent. Through this matrix, I slowly and crushingly admit to myself that playing video games is almost never important nor urgent, no matter the argument. I had seriously thought that the joy I got from video games would just be a fond memory of my past. When I first learned about the Switch and its portability, I was intrigued and cautiously excited by its potential. The excitement stemmed from the hope that the hybrid system could facilitate more choice for me, and that it would have more flexibility to fit into my daily schedules of things that are important and things that are urgent.
So it was a pleasant surprise to me, when I noticed the painless planning that I have to do to have time to play my Nintendo Switch. The difference with the Switch is that it allows me to comfortably find time rather than struggle to make time. If I have 30 minutes after work, I can play while having a cup of coffee at a café. If I have an hour before going to bed, I can play while my wife can still watch the TV (This is a BIG deal). If I am flying for work, I can play on the plane instead of hoping that the 1 hour flight will just fly by (sorry for the pun). It turns out, there are numerous times in a day where I can fit my games in, simply because I am no longer tethered to my TV or a computer to play. With the Switch, it did not feel selfish for me to play video games nor do I feel that I am compromising my priorities. To be clear, video games did not suddenly become more important or more urgent, it's just that the hybrid Switch makes it so it does not have to be either to be a viable choice. This impact to choice is literally changing my lifestyle. I don't have to juggle multiple time schedules to make 2 hours free, just so I can play my game. This is the promise of mobile / handheld gaming without compromising the kind of gameplay that I like. To me, the hybrid nature of the Nintendo Switch is not a gimmick, it’s a magic trick. I can play the same Breath of the Wild on my TV or at a Coffee Shop, and I don't think I'll ever get over how wonderful this seamless transition feels. The impact of the hybrid system was beyond my expectations, but to some extent, it was expected nonetheless. There is another, unexpected feature of the Switch, that could break the seamless experience of the hybrid system without it - the sleep mode.
For me, before the Switch and its sleep button, 30 minutes is meaningless to a gaming session. With the sprawling AAA games that I liked to play, I could barely progress in 30 minutes. But the sleep mode changes that. A 30 minutes play time on the Nintendo Switch is often a part of the 1- 2 hours total time I spent on the game that day. Moreover, the sleep button removes the frustration of having to stop playing. Coming back to the important/urgent matrix, the urgent part often comes when I am playing video games on my TV and consequently, I have to stop playing. The frustration of scrambling to save or to just turn it off completely was frankly, the worst part of this hobby before I had the Switch. I could not just simply ‘pick up where I left off’. Whenever I have to stop playing, I would not know when I could make those 2 hours again. It could be a couple of days, a week or even months, before I could resume the game... Just between you and me, this is why I never get to finish The Witcher 3. It was devastating to open up my save file for The Witcher 3 and every time I had to try to remember where I was or what it was that I was doing, the momentum was lost. After several times of losing momentum, the impetus to play was just lost completely... The sleep button is not exclusive to the Switch, but the hybrid nature is what makes the sleep mode integral. That 30 minutes in the Cafe? I can press the sleep button when I am heading out. That 1 hour session before bed? I can press the sleep button when my wife wants to talk (again, BIG deal). That play session on the plane? I can press the sleep button when it's time to land. The sleep function is crucial to the seamless experience, because 30 minutes of play is now substantial. And I know that it will be easy to find another 30 minutes to continue my game and finish that shrine I was in or climb that tower I was heading towards. Unlike my experience with the Witcher 3, the momentum of my adventure in Hyrule was never lost and I got to complete it.
With the newfound time for playing video games, the Switch did not only change when and how I play games, but also how I spend the time with the games I played. Those first few weeks of exploring Hyrule, battling Bokoblins, completing Shrines, finding Koroks and defeating Ganon, would have been a completely different experience if it weren’t done through a hybrid system. With the Switch, I get to play Breath of the Wild for 1-2 hours everyday; instead of 2-3 hours a couple of times a week. As it was so much easier to find time to play Breath of the Wild, I consequently did not feel like I was wasting time whenever I followed my curiosity rather than the supposed ‘story’ of the game. It was the first time in a long time, since I felt the urge to simply play a game rather than the rush to complete it. After the credits rolled on Breath of the Wild, I surprised myself by immediately starting a new game just because I wanted to play again. In my second playthrough, after gliding down the Great Plateau, I knew that this dear hobby of mine is now possible to be in my future and not just a memory of my past. The Nintendo Switch has significantly influenced how I want to play video games.
Is it on the Switch?
Since the launch of the Switch, I hear and/or see the following remark, "Is it on the Switch?", so many times that it could almost become a catchphrase for the console. It is a question that I also find myself asking quite frequently when I see a new game (or an old game). But why is that? Why did I become so interested in other games coming to the Switch? I’ve come to the thought that the lack of gimmick on the Switch is why I am eager for more games on the device. …. (Please let me explain). Earlier in the blog, I have mentioned that the hybrid nature does not feel like a gimmick and more like a magic trick - even 3 years later, that feeling of wonder still rings true. However, the occasions in which that hybrid magic trick has a chance to dazzle me, gradually declined. There are less and less instances where I use my Switch on the TV as I found myself using the Switch more often in handheld mode. During the first year of owning the Switch, I began to settle on a 1:5 ratio of TV vs Handheld mode. The dock becomes more of a charging dock rather than a dock to connect to the TV. Because most of my time with the Switch is as a Handheld experience, the Hybrid benefit becomes much less apparent for me. But because of that, I began to notice just how good it is to have traditionally-console games in the palm of my hands.
I think it was Kotaku (I could be wrong, as I could not precisely recall where I found this quote) which said that Nintendo Switch is more of a portable console that can also be played on the TV - which was contrary to Nintendo's messaging of Nintendo Switch being a “Home console that you can take with you”. My initial thought of the Nintendo Switch generally agrees with Kotaku, but my experience with the console helped me understand Nintendo’s messaging. The Switch is a great handheld device because it is not relegated to what I used to consider as “Handheld-Games”. Before the Switch, I always have this perception that console games and handheld games are inherently different. One is not better than the other, but the processing power and size of games are so different that I could not expect the same gaming experience. As a handheld device, the Switch did not have that issue of perception. Playing Breath of the Wild in the palm of my hands proved to me that the future is here, there is no longer a chasm between console games and handheld devices because it has been blurred by the Nintendo Switch. But more importantly, playing on the Nintendo Switch felt familiar. There is only a single screen. There are no styluses. Touch Screen controls are additional / optional. I don’t have to learn motion controls (mostly). There is no significant difference between how I used to play on the TV versus how I play my games on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode. I only focused on the single screen and the buttons layout are practically identical to most other consoles I have used. The muscle-memory I have built through the years did not have to be re-learnt. Which is basically saying, that the Switch is actually … pretty plain. Without its Hybrid capability, the Switch feels more like a next-gen handheld and not the wild and zany experiments Nintendo is known for. And at least to me, that is a good thing.
The familiarity of playing the Switch in handheld mode made it so much easier for me to hope that more games, that I do want to play, can come to the Switch. The experience I had with Breath of the Wild makes me think, “Well, why not?”, if I can play Breath of the Wild on the plane or in the cafe then why not other console-games as well. The first real test for me was Skyrim. I have played hundreds of hours of Skyrim on the Playstation, thus I was certain that if playing Skyrim in handheld mode feels off in any way, I would notice it. When Skyrim was released on the Switch, I think I may be one of the earliest people who downloaded it to my Switch. The added DLCs made it even sweeter as I never had the chance to really sunk my teeth on the DLCs. I can recall that I was nervous about it because I really wanted it to play well on the Switch. After the character creation was done and I was out and about in Whiterun - I felt relieved. The Switch basically fades into the background and I am left with Skyrim in the palm of my hands. I spent dozens and dozens of hours in Skyrim again and it was more enjoyable because it was easier to find the time to play on a handheld device.
Between Breath of the Wild and Skyrim, there were other games as well that shaped my instinct to ask “Is it on the Switch?”. I was introduced to the world of Indie games in the first year of owning the Nintendo Switch. The world of Indie games was not something that I put a lot of attention to in the past, but fortunately (perhaps ‘unfortunately’ to a lot of other people) there were not a lot of games available on the Switch for me to play. I became interested in just trying to see what is available for me to play and Indie games became the answer. There were 2 particular experiences that I want to point out which was important to my subsequent behavior towards video game purchases - Shovel Knight and Stardew Valley. I was pleasantly surprised at just how good and modern Shovel Knight feels to play but, more importantly, it felt worth the time I put into it. Indie games became viable for my play-time on the Switch. Then came Stardew Valley. I was blown away by just how engrossing the game is to play. It was so good that even my non-gamer wife was drawn to it. Stardew Valley was important for 2 things; it solidified the awesomeness of Indie Games and showed that other types of games also felt great to play on the handheld Switch.
After Skyrim, Shovel Knight and Stardew Valley, I began asking “Is it on the Switch?” for more games to play in my Handheld Switch. Over the years, Nintendo Switch kept pushing the bar on what is actually playable on the system. The announcements of games like Doom, The Witcher 3, Divinity: Original Sin 2, The Outer Worlds (sadly not so good) or Wolfenstein have not ceased to amaze me of just how much the Switch is capable to run. To me though, the announcement of Civilization 6 on the Switch was the one-time I actually squealed at a Nintendo Direct. I LOVE strategy games, and Civ is way up there in my favorites list. I have never ever imagined that I could be playing a game like Civ6 on a handheld device. I did not think twice of buying Civ6 when it launched on the Switch system. The experience of playing Civ6 on the Switch vastly broadens what I want to play on the device. Civ6 also made me realize that most of the types of games that I like to play on console and PC are now available for me to play on a handheld device. Whilst there are compromises on the graphics front and the framerate on a lot of these games, to me they do not feel compromised to play. It felt like this is the game the developers wanted me to play and not some watered-down version. That feeling of familiarity is absolutely crucial in making the handheld experience indispensable to my lifestyle. Now I can choose to play massive games like Civ 6 or delightful Indie games like Shovel Knight without thinking about which device I should play them in.
Instead of asking “Is it on the Switch?” I gradually become more proactive and ask “What is on the Switch?” (better discoverability on the eShop would really help). I actively searched for “Best RPG on Switch”, “Hidden Gems on Switch”, “Best Strategy on Switch”, “Best Ports on Switch” and so on, which is a behavior that I don’t really do in my previous gaming devices.. I can honestly say that in the past I bought a gaming device because I want to play games, but now, I buy games because I want to play on the Switch. My whole mindset towards video games have changed and the role of the gaming device has become the goal rather than the means. Consequently, for the first time, I am experiencing a ‘backlog’ problem that I never had before. Handheld gaming has proved to be so impactful to my lifestyle in general, that I hope that Nintendo will continue this route of making handheld systems a priority for its future.
Discovering The “Switch”
With the lifestyle-changing impact of the Handheld Switch experience, it came as a significant surprise to me that the announcement of the Nintendo Switch Lite did not excite me. I should have wanted the handheld-only system more than the original Switch. Initially, I attribute the ‘Waste of Money’ reason for my lack of excitement. But instead, I began to recognize and ‘re-discover’ what “Switch” actually means to me.
The Switch is a hybrid console that can be played on the TV or in handheld; that perception of choice between TV and handheld was important in communicating what the Switch is, but it could not fully illustrate what the feature actually does for my gaming experience. I debated whether I actually needed the “Switch” and would benefit more from having a handheld-only-system because around 80% of the time I played on my Switch is in handheld mode anyway. To some extent, I think the portability aspect of the Switch grabbed too much of my attention, and consequently too much of my appreciation, early on with the Switch. Eventually though, the other 20% of my time with the Switch, becomes essential to my experience. Through several key games, the “Switch” feature becomes much more than just a choice between Handheld and TV.
Let me further illustrate this by briefly describing my experience with the Wii. My family and friends were quite fond of the Wii experience back in its heyday. Games like Mario Party, Wario Smooth Moves and, of course, Wii Fit were fond memories for us. But given the way the Wii is, it felt that I should only be playing games that utilized its motion controls - any other control scheme, felt like it should be played elsewhere. I was fortunate enough that I was able to have my Playstation + Laptop at the same time. So for games that I want to play (e.g. Skyrim, Dragon Age: Origins, Infamous, Uncharted, Fallout, Red Dead Redemption, Last of Us, Civilization, SimCity, etc.) I get to play separately on my own devices. Consequently, I grew up with the notion that Nintendo games are objectively different; Nintendo games are fun and quirky to be played with many people while the games that are on other consoles are more action and/or story heavy and games on PC are more suited for strategy / simulation games. With such perception of Nintendo games and the wacky usage of the motion control, it rendered the ‘Wii experience’ to be singularly specific and situational. Thus my time was divided around 80% with my games and 20% with Wii games. Looking through this perspective, this 80-20 dynamic has not really changed with my time with the Switch. That 20% are mostly the kinds of games that I remember playing with the Wii. In other words, that other 20% is when I 'Switch' to that Nintendo experience that has always been enjoyed by my families, friends and myself. Well, to be precise, I think that my 20% is somewhat divided into 4 types of experiences - Local Multiplayer, Motion Control, Gyro/Online Multiplayer, and Joy-Con.
One of the main reasons why the Nintendo Switch was compelling for me was the near-certainty that Nintendo will deliver good local Multiplayer experiences. My wish is that the Switch will not end-up like my Playstation, which was only played by me. The first local Multiplayer game that I got was SnipperClips and it was a superb novel experience that my wife and I shared together. The experience was so good in fact that I wanted to have more games to play in local multiplayer immediately. I know my wife loves puzzle games, so I got Puyo Puyo Tetris for us to play. Those initial multiplayer experiences were simple and delightful, as well as cementing the notion that the Switch is the right choice for local gameplay sessions with others. Then... Mario Kart 8 deluxe was released. The last time I played Mario Kart was on the Nintendo 64 and much has changed since then. It is no surprise to me that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is one of the highest selling games on the Switch, the game is excellent. Sure enough, the game became the best way to fully utilize the unique capability of the Nintendo Switch - it is so easy to pass on a Joy-Con and start racing immediately. I have played local multiplayer Mario Kart in so many places and with so many different people that I somehow became the Nintendo Uncle or the Nintendo Guy. A dedicated handheld device would not allow for such experiences and interactions. Sure, I don’t play local multiplayer games all the time but those moments were enabled solely because I have the Switch and not another device. After Mario Kart 8, I now keep a lookout on more games that would be great to play in local multiplayer. Games like Overcooked, Mario Party and Just Dance are some of the games that have also enabled those joyous experiences together.
Of that 20% of my time on the Switch, local multiplayer is probably the experience I spent the most time on. Very close second, is the time I spent with the clever ways in which the motion controls are used. Arms was the game that became the catalyst for the experience. Compared to the days of the Wii, the motion controls in Arms, and thus the Switch, feels far more measured and deliberate. I can’t just waggle aimlessly, there has to be intent on my movements, and I learn to appreciate the thought and care that was put into designing a game experience based on 2-motion controls. Additionally, it wasn’t until much later that I realized the ease to the set up (or lack-off set up?) to start playing Arms. One of the more annoying aspects of the Wii was the calibration and I experienced none of that pain during my time with Arms on the Switch. After Arms, I thought that it was a nice and quirky experience to dabble but not exactly something that I thought I would put much investment into. I thought wrong. The ease of the set-up and the weightiness of the motion controls was seeded in my mind and I became more open to experiences of the same type. When Fitness Boxing was announced I would never have given it a second thought if it were not for my experience with Arms. And for some reason, I got more out of Fitness Boxing compared to what I remember from Wii Fit. My wife and I got kinda into it and we also bought Zumba to spice up the experience. And it's not just at home, whenever I have to travel for work, I have used Fitness Boxing to get a quick workout in my hotel room. Then came Ring Fit Adventure, which immediately became a day-one purchase for me after the great work-out that I got from Fitness Boxing and Zumba. To me, Ring Fit Adventure is a fantastic evolution of motion controls and the possibilities that it could bring to users.
Gyro-controls was always something that I thought was unnecessary but at the same time, I was curious at how good it actually is to use as a control mechanic. Luckily, I caught wind of the hype around Splatoon2 and was genuinely curious on what seemed to be a good implementation of the gyro-controls. That was honestly the reason why I bought Splatoon 2, I was curious about its gyro-controls. Splatoon 2 was the kind of game that I thought I would never enjoy, but it turned into something that I value my time for. The gyro controls in Splatoon 2 were very easy to adapt and, more importantly, crucial to the experience. Splatoon 2 was also the first game where I participated in online multiplayer. I never thought I would enjoy playing such a game because video games used to be entertainment reserved for me and people I know, but not with strangers. After understanding the rush of playing multiplayer online and getting the hang of gyro controls, I became interested in finding out more games that offer similar experience or controls. The other game that I used Gyro controls in, was Fortnite. Fortnite was all the rage early on with my time with Switch and since it was free, I thought I’ll try it out. I played for a season and I could really appreciate how video games have truly evolved over the years; let me tell you, playing Fortnite in a cafe, with my shoddy mobile hotspot and perhaps close to 99 other players online, have taught me about the vast potential of the technology that we have and the kinds of experiences it can deliver. The gyro controls in Fortnite makes the experience more frantic, especially the build battles - I wasn’t at all good at playing Fortnite but the manic experience I had was truly memorable. Gyro gameplay makes me interested not only in games with gyro-controls but also led me to Online Multiplayer or Battle Royale games - Warframe and Spellbreak are some of the games I’m looking forward to trying out as well.
Then comes the surreal experience of what I like to call the ‘Joy-Con games’. Of all the types of experiences I have had with the Switch, the Joy-Con games are probably the least-time spent, but it makes up for it through its crazy inventiveness. There were only 2 games where I have had substantial playtime with Joy-con games; 1-2 Switch and Labo. I was not looking to buy 1-2 Switch but it happened to be bundled with my initial purchase of the Switch. Now, I’m not saying that 1-2 Switch is a great game, but it was like a fascinating demo on what could be achieved through the Joy-Cons. There were 2 minigames that stood out to me the most - the ‘marbles inside a box’ and the ‘lock-picking’ games. These 2 mini-games really showed what HD Rumble can provide to the gamer; I could really feel that there are distinct marbles from the Joy-Cons and I could really feel the ‘click’ in the lockpicking mini-game. I genuinely look forward to games in the future that could utilize these experiences in their gameplay. Which then leads to the second experience I had with these ‘Joy-Con Games’ - Nintendo Labo. The announcement of Nintendo Labo was distinctly memorable for me as it showed to me the kind of mindset that exists in Nintendo. The most fascinating contraption that they showed in the Nintendo Labo reveal was the RC Car toy-thingy. The fact that the ‘console’ becomes the controller and the joy-con becomes the interactive toy, was delightfully weird and felt very Nintendo-like. The role reversal of the controller and the console revealed to me that Nintendo has no real bounds on what they will experiment on with the technology that they have. I personally tried to get into the Labo experience but only able to get the VR Labo which unfortunately does not agree with me as I got quite nauseous from too much VR. Nonetheless, I got a glimpse at what Nintendo is willing to invest their development time and money to explore new opportunities for their gamers. It is refreshing to see a company in a consumer-tech-hardware industry to focus their efforts in exploring what is possible right now, rather than the continuous obsession on the ‘next-big-thing’.
These Local Multiplayer sessions, Motion Control games, Gyro-based/Online Multiplayer experiences and Joy-Con novelties are the kinds of enriching playtimes that makes-up around 20% of my time with the Switch. Even though these experiences are not the main way I play games, they are still essential to the whole Switch experience. They have become indispensable to why I’ve come to adore the system and spotlights what that age-old saying, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, really means.. This is how I discover that the ‘Switch’ is far more than just TV vs Handheld. It is more about how those different play-modes can facilitate distinct and nuanced experiences. These additional ‘modes’ are certainly not the main reason why I would recommend the original Switch, but it is 100% the reason why I am very reluctant to get any handheld-only / TV-only system in the future - it's a new benchmark of what I hope to get in my gaming experience. The Switch and its Joy-Con, with all of its glaring and infuriating flaws, enables something delightful and unique.
Kami are Gamers at Heart
With all of the time I have spent on the Nintendo Switch, I still ask the question “Am I a Gamer?”. It is surprisingly difficult for me to answer that question. I can not really relate to the Gamer Identity as it does not reflect who I am in general. Instead of the Gamer Identity, I have discovered something else which I could relate to - the Gamer Passion. Having the Nintendo Switch made me more proactive in Google searches relating to video games and thanks to the algorithms of the Internet, I am gradually exposed to the wider scope of the video game culture. I used to have a broad-yet-shallow interest in popular culture and would explore the world of Movies, Music, TV, Comics and Video Games in equal amounts of time. But now, most of my exploration has pivoted to the world of Video Games - and what a deep world it is. I have subscribed to a myriad of YouTube Channels covering different aspects of Video Games. I made a Twitter account and Discord account, both for the very first time, because I want to get more connected to the gaming world. I searched for documentaries regarding Video Games and tried to learn the history of Video Games. I wanted to know how Video Games are actually made. And what I have found is an immense sense of passion by so many people towards this medium. I was swept up by the sheer amount of personalities, legendary figures, consequential scandals, innovations, contentious discussions, hilarious anecdotes, controversies, wholesome moments, speculative theories, fandoms, epic milestones, toxic comments, business woes, triumphs, tragedies, nostalgia, and heartfelt stories throughout the history of video games. There is a tangible sense of active community within this world of video games that is quite different from other popular-culture communities. From my perspective, and I can be very wrong about this, the sense of passion that I got from the video game world is well-shared across its participants. In most cases, I do not sense that Game Developers are distant to its Players, compared to the distance that I sensed from other types of creators and their fans. The ‘closeness’ of developers and players have manifested in some genuinely hype moments or genuinely distressing moments. But I believe that it all stems from the passion of being ‘Gamers at Heart’, we in the video game world truly love this medium. And in that sense, rather than saying that “I am a Gamer”, I can sincerely say that I am now a proud and active participant of the Gaming Community.
Speaking of gamers at heart, I would like to wrap things up with a small dedication to the late Satoru Iwata. Unfortunately, I came to understand the life and impact of Satoru Iwata only after his passing as I was not too engrossed in video gaming culture in the past. With my experience of having the Nintendo Switch and having a better understanding of the intent that Iwata had with his Blue Ocean strategy, I have to say that I am grateful for his work and vision. I thought that it was just a cool quote when he said that he is a gamer at heart, but experiencing his influence firsthand through the Switch, the quota takes on a whole new meaning to me. It is my understanding that Iwata saw a massive gap between so-called ‘casual gamers’ and ‘hardcore gamers’ and wanting to create something to fill that gap. I think it is fair to say that the Wii did not bridge the gap, but instead created a new wave of casual gamers. The Wii U was, in my opinion, the Beta-Switch, it tried to convert the newly casual gamers into something a bit more involved but not necessarily asking the commitment usually reserved for the hardcore gamers. But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?) the Wii U failed to do so. And this is the point where I have come to immensely respect Satoru Iwata. He did not abandon his vision nor did he double-down on that vision, instead he adjusted and in fact took an even greater risk by starting the development on the Nintendo Switch. If we take all the hardware and software reported sales during the Satoru Iwata era prior to the Switch, then we are looking at 330+ Million consoles and 2+ Billion games sold. He was risking all of those potential sales by focusing solely on a single console with an unproven experimental concept. That took some major cojones. It would take a special kind of person to convince an entire company to that kind of risky vision. And it would take a special kind of leader to have his vision realized by the company he left behind. It would seem to me that Satoru Iwata was that special person and was that special leader because the Switch did launch and again shook the market. I was in that Blue Ocean. I was in between the casual gamers and hardcore gamers, and I have found my home in Nintendo Switch.
submitted by Ilolio388