Judging Journos Nintendo Labo VR Kit. How did they do?

In what was a rather typical week in gaming for some reason journos gave a lot of air time to that rape game, crap opinions about Anthem evolved and game journos all had the same opinion about Nintendo Labo VR Kit. It continues to be disheartening to us that games journalism just isn't very good still. The broader games industry has a wealth of issues from understanding employment law to widespread amoral attitudes foster on the forums and in spite of this rather than because of it, it produces those games we love to lose ourselves in.

Having a respected and professional industry of critics around it would also help a little bit to raise the perception and cultural standing of gaming instead, with rare exception, it's a race to the bottom for coverage of the hot topics and well, why read a hungry hack's regurgitated press release when you can watch your favourite streamer play the thing for four days straight instead. Considered critical opinion is very rare and many of those voices leave to the comics or film industries because it carries with it a shred more kudos and only widespread sleeze, sexual abuse, nepotism and financial mismanagement rather than rampant.

There's also the annoying trait that modern journalists have of eschewing any kind of connoisseurship by playing armchair CEO and giving one specific kind of financial success much more weight than it should have. Given that accurate data about games sales is still quite patchy and the fact that people who beg for food/rent money on Patreon in between article commissions perhaps don't have an especially useful opinion on business matters you'd think they'd stick to, you know, developing an expert opinion on the games themselves? Don't get us wrong, we're not asking for those ridiculous 'objective reviews' that incels seem to think could ever possibly be a thing but at the same time it's still refreshing to see evidence of at least two brain cells being rubbed together to create what might, from a distance, if you squint, be considered good writing about games.

So although this week had a broad choice of hot takes abut trivial things we'll have forgotten about in three days to weigh and measure good old game journalism against it was Nintendo's announcement of a Labo VR Kit that perhaps saw the shlockiest coverage this week. So naturally we'll use that as out completely objective dipstick.


What actually happened? Nintendo announced that a 4th Labo Toy-Con kit and several expansion kits would be coming out in April this year and a price point. The Labo kits are pitched as fun and educational craft kits that come with buildable cardboard peripherals that cleverly use the switch console and the joy on controllers in a range of ways to create, for the most part, shallow but novel gaming experiences. This 4th Labo Kit is themed around Virtual Reality and aside from a few press images of children with cardboard on their faces, not much more is known about the games themselves at this point.

How was it covered? Well rather than giving this announcement a bit of space until more details were known or you know assessing it for the very different gaming experience that this Labo series is aiming for, we ended up with the recycling of a limited stock of crowd sourced opinions to make cheap (and for the most part shit) copy of this 'story'/press release.

The Opinions From The Internet Are As Follows

a] The previous Labo kits now gather dust in the corner after one maybe two plays cf. much more expensive VR peripherals, Kinect (remember Kinect?), Xbox 360 etc. etc.

b] Lols cardboard

b(b)] Lols Virtual Boy

c] The specific phrase 'Nintendo is entering the VR market'

d] Something about VR pretty much being dead already but without qualification or links to the two years of articles every games news site dedicated to VR being the next best thing since 3D televisions, cloud based gaming etc. etc.

e] Isn't all this cardboard expensive for what it is? Penned by the same guy who has written that contrarion piece about how Anthem might be alright actually because it's a £60 product which might function at a basic level properly in two years and we sort of miss that from whatever Destiny we were on.

How Did They Do?

Wired perhaps had the shortest but most adult take being that that organ is trying to actual do journalism and isn't quite so Uroboros as the gaming specialist rags are espousing this as a cheap VR kit and Labo's target market.  Eurogamer ran with this trash leaving it to a commentor to read the bottom half of the press release with the actual info in it. Venture Beat has already written it off for everyone from the six press images.  Games Industry. Biz sensibly just ran the press release and on the podcast raised concerns about kids eyesight and the lack of a proper headset(?). Kotaku, well when did Kotaku last do journalism? Gamasutra, WOW. Gamasutra still hanging in there. Good for you. Lastly, Polygon accidentally faxed a Jack of Clubs to a Chinese wholesaler bless them.



The TGAM Take

Every now and then the industry gets a brain worm and everybody stops thinking. Their eyes move around the jaw moves up and down but they go into default mode. Unfortunately, this happened around VR (again) and despite nobody really being that interested, eye watering price points and almost total lack of a killer game or two, the games press and the industry would not fucking shut up about VR. Three years later and we're struggling to pick out more than 2 VR titles we'd recommend. The announcement of this Labo VR Kit, however, must have given energy to the dormant brain worms and got all the journalists jawing on about Nintendo entering the VR market even when they quite clearly aren't.

Instead, in our humblest opinion, the Labo series, much like 1-2-Switch, Nintendo Land, Wii Play Motion and Wii Play before that are quality products that act as a tech demo of sorts to show the potential of their hardware and, and we think this is too often overlooked, create formative and memorable experiences for younger or new gamers or gaming families. Unfortunately, perhaps gaming consumers, the wider industry and worst of all games journalists seem fixed in assessing all games against the latest face shooting games and the potential for commercial success. What we find particularly frustrating is that none of the ideas that Nintendo showcases in these titles listed above are ever really picked up and run with and we've seen on all the DS platforms, Wii, Wii U and inevitably it's happening on the Switch that game developers can't gravitate away from a very conservative spectrum of gaming possibilities. We've written about this before. Tanks! from Wii Play was our ironic game of the year for 2006, 2007 and 2008 simultaneously and barely got any column inches. Similarly, we'd have bought a thousand copies of any kind of game like Star Shuttle (our game of the year 2011) but instead the gravity of game development and general lack of creativity and keeps bringing us back to slightly different flavours of men with brown hair shooting other things with brown hair.

Interpreting this announcement as a direction change for Nintendo is especially misleading and we'd like to see more coverage along Wired's lines judging it for what it appears to be at the moment. Not every product has to be a fucking industry changer and have we not learned from failed experiments Kinect and VR that actually it might be a positive thing for consumers to be able to have a little play with tech in engaging ways without banking the whole farm on it? There were and are very few critics amongst the critics who don't just gobble up the latest line about the future of gaming entertainment and then act shocked when studios are shuttering because a gamble was taken on the allure of the new.

In short, how games journalists and news sites reacted to the Labo VR Kit announcement is just another microcosm of how games journalism is still hitting wide of the mark when it comes to opinions worth clicking on and for the time being continues to be a bit amateur hour.

Same time in ten years for a check in?



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