When I first brought my Wii U home last week, I expected it might be the excellent New Super Mario Bros. U that kept me up using my shiny new console into the wee hours. But that wasn't what did it. Instead, much to my surprise, it was the Miiverse that captured my attention more than anything else.
Nintendo's new social environment lets players post brief messages about games, and I had some fun with this. After completing levels in Mario, I was sometimes prompted to express my feelings on those levels with a rhyme, and when I got stuck at a certain point, I liked being able to include a screenshot in a post as I asked for assistance. It was other people's contributions, however, that kept me up for a few hours, happily browsing the Miiverse, giving many posts an emphatic Yeah! (the Miiverse equivalent of a Like on Facebook).
"Seeing the ways in which people touted their victories was more social and more joyous than looking at a list of achievements or trophies in a friend's profile has ever been."The posts that elicited the most enthusiasm from me weren't the examples of clever wordplay, though many of these got a few chuckles out of me. No, it was the drawings sketched on the Wii U pad and shared in the Miiverse by my fellow users that kept me skimming through communities, looking for the next demonstration of impressive artistry or the next humorous little doodle.
There are no achievements or trophies to be earned on the Wii U--at least not at this point--but this hasn't stopped artistically inclined people from celebrating their own accomplishments. One drawing I saw showed Mario sporting a necklace with five shining stars, similar to those your New Super Mario Bros. U profile is bestowed with when you've earned 100 percent completion in the game. Many users included screenshots next to their drawings to provide visual proof of the feats they were celebrating.
Immediately, such drawings made me feel a sense of camaraderie with these players. I felt that, with a simple click of the Yeah! button or a quick comment, I could join in celebrating their success. Seeing the ways in which people touted their victories was more social and more joyous than looking at a list of achievements or trophies in a friend's profile has ever been. Of course, not every battle in every game goes your way, and the drawings reflected this. One ZombiU player mourned the survivors she felt she had failed, with a row of tombstones sketched to honor their sacrifices. Communicating in this way encourages empathy. Players seem more likely in the Miiverse than in other gaming communities to reach out to each other, sharing in each other's victories and losses, rather than lashing out at each other.
"Miiverse is already a bit more than just a social network supporting the games available on the Wii U. It's something of an attraction in itself."Not every drawing is about a specific in-game success or failure, though. Some of my favorites were those that celebrated the connections players felt to their favorite characters, such as the drawing by user RachieFace of herself in a Mario cap. Other drawings rang in the Wii U era, like Josh's stylish sketch of Mario stepping into the world of high definition. Plenty of people are just having fun with Nintendo icons, like Danimal's drawing, on the Batman: Arkham City board, of Mario soaring through the air sporting a cape and cowl. Others are lobbying to see some of their favorite characters make an appearance in the next Super Smash Bros. game. Still others are creating precise-looking pixel art, demonstrating the sort of rigid results you can get from your Wii U sketches if you put in some serious time. And many just seek to make you smile, like Player 1's glimpse into the mind of Yoshi, and J.C.'s speculation about rejected Nintendo Land attractions.
This is all just with the very limited tools users have at their disposal now. Miiverse is already a bit more than just a social network supporting the games available on the Wii U. It's something of an attraction in itself. When I fire up the console, my first stop is usually the Miiverse, where I see what the users I follow have been up to and look for new people who are doing interesting stuff with the Wii U's stylus. I love that the Miiverse provides players a platform, limited though it is, to express themselves creatively, to celebrate the games and characters they love, and to connect with like-minded people.
This is the infancy of the Miiverse, which may be only hinting at what it can become. How wonderful would it have been if Mario Paint had let you share your creations with the world? Perhaps now we can have that. People have created such delightful things already; if the Miiverse eventually offers people Mario Paint-like tools for drawing, music, and animation, the imaginative creations we'll see from some users should be extremely impressive indeed.
I really like what the Miiverse is at this point. I don't know how many lewd drawings or foul-mouthed comments Nintendo is nuking every day in order to maintain the friendly vibe of the community and make it feel like a place where people can just enjoy celebrating the games they like and their own accomplishments within those games, but I hope this mood is maintained. And as the Miiverse grows, I hope the tools it gives users grow, too. I really want to see what some of you might do, given the opportunity.
Visit our gallery of Miiverse artwork to see some of the sketches users have created.