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Self-Help Games


US Box Art
  The first thing I wanted to talk about on my blog was something that kind of just hit me today. It all started today when I went to go take my SAT test. You see after I finished my test my mind was on to things. My first thoughts were obviously about how well I did on my test scores but also about what I could possibly talk about here today that would be even decently interesting. So then it just hit me. The two thoughts came together into one. Brain Age. I know, crazy. What an odd game to just come as your starting topic. But then it just makes sense. Why do you take SAT tests? Yes, I know you take them to get into good colleges and all. But what I mean is why do the colleges want your SAT test scores? It's because they want to know how smart you are. And why do they let you take them multiple times? That is because they want you to learn from your past times taking it and to do better net time. Now back to my main point. When I compared this to Brain Age I was actually a little shocked at the similarities. I was going through them in my head on the way home from the campus. And then I realized that there has been a very popularized game on the Nintendo DS that is just a game about tests. 
Now I consider myself still a teenager but I don't think I am very far off from saying that most adults out there hated tests when they were in school, and I know that the vast majority of kids now, if not all, hate tests at school. But then this brings me to my next question I thought about. If Brain Age is just a video games of tests than why is it so popular adn liked by so many people. That's when it hit me again. The answer is that it is a sort of self help game. The branding for this entire franchise of Brain Age games is all about making you smarter, making you better. So I really started to question that concept. Will people really go out and buy games like this just because it's a "self-help" game. 
When I started thinking about the real success of "self-help" games I was almost enlightened in a way. It all came at me at once. These games for whatever reason are moneymaker games. The clear distinction that I could think of was Wii Fit. That is probably one of the most successful games on the Wii. I know what some would say to that. They would say, "most people just bought the Wii Fit game for the Balance Board." But now think about this. What other games did you play on that Wii Balance Board that was so good that you had to buy this whole package for it. I don't think there was many if not any. Now everyone that played that game maybe kept playing for a week to see if the thing works or is fun or not. But probably not many stuck with it. It's probably now more for the younger kids to just play the mini-games on it because those are marginally fun. But the genius that I saw was that everyone wanted to at least try it. And when people saw a spike in sales and the marketing behind that game, there's where the next waves of people came in and started buying it to try it out for themselves. And I think that is what caused this game to become one of the biggest selling games on the Wii. Now I also think that this was the same kind of process for Brain Age, but maybe at a much lesser extent. I mean they're still continuing to ship out these kinds of games with Cooking Coach. That is probably one of the farthest things from a game that they are shipping out. I mean all you do in that game is learn how to cook. It's just a game full of recipes. That's all it is. But they've seen from past experiences that this kind of stuff works and that's why they have somewhat of a marketing campaign behind it. I don't know if this game will have any sort of sales but I can say I kind of hope it doesn't to show that we still want our games in our "self-help" games too.
What causes these games to sell is not the actual quality of how well they make you smarter or make you more fit. I mean I don't think I've ever seen anyone become super fit from Wii Fit. But what compels the average gamer, or more likely the average non-gamer that has maybe a Wii or a DS, to buy these games is that the concept of playing that game that also improves you in some way while playing it. I really do believe that this is the big secret. Or at least a theory.
Now maybe one last thought on this subject before I wrap things up is that from all these titles that I have mentioned above, what do they all have in common besides being these "self-help" games. It's that they are all being made by Nintendo. Now if you want to know which platform I think has the best business smarts is Nintendo. I know that they don't have the great support from fans and fan boys like Microsoft and Sony have. But I do know that Nintendo definitely knows how to sell. I think that Nintendo hit a goldmine on these "self help" games earlier than any of the other platforms did. Now I do know that the Xbox and PS2 had some early fitness games like My Fitness. But I don't think they had the kind of marketing for that that Nintendo has. I also think that some of the credit does ave to go with the peripheral as well. That balance board made it accessible to the average person as well as the gamer because like the old fitness games it was easy to use, you just used your body, but it also gave you feedback of if you were doing it right. I think the combination of those two features made Wii Fit the success that it is today along with the concept of the whole thing like I said before and marketing. I think we're just starting to see the other platforms catch on with this idea with their own motion controls and their own fitness games with them. I know that the next edition of the EA Sports Active game will be coming to the PS3 Move and I also think that the Natal for the Xbox 360 will have their own fitness game as well for it. I think that they are realizing that magic combination of simplicity and feedback that their past few fitness game attempts have failed.
Now i think that was pretty good for a first real blog post topic. For anyone still reading this if you thought that this was interesting at all I'm gonna keep this actively going on my blogs page on my profile here on Giant Bomb. I am gonna try and do a new topic almost everyday. I will try and keep them at least a little interesting like this one (if this one was interesting at all to you guys). But some I know will be better than this so there is some relief. Thanks for reading.