Four-Twenty: Nintendo Labo Day

This past Friday was April 20, known in some circles as 4-20 or Four-Twenty. It’s not like it’s a true special day or anything but for Nintendo fans this year it’s going to be known as Nintendo Labo Day.

A couple of months ago Nintendo revealed their latest experiment, Labo, a series of new “toys” that are basically do-it-yourself crafts, made entirely out of cardboard. Right around the time this new product was unveiled, many Nintendo fans began cracking jokes immediately about the new venture. I even made a video that included my own lame joke.

Now that Nintendo Lab day has arrived the internet is crawling with a whole new assortment of videos reviewing the products. I didn’t want to get into the actual product line itself or even discuss the reviews. Instead I just wanted to contemplate the deeper meaning behind it’s existence and what it means for the future of Nintendo.

It’s not much of a secret to most Nintendo fans that the company started out as a maker of playing cards. What might be lesser known is Nintendo previously created card board toys back in the 1970’s. Even I didn’t know that but I did my share of research once Labo was announced. For me, however, I actually connected it back to the days of the Nintendo GameCube. During that period Nintendo had a product on the market known as the e-reader. This item combined trading cards with the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. This was the time when Nintendo really began working towards combining their home console and handheld markets. The e-reader worked with the GBA and the GC using GBA connectivity. Mostly this was done via the Game Boy Player.

What does any of this have to do with Nintendo Labo? If you take a look at Nintendo’s product cycles they tend to repeat themselves. There are certain patterns a person can see to get ideas into the insight of the future products Nintendo might be considering. One of the ways you can do this is look at their toys from pre-NES/Famicom lines. To this day Nintendo has made a concerted effort to create modern, digital versions of many of their previous entertainment products.

When the GameCube was announced Nintendo was in a low point where Sony was dominating them. The company responded by doubling down development of their more profitable hand held division, relying heavily on their lucrative joint-venture with The Pokemon Company. For all of their talk about keeping their video game consoles limited to playing games only, Nintendo released some videos on the GBA.

Around this time Nintendo began making strides into combining their two units. The connectivity was one product that was obvious. Eventually they continued combining the products until the Switch. While the Wii was a curve ball it also wasn’t entirely out of left field if you knew where to look. For starters, Nintendo invested heavily in VR in the 1990’s, they were the ONLY major video game company from the time to actually bring a VR product to market. If you look at the design of the Project Reality, it was clear they were contemplating making it a VR based system. Once it was obvious the technology wasn’t right yet, with the failure of he Virtual Boy, Nintendo distanced themselves from VR. However, they continued to make strides in making games more interactive and immersive. One thing they did was use features from the VB controller into the design of the GameCube controller. This was followed by the company re-introducing motion controls with the Wii, a control scheme they have incorporated into every home console they have brought to market since.

Again what does this have to do with Labo? If you think about it, Nintendo continues making strides into trying to make video games continually more immersive and interactive. What this leads me to believe is that combined with the continued success of the Switch and the strides Sony is making in VR and with the rise of Augmented Reality, I see Nintendo Labo as Nintendo’s next step towards realizing a truly interactive VR/AR hybrid that will make the company’s products even more unique. I can’t begin to imagine how this will play out, I do think it’s a hint at where they will be going next. Based on the time line, it makes me assume we won’t see the realization of this future tech they are clearly working on behind the scenes, until after the next generation. We saw them using cardboard (e-reader) with the GameCube, itself an extension of Virtual Boy, which was before the N64. Now we are starting to see the return to them using this technology to interact with a product that combines touch, portability, card board, motion controls and VR/AR concepts all in one. The reason Labo even works in the first place is their new HD Rumble and 3D sensors that are built into the Joy-Cons.

What we know from Nintendo’s history is they rarely abandon old tech, they just find new ways to adapt it to their next product line. I am anticipating the console that follows the Switch’s successor will probably incorporate all of the things we have seen attempted in the last few years. Again, I won’t try to predict what Nintendo will do, but I can safely assume the features we are seeing with Joy-Cons, Switch and Labo are here to stay, in one way or another.

The Dark Web Podcast Episode 17- Special Guest Sam Houston talks about his new promotion, The Rat rants on the NSA and Channel Awesome

This episode gets a little exciting. First up is a 30 minute interview with special guest world-famous professional wrestler Sam Houston. He talks about his time working with the WWF, his brother, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and his new upcoming wrestling promotion, All Pro Wrestling League, based in Texas.

I skipped talking about Roseanne this week instead I get into Shameless again. I also decide to dig a little deeper into the Channel Awesome controversy. I know I brought it up before but with new revelations I felt I needed had more to say.

I also make a bold statement during my NSA rant how I would prefer if my listeners were’t Rush Limbuagh fans after I learned his thoughts on computer hacking. Sorry for getting almost political again but I had to tackle something he said on his show Friday that didn’t sit well with me. Full disclosure, I know he is one of the most popular broadcasters out there and I certainly hope I get some of his audience, hell I’d be happy with just the people who tune in for the intro and change the station, so no harsh feelings. Just he gets under my skin when he attacks computer hackers without knowing what the hell he is saying. Not just him, anyone for that matter.

I also spend some more time talking about the revelation Sega is contemplating porting Sega Saturn and Dreamcast games to the Nintendo Switch.

I also quip I might consider changing the name of the podcast to “this guy says F%&K a lot.”

Model trains, Disneyland and Minecraft

In 1996 when I was 13 years old my family moved from a small town in Kansas to a small city in Nebraska. Once we moved thereĀ  discovered a department store that had a toy section that included a model train area. Between that and the model of he town on the film Beetlejuice I became interested in model trains.

Recently I learned that Walt Disney’s obsession with model trains is what inspired him to begin development of Disneyland. My own interest in model trains is what helped me develop a fondness for Sim City which in turn blossomed into my current strong interest in Minecraft.

It’s not much of a secret that the way I prefer to play Minecraft is to develop my own model towns. Complete with, you guessed it, trains. Okay Minecraft doesn’t actually include trains as a realistic option. However, it is possible to create a reasonable railroad look-a-like using mine carts, gravel and rails. The biggest downside is how time consuming world building can be in a game that requires a person to lay one square at a time, brick by brick.

Okay, so model train and the town building that goes along with it is also time consuming. However not brick by brick, square by square. The real difference is that in model train layout building you assemble model buildings one complete wall at a time. Now it occurred to meĀ  that in model train layout buildings you don’t really build the interiors, it would be difficult to glue miniature furniture and the like together on that scale.

This was when I realized that building towns in Minecraft didn’t have to be so time consuming if a person only focused on building the exteriors instead of decorating the buildings insides. The main reason this revelation became important to me was how much time I spent going through each building, placing beds building couches, book shelves and entire kitchen appliances. I finally decided if in physical model train building you only build the exteriors and then populate it with dressings like plants and animals.

The other day I was at Target and I picked up a Time magazine devoted to the history and development of Disneyland. During the course of reading the articles I learned Walt Disney himself was even more obsessed with model trains than me. His obsession lead him to building life-size miniature trains and buildings on a full scale in his own backyard. His wife learned that he was never going to be satisfied with building these towns on such a small scale so she pushed him into realizing his dream by developing a full sized theme park. The rest is basically history.

There was a time not that long ago when I had contemplated the idea of buying a piece of land and creating my own miniature town using easily to assemble buildings that I could dress up. This plan of mine is what started my journey into the world of Minecraft in the first place. I set out to create a version of that plan in a way that it would work within the structure of the game. Sadly, not too long ago I ended up losing my game save. All the work I had invested into this idea was lost. At the time I did have everything backed up a cloud save tied to my PS Plus account. I haven’t paid for my PS Plus account since January so I don’t even know if those cloud saves are even safe.

It’s kind of interesting learning about having something in common with one of the most famous men in Hollywood. Nonetheless it’s only been 1 week since I left my apartment behind and I am already experiencing what could be described as “Minecraft withdrawals” I do have the mobile version on my phone, it’s not quite the same. I am not torn between just hooking up my PS4 or seeing if I can purchase a copy of the game on either the Nintendo Switch, or the PC version for my laptop.

I already have the game on the Wii U but that console wasn’t nearly as portable as originally promised. I know the Switch version is supposed to be inferior to the PS4 version but also superior to the Wii U version. The only real reason I am leaning towards that version over the best version, the limitless PC game, is because the Nintendo specific stuff is too tempting. In fact the only reason I even have the Nintendo Wii U version is because of the Nintendo exclusive features. Truth be told it didn’t take very long for me to get bored with that version. Mostly due to the fact the worlds I can create in the PS4 version was vastly larger than those possible on the Wii U. There was also the fact I had already spent so much time building up worlds in the PS4 version. Now, of course, with having lost all of my saves it doesn’t matter as much which version I play considering I will be basically starting from scratch.

I had a lot of things I wanted to say about the Disneyland magazine. I think I might spend some more time digesting all of the information contained within before I dig into it further. At this point in time it’s been longer than I wanted since my last feature article. I figured this was as good a time as any to put something down. I guess they say you never know where inspiration is going to come from. I was thinking about the boring old small towns in the Midwest I used to pass through. At no point in my life would I have ever guessed that setting would have been inspiration for the most famous theme park in the world. If you think about it, you never know where great ideas will come from.