Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Satoru Iwata on Friend Codes, Shitcocks

Nintendo president Satoru Iwata on Friend Codes:

First of all, I don't think the current system we have with friend codes is perfect. However, if it's an online world where you can get access to anybody without any restrictions, I as a father do not feel like allowing my daughter be engaged in that kind of world.
I can appreciate a parent not wanting their child subjected to the X-Box Live netherworld of shitcocks and skull-fucking idiocy. That's a sensible stance for a responsible parent to take. The problems, though, are in thinking that Friend Codes are a safeguard against this and restricting all users to Friend Codes.

Friend Codes don't protect your kid.
Friend Codes limit the community in which a child can participate online; one can only play online games with people on one's Friend List. But what controls the Friend List? GameFaqs, Gaming Forums, and a plethora of online sources provide children with the codes of people they do not know. Any child can add the friend code of "CandyMan69" to their Animal Crossing game and so collect peaches with CandyMan69 provided that CandyMan69 has their Friend Code as well. A flaw in the system? Yes. Friend Codes are the illusion of control against predators but actual control against playing with random people online.

Not everyone needs Friend Codes
This is, I think, the important issue. Yes, we can nitpick Friend Codes and question their utility in protecting children. But the larger issue is that not everyone needs Friend Codes. There are some people who are suited to the X-Box Live method of playing with random other people. Some people would enjoy the ability to play Animal Crossing with random other people. Limiting these users out of a desire to create the illusion of safety for minors is nonsense. So, what is sensible?

Make Friend Codes Optional
It is entirely sensible to create a system some can use and others can ignore. There is no problem with restricting minors to Friend Codes while opening up an online community to others who do not necessarily need to be protected from Pedophiles by the sensible middle-aged loli-loving men at Nintendo. Supplanting parent responsibility with a top-down method of controlling user interaction is just silly. Providing multiple channels of online play, multiple approaches to the online community would be a sensible approach. Leave Friend Codes in place for users who only ever want to interact with people whose Friend Codes they have. That's fine. But there also needs to be an open community which can revel in random matchups and the hurling of "shitcock" and "jewlizard" at one another.

We oughtn't abandon the hope of protecting minors from shitcocks. But we need to realistically assess the situation and consider the merits of Friend Codes rather than rush to the "protect teh childrenz" defense and ignore reality.


Roscoe said...

yeah, but really, you can only get CandyMan69's friend code by facing a mirror and reciting the name about 70 times.

And really, you're gonna lose count and screw it up.

_J_ said...

I don't know what that means.

Roscoe said...

.. Wiki Candyman.

_J_ said...


I was talking about this guy.

Roscoe said...

You ruins mah jokes, always with the lack of context knowledges.

You are hereby dubbed the Exclusionist.

kylebrown said...

I have no problem with friend codes. When I want to play a multiplayer game, it is because I want to play with people I know. Sure, getting the codes can be a pain in the ass for about 1 minute, but then beyond that, it works perfectly fine for me.

_J_ said...

It would be nice to be able to play Animal Crossing with people other than those on one's friend list.

The whole "visit other people's towns via WiFi" is stunted when "other people's towns" has an asterisk next to it. The games would be more compelling, I think, if someone could open their town up to anyone rather than limiting play to just Friend Codes.

It's fine if people like Friend Codes. The problem is that there's no reason to not open things up.

kylebrown said...

Myself, I don't like my gaming experiences invaded upon by strangers, but to each their own.

_J_ said...

That's the beauty of allowing both. If you want to play a realms game by yourself you put a password on it. If you want a play a realms game with random people? Don't put a password on it.

Realms allows for both. Why would Nintendo's online system not allow for both?

Though, they are getting better at it with the random matchups in Mario Kart Wii, for example. But it would be nice if they allowed for both in all situations.

kylebrown said...

Brawl has a random matchup component also.

I'm not disagreeing that an option wouldn't be better, I'm just stating that there is a population out there, myself included, that doesn't really want online interactions with strangers.

_J_ said...

"I'm just stating that there is a population out there, myself included, that doesn't really want online interactions with strangers."

I would like to know what percent of Wii owners prefer Friend Codes to another system. Plenty of people on gaming blogs and forums hate friend codes.

But I'm almost tempted to say that the people who own Wiis, or the primary market of the Wii, is people who don't read gaming blogs or forums.

You're the first person I know of to ever call them a good thing, or to at least not desire the option to not use them.

Roscoe said...

Would they be the people who don't READ? or the people who are just not bothered enough by differing opinions to vocalize it?

_J_ said...

"Would they be the people who don't READ?"

They would mostly be moms and octogenarians. I doubt there are any of those on kotaku or gamefaqs.


Roscoe said...

Oh, that one there?

that's the uncanny valley of bait. Not sutble enough to sucker me in, not blatant enough to goad me in.

kylebrown said...

It isn't so much that I consider them a good thing, I just don't consider them a bad thing, I agree with Satoru Iwata that while not perfect they serve the purpose well enough.

I would consider myself in the group that Ros came up with, that reads gaming news, (I don't go near forums though), but doesn't care enough about differing opinions to vocalize any sort of support.

The only thing I would change about the friend code system for my purposes is a more robust lookup system coupled with authorization to make finding friends easier.

kylebrown said...

oh, and I want to make it absolutely apparent that the friend code system itself is not what garners my support, but rather a restricted online environment to which I have control over the people I interact with.

_J_ said...

"but rather a restricted online environment to which I have control over the people I interact with."

Ah. There we go.

That could be done without Friend Codes. I assume that xbox live has a friend's list. Or just take the Realms model where accounts have usernames and players can have friends lists on which they...list their friends.

The whole bullshit of each game having a unique friend code and having that code be system specific (that's how it works on the DS, not sure about the Wii) needs to be fixed.

I'm not opposed to allowing people to control who they play with. I just want a better system.

_J_ said...

" a more robust lookup system coupled with authorization to make finding friends easier"

You know what is odd? Pokemon Diamond and Pearl had this same problem with its online pokemon trading system.

That's not necessarily indicative of Nintendo not knowing how to create and sustain such a system but it's certainly not evidence to the contrary.

kylebrown said...

I understand there are better ways to do it, but I also wanted it to be known, that friend codes have caused me no inconveniences.

_J_ said...

Friend Codes function. They could be more user friendly. They could also not exist and another system could take their place.

kylebrown said...

yes that is basically my stance. I'm basically apathetic towards the situation as long as my purposes are being fulfilled. One other improvement would be to make friend codes available at the console level as opposed to the game level.

_J_ said...

"One other improvement would be to make friend codes available at the console level as opposed to the game level."

What's interesting is that games like Diablo or WoW link codes to accounts rather than consoles. So I can be on your computer and pull up my account and contacts.

That's part of the problem as consoles turn more into computers. What is the role of the console in playing a game? Do we think of them as one unit, or is the game seperate?

I've no idea how to best set it up for the Wii. Keeping it centered on the console would make sense for the way most people seem to use the Wii. But maybe there is a reason why Nintendo thinks your Mario Kart friends won't be your Smash Brothers friends.

That or they're just lazy fucks who can't program.