1: a casual photograph made typically by an amateur with a small handheld camera
2: an impression or view of something brief or transitory <a snapshot of life back then>
The brilliance of WarioWare D.I.Y. is it gives people the power to create video game snapshots, not just in the sense of brief video game experiences, but also personal, perhaps clumsy interactive scenes.
Instruments like Klik & Play, modding tools, and (pirated copies of) Adobe Flash Professional have brought the game creation process to the masses for decades, but WarioWare D.I.Y. is unique in that it limits developers, no matter their talent, to 5-10 second affairs.
The inexpensive and portable hardware running the software support the snapshot metaphor; the DS is actually smaller than Eastman Kodak’s original Brownie cameras, which popularized the idea of snapshot photography due to its low cost and simple design. WarioWare D.I.Y. works on any DS, even those now-cheap and clunky silver models Nintendo introduced half a decade ago.
Here is a scenario made possible by WarioWare D.I.Y. and its portable hardware. Bored during Chemistry class and sitting in the back row where your instructor can’t hope to see your illicit activities, you create a silly microgame about your dog Freckles barking whenever you use the microwave. Later that day, you can even record and integrate his yaps into the game.
Weeks later, while trading odd pet stories with a comely female (or handsome fellow) you’re chatting up at the park, you pull out your DS, flip it open and out of sleep mode, and show off the game you made in honor of your puppy’s eccentric habits; laughs all around.
Several decades have passed — Freckles is now flying around in heaven and burying bones in clouds — you’re looking through piles of junk in the garage while deciding what to throw out and bring with you when you move to a new home. You find your forgotten DS, attach a charger to it, turn it on, boot up WarioWare D.I.Y., and there’s Freckles barking away at the damn microwave.
Let’s return to the idea of documenting personal experiences because, again, that is the brilliance of WarioWare D.I.Y.. The software never encourages you to build an epic RPG, a new twist on the puzzle platformer, or creative level designs; instead, it invites you to capture brief moments, like a lovable puppy incapable of shutting up whenever you want to make a Hot Pocket.
Game designer and researcher Ian Bogost wrote a fascinating article on video game snapshots in September 2008*, in which he considered the personal appeal of snapshots:
"The reason other people’s cherished objects are just crap to you, to borrow a line from George Carlin, is because they have invested them with sentimental meaning. A snapshot has value only for the very few, even if it can be shown to the many. …
Despite the tabloidesque tales of ordinary people made YouTube stars that litter popular magazines, the fundamental benefit of simple creation and publishing tools lies in their ability to let people make things for one another on a very small scale, one traditional marketplaces can’t sustain.
And what are the things people tend to make first, for the smallest audiences? Personal things, things that speak between themselves, and their friends or family. Snapshots, of a variety of sorts. All of those millions of photos or videos or blogs about vacations or pet tricks or hobbies add up.
The outcome of such work isn’t important because it’s good; it’s important because it holds meaning for its creators and their kin.”
While I enjoy the dozens of WarioWare D.I.Y. videos we’ve posted here for retro game spoofs and pop/nerd culture shout-outs, I am most excited about how the software’s will encourage gamers to make and share snapshots that reveal a glimpse of their private lives — microgames about friends, crushes, enemies, quirks, victories, secrets, and lies.
Please understand that I think WarioWare D.I.Y.'s potential for video game snapshots is just one of the software's strengths. I love the idea of amateur developers realizing their fantasy games, such as Jeremy Parish's Jetpack Goonies or my own Devil Cop concept. I also anticipate all the microgames based on fake releases like Diesel Kiss or Hungry Walter. But I’m still most excited by the snapshots we’ll see.
After WarioWare D.I.Y. releases to stores next week and once you have a familiarity with the software’s tools and techniques, I invite you to share your snapshots here. We’ll work something out, maybe a friendcode exchange or just posting links to Youtube videos in our comments. Show us something about you or your life with a microgame.
Preorder: WarioWare: D.I.Y.
*I implore any game journalists tasked with composing a preview or review for WarioWare D.I.Y. within the next week to read Bogost’s Video Game Snapshots article in its entirety, as I am certain it will improve the text and thought put into your own piece.