Following on from our reader-voted Top 50 Games of the Decade, Nintendo Life staff members will be picking their personal favourite Nintendo games between the years 2010-2019. Today, Alex recalls the growing pains of his first major step into his career, and how one squid and/or kid-based shooter made all the difference...
“These controls are weird and confusing, I don’t like them.”
That was my first impression of Splatoon. Not only was I not going to blurt that out to the Nintendo representatives at EGX 2014, but seeing as I was angling for a career with the so-called humans from Nintendo Life who played with me, I decided I should probably keep things positive. I could show my true cocky colours once I’d got my foot in the proverbial door.
Despite my constant advocating for motion controls these days (especially Splatoon-like efforts) my initial feelings were largely just bewilderment. I’d skipped out on the Wii for the most part during its life due to a cocktail of peer pressure and being a teenager, and whilst I’d certainly done a smidgen of waggling here and there, moving my body whilst gaming was something I did exclusively to turn corners more sharply in Mario Kart 64, and it totally worked, I promise. Nintendo had a lot of audacity to not only shove the largest controller in the world into my mitts, but also tell me to move it around as part of basic gameplay. Despite all that, though, I was actually sort of good at it, at least compared to my now-bosses Ant, Daz, and Damo. It caught my attention, partly due to the fact that the whole idea of a third-person shooter with a modern styling felt supremely un-Nintendo.
2015 rolls around and I start actually working for this here company, and as the finest Splatoon player in the immediate vicinity I was tasked with being flown over to Germany to represent Nintendo Life at a preview event for a game that shares assonance with ‘lampoon’.
I hopped on a plane, landed, jumped into a taxi, played the game for four hours, then immediately left Frankfurt without so much as a ‘wo ist der Badezimmer?’. As it happens, that’s all it took - I was hooked. In those few short hours I’d tamed the controls and got used to slugging the big tablet about the place to track down evil Octarians, and I was counting the days until Splatoon would be in my hands proper.
It came, I reviewed it, and then had to start all my progress over from the beginning because Nintendo. The whole thing was revolutionary to me; in the space of a year I’d gone from putting off my university assignments and lying to get a part-time job in a pub to playing a game unlike any other I’d seen, and getting paid to do it. I was sat in my childhood bedroom playing a bright, outlandish online third-person shooter from Nintendo with my dad giving me the stink eye because he assumed I was just mucking around, and three mad gits were happy to send actual cash I could live off for doing it.
That would have been enough to make Splatoon my game of the decade alone, but that was far from the end of my adventure. New content was constantly being drip-fed to us thirsty fans, and at the time I considered it imperative that I show off everything new as soon as I could, and make a video about it. This meant waking up at around 3am and recording footage as I was barely conscious, which in hindsight is quite obviously a ludicrous idea as everyone who was interested could just load up the game and see it for themselves.
But before this moment of clarity I needed to do this, and no update was more worthy of me wasting the wee hours that version 2.0.0, which brought in the ability to host private matches. Spawning the mad idea that people would actually want to play 1v1 matches, I took to Twitter asking if anyone in a more reasonable timezone would be able to help me at stupid o’clock my time. This is where I met my friend Paul, who just so happened to live in the same timezone and clearly had mixed priorities at the time. He helped me no end and we continued to chat afterwards, gathering other people and eventually forming a team that we would use in Splatoon tournaments in the future.
This was the period that my relationship of the time was starting to deteriorate, and playing Splatoon in the evening with Paul, Rachel, and Jasmin was my only real socialising I managed. I was in a pretty rough place, but these three glorious people (and Splatoon) brought me joy at a time when I was still adjusting to life as a full-time video monkey. With each new update a new wave of excitement filled our group chat, and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to recapture that particular brand of pure, unadulterated enjoyment since.
Splatoon 2 is certainly the better game, but the OG Splatoon will always hold an incredibly special place in my heart. It helped me transition into a new life, it gave me friends when I was lacking, and it also probably revolutionised development at Nintendo and ushered in a new wave of creativity that arguably lead to the immeasurable success of the Switch. Probably.