1-2-Switch and the Importance of a Good Gimmick

My first instinct when choosing to write about 1-2-Switch was to mount a defense of the game from a hobbyist culture that rails against simpler experiences in lieu of multi-hour epics that are meant for the “true gamer™.” It turned out to be less an aegis of a misunderstood genre and more a scathing attack on an exclusive mindset unwilling to open their preconceived notions of what it means to play a videogame and who’s allowed to play them. About three paragraphs in I realized something – I hadn’t written a single word about 1-2-Switch.

I then realized I had to backpedal for a moment. I’ve always ascribed to the credo that you can’t change what happens in life, only how you react to them. So instead of taking a defensive stance I’ll opt to come at it with a more positive tone.

I love 1-2-Switch. My family loves 1-2-Switch. We love playing 1-2-Switch together.

The crux of my adoration comes from the fact that I’m a sucker for a good gimmick. By definition they’re a flash-in-the-pan type of experience; meant to draw people’s interest even if it isn’t a lasting one. Whether or not they light the world on fire is irrelevant. Sometimes they catch on and people build entire games around them; other times they are just novelties and nothing more. The thing worth noting is that you can either enjoy a gimmick for what it is or pine over what it isn’t.

1-2-Switch is the gimmicky game that Nintendo loves to make; the type of thing that shows off what their hardware’s capable of while simultaneously creating unique experiences that, while not deep, are very memorable. What’s really interesting about the whole thing is that it’s so confident in what it’s trying to do that you don’t even necessarily have to have the television on to play some of what’s on offer. It’s a game where the challenge isn’t in keeping an eye on the score but on your opponent. You know – the person standing next to you. It’s a weird amalgamation of video and board games, the sort of thing that comes across as an epiphany in my eyes.

It seems so odd to have something that requires full interaction with another person that it comes across as refreshing. While there’s definitely nuance to what you’re doing and even the need for a little bit of skill, the point isn’t always to win but to have fun with other people. It’s been a long time since I’ve had my entire family into a game to the point where we enjoy being spectators just as much as we enjoy being participants. It took a while to get my kids to not look at the screen, but when they finally caught on it was downright magical what was happening while we made eye contact. We were doing things like trying to mess with each other while trying to spin an imaginary plate, shave our faces with a spot-on feeling electric razor and sashaying around the house with all seriousness as if we were supermodels. Don’t even get me started on the milking. Oh, the milking!

My biggest regret about 1-2-Switch isn’t that I own the game, but that I bought a physical copy instead of a digital one so that I can have this on hand at all times.

Just like party games such as Cards Against Humanity or Nintendo Land, 1-2-Switch is meant to be pulled out for special occasions because it’s not meant to be dug deeply into, or else it loses some of its charm. It is, for lack of a better term, a gimmick. But it’s a damn good gimmick. It’s supposed to be a thinly veiled excuse to get people together and have a good time, and it’s especially good at it. When my family takes a trip this summer, I’m taking it with to see what comes of it. My brother’s family is coming to visit, another reason to bust it out. My father-in-law is long overdue for a game night at our house, and I’ll be sure to test 1-2-Switch out on him.

It’s a travesty that people will let its price point, its short play sessions and just their plain old pride get in the way of the chance to play a game with people in the most social way possible.




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