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Hecker: I stand by my Wii is s*** rant

But journalists need to get their act together.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Chris Hecker, the developer behind 2007's infamous "the Wii is sh*t" rant, has for the first time revealed the true extent of the impact his comments have had on his career.

In 2007, while at Maxis working on PC game Spore, Hecker took to the stage at the Game Developer Conference and called Nintendo's motion sensing console "a piece of sh*t", labelling it "two GameCubes duct-taped together".

His comments, predictably, hit the headlines. The following day Hecker apologised, saying, "I do not think the Wii is a piece of sh*t. Nintendo needs to be applauded for trying to interface on the controller front, the user."

That was over three years ago. But Hecker, who is currently hard at work on indie game SpyParty, stands by his original point.

"Game design and gameplay is not separable from CPU power," he told Eurogamer.

"You can do more interesting games with a faster CPU. Nintendo made an underpowered platform, relative to what you could have made at the time.

"You can see the ramification of that now with the games. They're just not as interesting, for a lot of reasons.

"They did a lot of interesting stuff with the control system, but unfortunately there's not enough horsepower behind the thing to actually really explore a lot of that stuff. You can see that in the games.

"I said it in a very inflammatory way, but the underlying message was a serious point about game design and programming.

"It was a direct quote. No one misquoted me. I said it was a piece of sh*t. I said it with Public Enemy blaring in the background and some funny slides. It was a great rant."

Hecker's GDC rant created quite a few problems for the then EA employee.

"When I said the Wii stuff it was at the height of Nintendo. They were selling a zillion units. They couldn't keep it on store shelves. And Spore was at its height. The headline was Spore developer says...

"So I apologised for saying it that way more for the way it was covered than what I was trying to say.

"If I had known it was going to get covered in the mass market press as opposed to just development press, I would have chosen my works more carefully. But I didn't. It was obviously my opinion, not the Spore team's opinion.

"The Wii is a piece of sh*t and it's two GameCubes duct taped together are quotable quotes, and I should have chosen my words more carefully with at least some of them.

"I wasn't thinking that because E3 closed down there would be a lot of people sniffing around for news stories in the mainstream press. It never used to be like that at GDC.

"But then aiming the article for maximum headline controversy, that's journalism's issue.

"In more ways than people even know, that night was the Electronic Arts and Nintendo executive dinner. They were announcing a joint venture for the first time. It was disastrous. It was awful.

"The stars aligned in a completely negative summon a demon kind of way. It was not good.

"I got a lot of hate mail. The Nintendo fanboys are pretty vehement. It's a big fanboy community. My Wikipedia page got defaced endlessly.

"I actually said it and I have to stand by what I said. I apologise for saying it in a way that was too whatever, and making it sound like I was representing the team – I didn't, but the articles did."

Hecker is no stranger to controversy. After Spore was released and some fans were disappointed with its depth, an interview Hecker gave to a science magazine emerged in which he talked about the cute versus science difference in the game.

An angry fan blamed all of Spore's problems on Hecker in a post on the game's official forum, which was subsequently picked up by a mainstream news outlet. Hecker then became the "I ruined Spore" developer.

This, according to Hecker, was more damaging than his Wii rant.

"Even though Will Wright, the creator of the game, took full responsibility for the game we shipped, and I wasn't on the design team at all, to this day people talk about SpyParty in a forum and they're like, isn't that the guy who ruined Spore? Stuff matters.

"Someone will go, 'Is that that game by that guy who ruined Spore?' Someone – hopefully – a couple of posts later, will say, 'No, that was debunked. Here's a link to the post.'

"But sometimes that doesn't happen. Then, what do you do? You feel like a dork going in and posting yourself, 'No, I'm not that guy.'

"It's really hard to fight that kind of hearsay."

SpyParty, which Hecker is self-funding, is a James Bond-esque game set during a cocktail party in which people do normal, party-like things. All the characters are controlled by the computer except one, which is controlled by the player-controlled Spy. That person tries to blend into the party while completing spy missions.

Another player – the sniper – is charged with working out who the spy is and pulling the trigger.

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