With the recent release of the Check Mii Out Channel (or Mii Contest Channel), I thought it might be a good time to voice some of my criticisms of the new channel and of the prospect of holding Mii contests in general. To get right to the point, the Check Mii Out Channel—both as a vehicle for hosting Mii contests and as a forum for recognizing talented Mii artists—is fundamentally useless and doomed to failure. In short, this latest Wii channel is too little, too late. Here's why.
Soon after the Wii’s release in November of 2006, a handful of talented users latched onto the Mii-creation system and spent countless hours perfecting Miis made to resemble friends, family, and celebrities. As photos of these celebrity Miis made their way to places like MiiPlaza.net, other Wii users naturally wanted to have these characters for themselves. This is completely understandable. Mii making can be somewhat intimidating; it’s much easier to simply borrow someone else’s Mii than to try and design one from scratch.
Unfortunately, Nintendo adopted a ridiculously complicated friend system. In order to send or receive Miis, players first had to exchange their 16-digit Wii console code numbers and go through a tedious and laborious process of adding said codes to their Wii address books. Even if a player went through the lengthy ordeal of filling the 100 available address slots, it would still only be possible to send Miis to a maximum of 100 people. Oh yeah, and users could only send 20 Miis per day.
As a result, artists (myself included) resorted to posting pictures to allow others to replicate their designs, thus initiating a process that has all but destroyed any chance of holding a fair Mii contest. Case in point, within one week of posting my original celebrity Mii designs I received thousands of visitors. Based on its overwhelming popularity, I submitted my Jack Black Mii to the first celebrity Mii contest (hosted by kottke.org). Unfortunately, a copycat also submitted the same design, leading the organizer to nearly disqualify us both.
Since then, the situation has only continued to deteriorate. Many of my Mii designs (and those of many other artists) have been so rampantly copied and recopied that it would be impossible for the average user to trace their origins. On Sunday, I visited the Check Mii Out Channel and submitted some Miis. I noticed that a copy of my Jack Black Mii was ranked first. I pushed the "call friends" button to find other Jack Blacks. Fifty clones appeared (there may be more, but the system can only show fifty), none of which were the one I submitted.
Further exploration of the Check Mii Out Channel revealed a list ranking the top 100 “Mii Artisans," to use Nintendo's terminology. Looking over the submissions of several of these “artisans” revealed that a large proportion of their Miis were exact or nearly-exact copies of designs created by other artists, mostly from MiiPlaza.net. It’s too bad that these copycats don’t seem to have any problem stealing other people's work and shamelessly passing it off as their own. What’s lacking here is a firm sense of Mii ethics.
The sad thing is that this could have all been avoided if Nintendo had provided some of the services contained in the Check Mii Out Channel from the beginning. The old system for sending and receiving Miis preserved the identity of the original creator in that any Miis received from another user are tagged with that user’s name and are un-editable. But since Nintendo made it so absurdly difficult to send Miis, this feature turned out to be of little use. Players found it easier to just copy the Miis from pictures and tutorials.
Now that it's here, the Check Mii Out Channel provides a relatively easy way for Wii owners to distribute Miis. It's just too bad it's showing up so late. If this service had been around from the start, then artists could have posted their original Mii characters right away, leaving little question as to who is the real creator of a particular design. But now that most of the best Mii designs out there have been copied and recopied thousands of times, the damage has already been done. Not only that, but there's probably no concievable way to fix things.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that sense, I suppose I should be extremely flattered to see several copies of my work sitting in the list of top fifty worldwide Miis on the Check Mii Out Channel. Maybe I should be flattered. But at the end of the day, I’m mostly just irritated. Nintendo finally has a Mii contest channel that claims to rank the top “Mii Artisans.” But with the rampant Mii plagiarism that has taken place over the past year, the Check Mii Out Channel was doomed to be a sham before it was even released.
Anyone who believes that Mii artists deserve to be credited for their work should visit MiiPlaza.net to confirm whether or not the Miis that he or she has favorited on the Check Mii Out Channel were actually submitted by the original artist. If Nintendo's new channel is to have any hope of holding fair contests and supporting and encouraging the creativity of talented Mii artists, then it will only be through the willingness of Wii owners to support those artists by favoriting their Miis. Here's a list of Mii codes to help people get started.