Let's play Nintendo! For over twenty years now the generic act of playing video games has been known to the non-gaming general public as "playing Nintendo" regardless of which gaming system — Nintendo-manufactured or otherwise — is actually being played. How did we get here? David Oxford tries to figure it all out over at Poison Mushroom.
Video games, of course, are not immune to this. I’m not sure how many reading this know or were aware, but back in the days when the Nintendo Entertainment System revived the home video game industry, it had the same sort of effect. Most people never used the “Entertainment System” suffix, and the abbreviation “NES” seemed nearly as rare, shy of in enthusiast publications. People just called it the “Nintendo.” Even if you were playing another console entirely, you weren’t playing video games; you were playing “Nintendo.”
Why has "playing Nintendo" survived as the general term for video gaming into the twenty-first century? Personally, I believe that part of it has something to do with the actual pronunciation of the word compared to its competition. Say it aloud. Nin-ten-do: it has a pleasing number of syllables and a smooth way of rolling off of one's tongue. Beyond that, "playing Sony" and "playing Microsoft" are too open-ended, as both companies are known for many other products and productions beyond the world of video games. Even using the name of each company's respective console brand doesn't quite work as well as "playing Nintendo". "Playing PlayStation" is redundant with too many uses of the word "play", while "playing Xbox" involves the harsh "ecks" sound. "Playing Sega" had a brief foothold in the 1990s, but fell out of common usage for obvious reasons. Combine this with Nintendo's resurgence among the typically non-core-gamer public that can't or won't tell the difference between the competing brands and it's understandable how Nintendo has become the Coke, Xerox, Kleenex, and Google of the gaming world. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to play Nintendo on my Sony PlayStation 3.