To further promote your image of me as a horrid little troll who lives in the basement feeding off the dead remains of farm animals whilst flicking his snot around the room and calling everything noob, I am an avid gamer and have been ever since I was little. In all fairness, being a ‘gamer’ has become a cooler thing to be as the years have passed and the industry is booming. Could you imagine trying to be a hardcore gamer back in the days where your computer hooked up to your TV set? Fuck yeah, just beat my record at Pong bitches, haters gonna hate! I was born in the nineties so I can almost consider myself as having grown up alongside the video game industry and what started as a cute yet dorky little dysfunctional child/console soon grew up to be something bigger, smarter and with a lot more tricks up his sleeve/disc slot. However, as I reach the period of my life that is full of uncertainty, of opportunities to grasp a hold of and make something of or to fail, I feel that my dear old games consoles have stumbled across an identity crisis themselves. Oh what poor naive children are we, lost and afraid in a modern world.
Let’s start with the console that everybody loves to hate, the latest edition in the XBOX family, XBOX One. Apparently one now comes after three hundred and sixty but then who’s counting. Not Microsoft. Cheap joke but XBOX started out as the green-eyed envy of Bill Gates made into a ‘Kinda like Playstation but chunky and I own it’ deal and from there it went on to become Sony’s main rival. At first when XBOX stormed the scene it sported a wide range of games, mostly aimed towards boys with a fixation on proving how manly they are by rubbing their balls in each other’s faces, and aside from having technical difficulties that became feared as a techno-plague, XBOX and his son 360 took their place on the stand of big-fucking-deal console. I’m sure we are all familiar with the XBOX 360, the console with more shooters on the market than innovative ideas, a fan base mostly consisting of beer-swilling-racial-slur-slinging hoodwinks but with the occasional boffin chucked in on the side because they realised Fallout New Vegas works much better on 360 than on PS3 or they sided with XBOX at the start and won’t change sides from there. XBOX 360 looked like it was going to take itself seriously though, in the long run, and just as it started rolling out games that offered a challenge, it pandered to the family-fun gremlin and boom, Kinect. I have used the Kinect, a god awful piece of shite with a lense that throws a wobbly if you step just half an inch too far one way or the other, like a fascist who has discovered Feng Shui. As the build up to E3 made the new XBOX One out to be some sort of schizophrenic toaster that thinks it’s a cinema system with a social network latched on, Microsoft had a lot of shit to scrape off it’s shoes… It not only failed to this but it planted both feet in the shit and did a merry fucking jig. The XBOX One is essentially that computer from Space Odyssey but it orders pizzas, streams movies and apparently constantly observes your living room for signs of insubordination against the great beings! The camera is constantly on and the console demands you connect online at least once a day or your games will be rendered null and void until you have given a Microsoft executive a thoroughly good hand-job. You can’t trade or buy used games without going through a lengthy procedure and as ever, all the goodies that you actually want your XBOX to do will cost you a modest fee. Joy. I’ve never been a big fan of the XBOX but even XBOX fans have been telling me the new console is a blinking light show that raids your trousers for spare change whilst you’re drearily staring at some heavily armoured space marine with a gun bigger than his own leg.
Sony’s turn now and their entire campaign was mostly ‘Reasons why Microsoft should just quit now’. Sony promised something cheaper, something that is actually turned off when you press the power switch to do so, a more gamer-oriented experience and even did a video to explain how to share games using that age old method of handing the other person the disc. Yup, if Sony wasn’t trying to take a shit on Microsoft’s doorstep then someone please direct them to the bathroom because they left a steamer.
Well the PlayStation has had a funny life all things considered, emerging from the darkness to suddenly dethrone Sega and Nintendo as the top dogs of the nineties with a faster and more sleak little number, the PS One (See, they even did the one thing first). Profits swelled and ho-hey, out comes a second PlayStation and this one is black and sexy and it plays DVDs and it has a whole host of games we all know and love. Sure, it now had a rival in Microsoft but it kept going, the ever-reliant oxen of the console world. I think an ox is an apt metaphor, the console won’t break down on you and you can always rely on it to be your humble servant but it’s a bit dopey and it’s potential can only be used to the truest extent provided you know anything about oxen in the first place. The PS3, when it first came out, sold itself on the premise ‘Wait around long enough and we’ll show you something really cool, honestly… keep waiting… keep waiting… seriously, it’ll blow your mind in a few years!’. Unfortunately, Sony spent a fuck ton of money and energy on swagger and forgot to back it up with some real substance so it had a shaky start next to the 360 but then it got into the swing of things and started doing backflips and juggling knives for all the boys and girls. Shooters? Yeah. Party games? Yeah. Hack and slash? Yeah. Games where you play as the animated remains of a wallet dressed in drag and save your patchwork buddies from an anti-social owl? Yeah why not? The PS4 is a step up from there… supposedly, though it couldn’t help getting itself a little touch-screen like his buddy Wii U and now the beloved Dualshock looks hideous, like that girl you used to think was a real stunner until she died her hair the colour of pixie shit and you’re left confused as to what was wrong with brown hair? I’m not sure what to expect of the PS4, they’ve pitched it around an old man’s face and the promise of yet another Final Fantasy game… and Kingdom Hearts apparently.
This leave us with the good old Wii U, the ugly child of the Wii who was the ugly child of Nintendo’s mind finally snapping into a bunch of random squiggles with Mario’s face on. In the usual tradition, Nintendo announced new consoles with old games made a little more shiny as if scared of having new ideas but this is nothing new, the SNES came with a remake of Super Mario Bros for the NES but with cuter graphics. I never understood the direction Nintendo sought to go in. Start from brick with box pad controls, make nicer brick with similar controls, make little box with ergonomically designed controllers, make brick with wand thing, make cute looking brick with Etch-A-Sketch. The Wii U uses two screens, a feature I’m pretty sure almost nobody asked to be incorporated into games. Gee, this HUD display in my shooter game is so conveniently placed right in front of me, I wish someone would get rid of it and put it on my iPad for me to stare at periodically so I can fail to remember whether it was ammo or health items I needed to restock. You touch a few buttons on the little fella and then your TV makes a sound, the game continues, taking otherwise seamless and smooth game play and then chopping it into jagged chunks. The games roster will be the usual deal, find an old game, advertise it all over again with a heavy dose of nostalgia and then dig up a character from the nineties and remind people that this character is cool. Megaman is back people, he’s in the “New” Super Smash Bros. Game. Nintendo has bought the rights to a few good games though, including Bayonetta 2 unfortunately (I say this as it’s a Wii U exclusive and how that will work is a mystery to me). All in all, the Wii U will assume the position previously filled by the Wii – an ever-so-charming box of wonders suited to gamers of all ages that occasionally pisses out sentimental memories of Sonic the Hedgehog all over the rug. D’awwwwww Nintendo, you little cutie!
I can’t help but feel an age of gaming has passed as consoles compete like bickering old ladies in a bingo parlour only to find that all three have shat themselves and there never was a bingo parlour, they’re sat in a pub in Hull. The games console isn’t a games console any more, that’s not what comes first. Your console is a cinema system, a fast-food order machine, an internet browser, a free international phone service, a social network provider, a photo album, your Netflix subscription and YouTube all rolled into one and it kinda feels a bit weird. Before gaming became a big deal and a big money-maker the rules were simple.
‘This console plays games that have this console’s names written on it. You buy games at a store, you put them in the console, you have fun, you get bored, you buy or trade for new games and repeat until you are bored of console. If you want to watch TV, watch TV on the TV, not on console. Console play game? Yeah?’
Ignoring how I suddenly devolved from fluent English to Engrish as the sarcasm actually cannibalised my brain cells for a moment, I hope I make a point. However, once anything makes a name for itself it becomes an udder you milk for money until the cow explodes. The consoles cost the same as a decent used car nowadays so maybe for that kinda money we should expect this little flashing box of giggles to offer us pizza now and then, or replace the DVD player. Easy fix there though would be just build something that is a generic disc-recipient that plays back what is on the disc and that’s it, cut the price down a bit!
Not how it works is it? Well I thought I’d let you all know console wise, I side with PS3. Not PS4, because unlike most people I don’t just have the money to get a new console on a whim and if I did, I’d spend it on something more useful. The PS3 is fine, it works, it is a good console with more than enough games and I have a PS2 for the PS2 games, the PS3 plays PS1 games for whatever reason so yeah. I’ve never owned an XBOX though I have lived in a household that owned a 360 for a few months and found it to be an up and down experience. My friends were all XBOX or Wii fans back in the day so I’ve spent a minimum of about twenty-four hours on each of the major consoles of this generation. I like my PS3 best, not out of that stupid ‘My parents got me the PlayStation, please can it be the best console so I don’t regret asking for it instead of the XBOX?’ logic that many gamers go by but mostly because a number of Dynasty Warriors games are PlayStation exclusive and considering how it defined my childhood, I stick by PlayStation. Cue hate from gamers calling the series a dull button mashing splorge fest in a historic setting, so sue me for enjoying something. If you are ten years old and you witness a guy in red and gold armour swing a halberd around and effortlessly destroy an entire army, that quickly sells to you.
I hope that come what may, we will never lose sight of the joy of slapping the old disc in a console and sitting down with a remote ready to immerse ourselves in a zombie apocalypse, a ninja showdown or the adventures of a stuffed animal in the land of milk and honey. Once that’s gone, I’ll just say fuck it to the lot of it and live out the rest of my gaming days on outdated consoles quite happily.