And lo, the next gen has arrived and slipped from the future tense to the present. Never again shalt we uttereth “Next-Gen” whence we spaketh of the Xbox One and Playstation 4; nay, henceforth these will be referred to as “Current Generation” consoles.
I’ll be honest; there is actually nothing quite like opening a brand spanking new console, there really isn’t. It’s one of the few things that still gives me that giddy, childlike, Christmas-day-present-unwrapping-excitement type of feeling that I have rarely had since I was a wee nipper. A console is a unique beast, let me explain…
I like buying stuff. Y’know, like a good capitalist should. I’m a shallow consumer, I make no bones about that. There’s always frivolous stuff on my wish list that I am excited about getting and ultimately just serves to eat up my limited disposable income. I like spending my money on things I don’t need but that briefly give me a jolt of pleasure that it is somehow a reward for slogging through this wretched life we have (or something).
I like all sorts; I like expensive clothes, I like comics, I like games and films, I like gadgets and tech. I like, y’know, stuff. I got excited when my Limited Edition Bioshock Infinite Songbird edition arrived in the post. I got excited when my Avengers: Phase One limited edition attaché case (complete with glowing blue Tesseract) turned up. I got excited when the latest edition of The Walking Dead graphic novel splonked on my doorstep. I got excited when I received my Nike Air Force 1 foamposit limited edition sneaks. Yes, all very shallow, all very childish, all very frivolous and all a big waste of money to most…..basically all very me.
^ Things like this excite me.
But all of the above, although very exciting, all have a very different vibe to them compared to when I unwrap a new console – which, admittedly, is rarely (which may add to the excitement of it all). The songbird is extremely cool and sits proudly on my display case along with the Avengers box set and oodles of other game and film related figurines and models and limited editions I have burned cash on – all very swell, and hey, that of course means I have new films to watch and games to play, so hours of fun there. My comics are displayed proudly on my book shelf – outstanding. My wardrobe is choc-full of jeans and trainers and coats and tees and other shit I’ll probably never wear. Yay. But despite the seemingly ‘childish’ nature of some of those things, they all somehow seem like they are items I have graduated to – they are somehow more ‘grown up’ in a weird sort of way (yes, even the comics). I feel like an adult when I buy these things, or at best a big-kid who has played at being a professional grown up and worked ungodly hours and in turn rewarded myself with these materialistic trinkets. But a console? This manages to somehow still invoke a child-like magic in me. It’s the same feeling I can recall opening an X-Wing when I was about 5 on Christmas morning. That giddy, frantic, joyous magic that seems to dilute away as your age increases into standard-issue, grown-up anticipation. The huge price tag these consoles command only serves to increase the magic somehow – maybe that’s your subconscious telling you “for that money sunshine you better be fucking happy”.
One difference I think is that new consoles are few and far between. Blu-Rays and games and garms are regular additions to my life, but a generation of a console is many years. Consoles are in it for the long haul. And once you get them they are continuously used, over and over and over. Individual games are played, some more than others, and then put away. Films are watched, again some more than others, and then reside on the shelf only for rare re-usage. Comics are read and rarely re-read. Clothing – although cool – simply doesn’t have the same vibe at all as the immersive arts. You’d think perhaps that the vast quantities of cash I spunk on my PC rig would bring me the same feeling as a console, and admittedly a new GPU or even an entirely new rig does kind of invoke that magic a little bit, but there is so much more ‘grown up’ work involved in building a PC. The careful installation of the hardware, the tricky little connections, the software, the Windows installation……you need a relatively ‘grown-up’ approach to building your own rig, and it’s only once all that work is done that you can revert back to big-kid mode and play all you lovely games on motherfucker settings.
No, the console is a little box of magic.
*Sigh* – And then comes the reality. You unpack it, you set it up, get ever so excited, you do all that and sit in front of it for a few days rinsing all 4 of the average launch-day titles….and then it hits you. “Oh yes, I remember now, it’s a console”. I don’t want to get into a beef-slinging console vs PC war, I’m too old and tired and don’t care. I am a strong advocate of the consoles, always have been, always will be, anyone who knows me knows that. My home has, does and will always have at least one representative of the current generation of console. As a mouse and keyboard purist I believe that there are certain types of game that lend themselves to the joypad; traditional fighters (Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter et al), Drivers (Forza and Gran Tourismo etc), Fixed-camera survival horrors the likes of which we haven’t seen much of since the Resident Evil’s earlier instalments. These for me belong the console. There’s always a PC joypad which I could use which would give me the ideal control mechanics AND allow me to play the above games on my PC, but that’s not something I’ve ever entertained, and the more I think about it the less I can say why. Maybe subconsciously I don’t want to go down that path, lest it put a nail in the coffin of consoles for good in my eyes. The joypad and the associated games that utilise its strengths are perhaps all that is left for me keeping the console alive.
And that’s the main issue here, a console serves little purpose in my home, and for the price tag associated with them it’s difficult to justify simply for the odd Street Fighter game. I’m not a huge racing-game fan, sports games don’t interest me in the slightest so it’s only really the beat-em-ups which tickle my fancy, and this small amount of tickling is vastly out-gunned by the ravenous lust I have for the First Person Shooter, a genre which in my opinion can ONLY be played to its full potential with the speed and precision of a mouse.
Graphical quality is a redundant argument. Consoles are graphically equivalent to reasonably high end rigs for almost no time at all. Any PC builder knows all too well that your top of the range, cutting edge, £800 graphics card is only top of the range, cutting edge and £800 for a few months. A consoles life span is many, many years. This argument can be rolled out for processing power, memory and storage. A PC is as big and bad as you want it to be or your pocket allows. A console is a ‘get-what-you’re-given’ system and relies on developers utilising and managing the capabilities available to them to squeeze the best out of the machines.
^ He must be one of the Titans
I admit the above arguments are a bit tiresome though, because the reality is of course that consoles aren’t trying to be PC’s. A good gaming rig is painfully expensive – even more so than the already-savagely expensive consoles. There are potentially endless compatibility, software and hardware issues with PC’s and I’ve even had games that just simply won’t run on my rig for no apparent reason. Consoles are plug and play. Set up console, buy game, put game in console, press go, play game. That’s the idea any way. That’s how it used to be…..
Now days of course, consoles are under pressure. They are in actual fact doing their best to be so much more than a gaming rig. They are entertainment centres. They are having to get in on the PC market without actually wanting to compete with PC’s. Netflix, Facebook, Social Networking, streaming/recording/uploading video…..all that stuff. Microsoft are gunning for dominance on that front with mixed results with the Xbox One, while Playstation looks like it’s in two minds; undecided on which way to take it. Admittedly we are in the earliest days of this generation and who knows where the respective companies will take their newest babies on that front. But even the hardware for this generation seemed already far behind, an example being the fuss that was made over both consoles having 8GB of RAM! 8? Eight WHOLE gigs? This is bread & butter for most gaming PC’s today.
The fact is I believe consoles won’t last, at least not in the same way they do now. If they eschew the ‘entertainment system’ role they will be left behind as the world overtakes them. Everything is interactive, everyone connects, and shares, and tweets in this day and age and gamers are at the very cutting edge of that way of life. It is unavoidable. And yet to dive into this world puts you slap-bang in the path of PC’s. This is a battle that cannot be won. PC’s are whatever the user wants them to be and so a one-size-fits-all console simply cannot compete here. All they have to fight PC’s on is their price and ease of use as a ‘gaming/entertainment package’. It’s jack of all trades, master of none. In addition, the more consoles expand into the ‘entertainment system’ role, and by default become more like PC’s, the more PC-like issues seem to be appearing. Compatibility issues, bugs and crashes etc, more common they become hmmm? (Strictly in a Yoda voice).
So I say to thee, oh speculators of the demise of PC gaming (been hearing that old chestnut for years), I would wager it is the consoles, not the PC which is destined to run aground and flap about on the shore like some kind of beached sea-faring animal.
And we haven’t even started talking about the potential game changer that is the Steam Box yet. But I’ll save that for another day….