Just Cause 4 a Fortnite of Street Fighter II on an Ark full of Dinosaurs ... at 40?
12th September 2018
THE FIRST RENAISSANCE
THE SECOND RENAISSANCE
There's nothing like having kids to get you back into computer games again. So if there's any guys out there wondering if they should take the risk and plunge towards the pitter patter of tiny feet, just do it. Trust me, it'll pay dividends by the time the next gen games consoles come out.
Your partner will simply become outnumbered and lose her say on the issue. And that's only fair as you'll have lost your say on just about everything else by that stage in your relationship. Just don't agree to more than 3 though or you'll create massive long term implications for yourself, with regards the horrendously unfair and bias legalities of divorce local multi player in the future.
Having kids is a serious commitment and certainly the best thing that has ever happened to me. But I'm not going to lie, having a reason to play computer games again is definitely one of the many great side effects of it all as they grow up too.
I'm 40. Not old. Not young. Middle. But I thought my main era of playing computer games in life was long gone, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. A presence I have not felt since ...
Imagine if you will, a few wavy lines to take you back into the past, with me sat hunched in a chair in the 80's as a small kid, and then the surroundings gradually changing around me along with my size, the controller in my hand, and the retro music of each generation as it passes. Although I experienced quite a long gaming hiatus in part of my life, I did grow up with computer games and their evolution being a huge part of my world. I look back on it now as a kind of first renaissance period. It's crazy thinking back to how things were when I was a kid, to looking at how things are now for my own kids. Makes me wonder where it will go in the next 30 years ...
THE FIRST RENAISSANCE
In the early 80's as a small kid, my parents presented my brother, sister, and I, with our first family computer. Acorn's BBC B Micro Computer. They had mistakenly thought it would be used primarily for education. Lol. But that's not their fault. Arcadians, Snapper, JCB Digger, Repton, REVS, Sabre Wulf, Elite, Chuckie Egg, Strikers Run, to name but a few. My god those games were basic, but great at the time, and boy do they dig deep into my past today : those games unlock feelings and memories I would otherwise totally have forgotten from that time in my early life. The memories are almost tangible: the feel of the keys; the feel of a game cassette box; the weight of the computer; pressing the play button on the tape loader.
Shit as it is by today's standards, it's amazing how nostalgia works. The BBC B now serves as one of the only easily accessible conscious gateways in my mind back to memories and feelings from that time in my life. A valiant defender against the cortisol that has erased almost all else from those early years. Who'd have thought Acorn's BBC B Micro Computer would turn out to be a priceless 32K time machine?
Boasting 32K of memory with a massive 8 colours ... it was never as powerful as the ZX Spectrum or the Commodore 64. Sure, I was envious of the better games on these machines, but I still loved my BBC B. It was my first computer and it put up a great fight considering the severe limitations it had to its competition. That games like Exile, Barbarian I and II and The Last Ninja could even be produced on such a low powered machine was testament to that.
I enjoyed it, 'z,x,*,?, Space, Return' keyboard control method and screechy cassette loader noise included. I even remember having to type 'chain thingy thingy' (chain"") as we called it back then, before tapping Return to load the game from the cassette player. The BBC B was my first computer, and to me, it was amazing. Even back then, with the long loading times and the horrendously shit graphics and god awful bleepy sound, along with the ludicrously hard game play that it produced, it trumped 'traditional' toys easily ... an early sign of the changes that would lead to the future we have today.
And then from the late 80's, the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) exploded into our household. With it's revolutionary R.O.B. the robot, Zapper gun, and game pad controllers, and graphics, sound and game play that all went through the relative roof compared to our now very heavily dated BBC B (I say 'now' but the BBC B was already dated when we bought it!), the NES was possibly the most influential toy of my life. It was my first games console. Now I was playing with power! Super Mario Bros, Legend Of Zelda, Duck Hunt, Gyromite, Mike Tyson's Punch Out! to name but a few ... Nintendo was a revolutionary breath of fresh air in gaming, literally: you had to blow the game cartridges before you inserted them into the NES to stop dust interfering with the connectors. But that was just an added appeal to me.
Again, the memories that remain are almost tangible: blow the cartridge, flip up the front lid of the NES, insert the cartridge, and then press down on the cartridge tab so it clicks into place (you could hear the hinge), before shutting the lid again and pressing POWER and having the game instantly load. I must have done that at least a million times. You can get NES emulators of NES games on PC, but it's never the same. Full screen cathode ray tube tv with the official NES controllers remain a totally different experience. Those old games look so much worse on modern HD screens and nothing can replicate the feel of the original controllers or console itself.
Even today (aside from Ann Summers ...), Nintendo continues to understand the importance of physical interaction with a machine better than anyone else. It's heavily steeped in Nintendo's history. It sure beat chain thingy thingy and then 5 minutes of horrendous screeching noises with the BBC B. The BBC B was suddenly out the window in the trash without even a split seconds thought. See ya. Technology is so harsh. It was like leaving your loyal trustworthy wife, that you'd spent years of good quality times together with, for Pamela Anderson (although she was still yet to hit the scene). Again, this next gen phenomenon was another early sign of what would lead to the future we have today.
It's amazing how the introduction of a new generation of machines renders the previous loved machine totally worthless. A trend that continues today. But again, while the NES was really something special in terms of sound and game play, as the years went on and I got that little bit older, I eventually found myself envious of the power of the Sega Master System that, although I didn't want to admit it at the time, clearly had the better graphics and power over the NES.
The NES Double Dragon looked like shit compared to the Sega Master Systems. It's true. There, I finally said it. 30 plus years later and I finally said it. And it was 2 player. The NES version was single player only. A major WTF for me at the time. It wasn't even technically Double Dragon ... it was Single Dragon and it was still worse! I thought now I was supposed to be playing with power, and yet I get Single Dragon with worse graphics and a maximum of two baddies on screen at a time? Master System had loads of baddies on screen! And Nintendo couldn't even be bothered to draw the red car at the start ... just had the shutter down instead! What the fuck Nintendo!? Anyway, 30 years later and I'm okay with that now ... almost. But the fact also remains that Nintendo had the superior ideas, sound, and game play of the generation by some margin. History has now confirmed that. So there, Master System owners.
There's no rightly or wrongly about it, we are very visual animals. Cruel as it can be sometimes, it's not our fault. Nature itself is the cruel one. We just have to harden to it and plod on. Every marketer out there knows it to be a timeless truth of humanity. Looks matter to us. They do make a difference to what we feel. So even back then, even though they were total shit anyway ... graphics mattered. Although it was just a machine at the end of the day, truth is, no matter how fondly you look back on it now with rose tinted glasses on ... you still tossed it in the trash for a better looking model without a seconds hesitation at the time just like everyone else. Graphics meant a lot to the user. So to Nintendo and Sega, graphics meant money. The console wars between Nintendo and Sega had firmly begun. And it was a war destined to rage on for decades ... even if the major players in it were to change over time like the head and shaft of Triggers broom.
This of course made for great content to sell computer game magazines at the time. And why not? The market was there. It was the spirit of the time. An emerging cultural 'zeitgeist' just like several German philosophers of the past had observed. The 'zeitgeist' is a very important, crucial even, aspect of sales. Capture that intangible essence, or even better foresee it ... and you have something you can sell. Quality be damned ... ignore the zeitgeist at your peril. Feeling on mass can both make you and crush you with the exact same product or point of view. As with all things, timing and relevance is everything. Understand the current zeitgeist and you can effortlessly move with the big punches, deflecting them off your cheek as you flow with them like water. Get it wrong ... and you take every big punch clean on the chin. It can destroy you. You could argue that that is the art of business. It's not an easy thing to stay on top of. And the console wars are a perfect example of this.
There was no YouTube or even internet back then. So computer game magazines were the only way to find out about stuff for 'geeks' like me. I hate the way that term is still used as a derogatory label. As if having an interest in something interesting is bad? And yet if I was wearing a nylon tee shirt with the name of a korean typewriter on it, watching a load of overpaid men chase a ball on a patch of grass, just for an excuse to chant like mindless moronic sheep ... that would have been ok? I can never tell if it's society or people that are the problem? At any rate, I was just enjoying being myself. I cared about labels and titles back then just as little as I do now.
Anyway, new games, new machines, other machines, which was better on what ... you needed computer game magazines to lay it straight. I got all my info from Julian 'JAZ' Rignall's Computer and Video Games magazine. Even the fact I remembered his name to look up is something. The guy was good, he really knew what he was talking about.
It was there I became aware of the upcoming 16-Bit generation of consoles. The PC-Engine/TurboGrafx arrived first and I remember the feeling of seeing how good the graphics were on PC Kid at the time. I was amazed. But it was only available in Japan at that point. And then the images of the Sega Megadrive, again only available in Japan at that time. Wow. The magazines were also filled of rumours of Nintendo's next 16-bit project for those lucky, lucky, bastards in Japan ... The Super Famicom.
The NES had made me do something I would never now do as a grown adult with the ability to independently research and rationalise. It made me believe in a brand. It made me believe in Nintendo. As the years passed into to the early 1990's I found myself waiting for the launch of The Super Famicom.
In 1990, The Sega Megadrive arrived in the UK with well deserved long overdue success. But I patiently waited on. It wasn't until 1992, that the Super Famicom arrived in the UK, with a change of name for the West ... The Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
With the SNES, once again, graphics, sound, game play - they all went through the relative roof: 16-bit, 32000 colours, the best graphics and sound on the market ... it was a gaming beast. Super Mario World, Legend Of Zelda : A Link to the Past, F-Zero, Super Mario Kart, Final Fight, Street Fighter II, to name but a few; insanely good; insanely creative; and with an amazing 6 buttons, along with arcade perfect graphics and sound ... almost.
I say almost, because it still wasn't quite as good: smaller sprites, simplified animations, sound differences, sometimes 2 player became 1 player only; concessions still had to be made. And we are only talking 2D games. The Neo Geo was the only machine that could really do arcade perfect at the time. But that was so expensive, and games so unaffordable that no one had one. If you even dreamed of having one you'd wake up bankrupt. It was basically an arcade machine in a console with the price tag to match. £400 to buy and £200 a game ... and that was in 90's prices! Totally insane. So it didn't really count as a 'home' console at all ... unless your home was Wayne Manor and you happened to be Bruce Wayne. It was also classed as 24-bit, not 16-bit, with a mix of 16-bit and 32-bit components. Ridiculously ahead of it's time ... but that is exactly why it didn't sell. Remember that German philosophers term 'zeitgeist'? SNK clearly didn't ...
3D equivalent at home was still well over a decade away. In 1994 Sega's Daytona driving game in the arcades totally smashed 3D games at home, even on PCs, for another 10 years plus to follow. To be 60 frames per second with high texture detail 3D environments back in the early 90's was simply insane. The graphics and game play were jaw droppingly good, way ahead of anything in its time and after, and given the price of the Neo Geo already for truly arcade perfect 2D, obviously not affordable tech for the home by any stretch of the imagination ... unless you were Bruce Wayne.
Arcades aren't really a thing now. The few that remain, just look like tacky, loud, pointless wastes of money these days. Because that's exactly what they are in today's world. They kind of became totally pointless once the PS3 and Xbox 360 hit the scene around 2006 as you could finally get better experiences at home. But back then, in the 80's and 90's, and even early 2000's, arcades were always vastly superior graphically to home experiences.
I remember Star Wars in the mid 80's, progressing through the years with Robocop, Continental Circus and Final Fight to take me up to the 90's. And then of course Street Fighter II in the 90's. Those games were just so good in the arcades at the time. The technology just wasn't there to be able to play games with graphics and sound of that magnitude affordably at home. It gave arcades in the 80's and 90's such a magical feel and aura about them.
Pushing your 10, 20 and 50 pence pieces into the slot to play, they were the only places where you could get to sample the cutting edge of the gaming world. So that the SNES could come so close to perfect with games like Street Fighter II and Final Fight for the home was such an incredible feat at the time. Once again graphics, visuals, they really mattered.
As such, once the SNES had arrived, it was now the beloved NES's turn to be straight out of the window into the trash without even a split seconds thought. It was like leaving your poor old wife, who somehow found it deep inside her loving heart to take you back, for Pamela Anderson all over again (who had actually just hit the scene by now). A clear pattern was developing. There was just no going back once you'd experienced the visual delights of the superior next gen model.
But back to the 1992 console wars where the SNES and Sega Megadrive naturally emerged as the main players. Whilst the Master System may have had the better graphics in the 8-bit generation, the Sega MegaDrive (or Genesis) definitely came off second best graphically in the 16-bit generation. Even though the Megadrive had been the best quality console on the market for a couple of years, Nintendo was riding off the back of ludicrous landslide NES sales to any other console, plus it had the most popular and acclaimed gaming brands. That and the anticipation of the promise of the most powerful 16-bit machine ever on the horizon, caused a lot of people to wait.
But it wasn't just the graphics that were better on the SNES compared to the Sega Megadrive ... the sound was better too. This was in the time before games had cd quality sound as standard, so the advancements on the sound chips mattered just as much as the graphical advancements. Again, this is only natural. Pamela Anderson may look fantastic, but if she started talking like Sloth from The Goonies, you suddenly might not be so keen ...
So many a classic game of the day is remembered now mainly by it's distinct theme tune. And once again, with the overpowered SNES as it was with the underpowered NES before it, Nintendo were the undisputed masters of the time with regards creating classic computer game music with these old sound chips. Who else could turn white noise into a beat box? The Master System and Megadrive had some truly horrible sound effects by comparison. You just can't underestimate the effect the sound had on games back then before everything was cd quality as standard. The sound could help elevate a good game into a timeless classic just because of the way it made you feel. Music is amazing like that. It was a huge, huge, part of the experience. Nintendo understood this just as much then as they do now: sound really matters.
Basically, when it arrived, the SNES was the ultimate gaming console of the time (aside from the Neo Geo which doesn't count unless you were Bruce Wayne), totally kicking the Sega Megadrive's ass as it's main competitor. Even Nintendo's SNES controller had twice the amount of buttons and a superior feel in the hand to the Sega Megadrive's. Nintendo were undisputed kings of home gaming at this point. They had got everything spot on with the SNES ... it's just a shame that tv technology hadn't aligned to a standard format across the globe to make the most of it at that point in time. Differing screen resolutions and refresh rates gave differing experiences on either side of the pond. The American's had it better than us Europeans.
The SNES was also the first machine that made me practically aware of how frame rates and display resolutions matter a lot in terms of game play. Basically PAL tv in Europe had 576 lines refreshing 50 times a second. NTSC tv in the US had 525 lines refreshing 60 times a second. Games weren't designed dynamically for multiple screen sizes and resolutions back then like they are now. This meant that a game designed for 525 lines at 60fps, displayed on a tv with 576 lines at 50fps, had black space on the top and bottom of the screen due to the 51 unaccounted for lines. But as the screen dimension was the same, it meant that the 576 lines were squashed into the same space as the 525 lines. And all refreshing 10 times less per second.
What this meant to the end user with a UK SNES was, big black bars on the top and bottom of the screen that looked awful, and a squashed display that made sprites look short, wide, and dumpy, whilst also washing out and blurring the colours at the same time. And the worst thing was, it played 17% slower than it was meant to. Basically, the UK SNES was like playing the US SNES in slow motion with worse graphics. Not a lot of people know that.
On seeing a US SNES showcased in action on an NTSC SCART enabled tv in a specialist games shop in North Harrow, I ended up selling my UK SNES to some kid in my year at school in order to buy the US SNES instead. Back then, this was actually much more effort than it sounds now. There was no internet or You Tube to make you aware of such things. I got all my info from Julian 'JAZ' Rignall's Computer and Video Games magazine remember? Which had now branched out to a console only version called 'Mean Machines' that covered the main 8-bit and 16-bit consoles. Again, that Julian Rignall and team knew their shit. The amount of time I spent standing around in WHSmith trying to look inconspicuous reading Mean Machines each month so I didn't have to buy it ... what? I was saving up. I didn't drive, and there was no eBay for buying and selling stuff. Specialist shops didn't deliver either. There was a hell of a lot of self motivated grunt work going on just to satisfy this niggle eating away at the back of my mind.
It was an expensive niggle. I also had to buy a NTSC/PAL tv with an, out dated now but new at the time, 21-pin SCART socket so I could run the US SNES. I think my parents thought I was going mad. But it was worth it. Maybe it stemmed back from Double Dragon being better on the Sega Master System, or even further to my Commodore 64 envy as a small kid, but for what ever reason, I just wasn't having it. Not anymore. I wanted to know I was playing the best technology had to offer. Unaware to most UK SNES owners, they were not playing the games as they were supposed to be. Most people probably didn't notice as relatively to the 8-bit NES and Master System, even 17% slower with squashed graphics, the leap in quality was so immense that it really didn't matter. But I noticed. Friends and family thought I was nuts at the time for doing this. Yet today, people are annoyed if a game isn't full HD 1080P at 60 frames per second. Imagine they were told they would have to settle for having huge black bars on the screen and squashed washed out graphics and a 17% reduction in game play speed! Insane? I'm owed an apology ... I was ahead of my time.
Nintendo's black and white handheld Game Boy was also doing phenomenally well at the same time, totally eclipsing Sega's GameGear popularity wise. Very low black and white graphical power gave the Nintendo GameBoy an incredible battery life, where as the Sega GameGear was basically a portable Master System that ran the battery out so fast you had to be chained to a plug socket anyway ... and it took a lifetime to charge. May as well just have played the Master System! 118 million sales for the GameBoy, 10 million for the GameGear. The GameGear was much more powerful but not really fit for purpose. There was no contest in popularity and it was hardly surprising because the battery life issue meant that the GameGear wasn't really portable at all. Sega's idea for portability had surpassed the technological practical reality of the time. Thinking back, the GameBoy's success was almost single handedly due to battery life, and Tetris (still the best selling game of all time by some margin even in 2018). Although I never had one myself, I did enjoy swapping it with some SNES games with a friend from time to time to have a Tetris blitz. That game was beyond addictive and awesome in its time. Again the music with Tetris ... so good; unforgettable.
So not only were Nintendo dominating the home console market, they were also dominating the portable console market. A market they still continue to compete very strongly in even today after the smartphone revolution. For the first time in my life, I wasn't envious in the slightest of any other systems power or games. There was no question. Nintendo totally ruled the gaming roost. And I finally had the most cutting edge console and games in the home market. Nintendo was king. And it felt like this could never change. But if there's one thing that I've learnt about life, it's that that is usually exactly when things start to change ...
A few different brand consoles attempted to break the market and failed. There was a curious CD based one that seemed to be attracting some attention though ... I, like so many people, was just going to happily wait for the next Nintendo. Then finally, in 97 whilst starting out at university, I came across the N64 and it totally changed my world. Every thing had suddenly gone full blown 3D. A new dimension in console gaming. And the controller to match was just as revolutionary. A joystick with a Z button had been added, along with additional basic buttons for even more varied game play. It was just so cool.
3D games like the groundbreaking, Doom, had been on PC for a couple of years already by this point, but it was pretty niche and far from mainstream, and certainly not anything I'd ever played. 3D was on the other random new consoles that were cropping up at the time too, but none of it was to the high standard of the N64: Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 64, Ocarina Of Time; fucking hell, Nintendo had been busy as fuck. Exploding with creative new game play ideas, the relative difference was totally mind blowing on another dimension this time. Of course it helped being in student halls at University as it meant there was always at least 3 other people at hand to get drunk playing 4 player GoldenEye with. Even without internet capability on consoles back then, thanks to being at university(I'm sure we should have been working?!), match making was never an issue: Monday through Sunday; day or night; there was always someone about to play multiplayer with. It was so good, I'm pretty sure I was even playing it in my sleep! I closed my eyes and it was still there. Addiction? Hell yeah! So good. One of the best addicitons I've ever had! An addiction I'm proud to have had. GoldenEye 64 coupled with that circumstance was the pinnacle of gaming: so competitive; so entertaining; so sociable; great days.
It was like leaving your poor old wife for Pamela Anderson yet again (who had reached timeless icon status by now), along with Denise Richards from Wild Things on top, AND throw in Rachel from Friends too! It was the equivalent of a 3 dimensional gaming orgy! It was that good.
For today's generation that has grown up with the insane level of gorgeous home 3D graphics and also the awareness of virtual realty as default, as shit as it looks now by today's standards, this relative change is impossible for them to feel. The jump from the established 2D gaming world into a new fully 3 dimensional world, that you could actually share with your friends, felt totally mind blowing. No words can describe it. I'm not sure anything can replicate that feeling now, as the computer gaming bar is just so ridiculously high by default these days, and from such a young age for kids. I was 20 when 3D gaming infiltrated my world with GoldenEye 64.
By this time Sega had somehow managed to all but kill itself off as a console competitor. I don't really know what happened. I was never bothered enough as to find out. They were still releasing consoles, although nobody I knew had one. All I know is that the worst thing happened to them. They just became insignificant. Mostly by their own bad timing of new console releases and poor business decisions it would seem. On the surface, their fall from grace was quite bizarre and sudden to gamers, but it must have been going on for some years. It's just nobody cared about Sega enough anymore to even notice. Although Sega remained light years ahead of home technology in the arcades, home console wise ... they were murdered in broad daylight and no one battered an eye lid. They were too busy playing GoldenEye on the N64, and other new games on that curious CD based machine ...
Despite the demise of their main rival, Nintendo still didn't have the market to themselves. Not by a long shot. The console wars were not over. With the benefit of today's hindsight, they hadn't even begun. A storm was brewing. That random CD based machine that I mentioned earlier, had been snowballing in popularity. It had generated very impressive traction before the N64 had been launched. Beating Nintendo to the punch with something different was brilliant business acumen from this new upstart console. It didn't have the raw power of the N64, of course it didn't, it was released almost a year before. But it did have above Nintendo was raw marketing power. It was from that company that made the walkmans. You know, oh what are they called ... Sony, that's the one.
Thanks to the CD format annoyingly long loading times were back, and even more annoyingly they were in game, but it did allow CD quality sound for the first time for so many with game consoles, along with larger storage space for games over the N64's cartridges. Which meant more storage space for texture files. At least it didn't screech like my BBC B whilst loading.
It wanted to produce realistic looking games over Nintendo's traditional cartoony ones. It had some really good ones. Wipeout being one of the most memorable to me, as it was both one of the first, and stood out by having impressive textures, excellent, fast game play, and the No. 1 chart topping smash hit The Firestarter by The Prodigy as its main theme. It was a very impressive showcase of both what the machine was capable of and how different it's games could be to Nintendo and Sega's 16-bit consoles at the time. I said before how important sound was to the whole gaming experience. At the time, Wipeout was the best integration of sound to game play you could get. I was very impressed with Wipeout at the time.
But it was Driver that was the PS1 game that I remember above all else. It was amazing and something that neither Nintendo or Sega would have ever produced. Still not as good graphically as Daytona USA in the Arcades from several years before, but visually excellent none the less for home consoles in its time, and it was fun with a concept that felt fresh and new at the time. Driver was brilliant. So good in fact, that it inspired an independent game company of the time as to how to bring one of their most popular titles from 2D to 3D. You may have heard of them. The company was called Rockstar Games, and the game was called Grand Theft Auto ...
But aside from a few standout excellent showcases in game design, the PS1 didn't really have the power or the games, or even the controller, to compete with Nintendo's N64 for me. And those loading times ... fuck, it'll never catch on.
Without even realising it, I'd had about 15 years of solid computer game evolution by the time I'd left uni. Basically, the BBC B was the base sponge layer of the cake, the NES was the layer of raspberry jam, the SNES was the second layer of sponge, Street Fighter II and Daytona USA in the arcades was the thick layer of icing, and GoldenEye was the cherry and candles on top. My cake was baked. It was never going to get any better than that. I was done. Or so I thought ...
After that, the relative changes in all the different console generations seemed so much less impressive to me. Sure, the graphics were marginally better each time, and games slightly bigger, but the game play had totally stagnated for me. 3D was 3D. Turns out just being better looking can't trump an added dimension. How do you trump Pamela Anderson, Denise Richards, AND Rachel from Friends all at once in their youth? And even they were getting old now.
The relative fresh new jump to 3D from 2D proved a leap impossible to replicate let alone beat. And after leaving Uni, with online play still in its infancy and feeling totally hollow compared to a room full of excitable similarly minded drunkards, there just wasn't the people around to play with anymore. I was no longer interested in what gaming had to offer. It was never an active choice per say, just something that naturally came about: I was an ex gamer. The "First Renaissance" had come to a natural end ...
But the console wars raged on without me. Sony's sales of the Playstation ended up totally trouncing Nintendo's N64 globally, with triple the units sold. The PS's 102 million to the N64's 33 million. And a few years later in 2000, the brand new Playstation 2 accelerated this domination totally unopposed, by being both the most powerful machine on the market and by continuing Sony's focus on real life graphical emulation over creative design (which was now perceived as a little weird and dated). And with loading times, graphical power, and controller vastly improved, the PS2 heavily dominated the console market with a huge 3rd party game library. Developers were tripping over themselves to get on board. If ever there was an example of a company understanding the cultural zeitgeist so much better than any of its competitors, it was Sony with the Playstation 2.
Sony was capturing gamers as they grew up by offering games to cater specifically for adults. I say adults, because they were 18 rated but this really meant teens to late twenties back then. And not only that, Sony had been very smart by releasing their consoles mid cycle to Nintendo's. When the PS2 hit, it had no real competition and stood alone for years as the most powerful games console and market leader, along with the most games and the freshest ideas. Timing is everything.
Something Sony still realise better than anyone else in the gaming market today. Their understanding of business was simply better than Nintendo's. Then Microsoft's Xbox arrived as a new entrant to the market to attempt to do the exact same thing as Sony did, only with more power still. Never mind Nintendo and Sega in the 80's and 90's, it was here that the console wars really started to heat up. And to think I thought I was playing with power with the NES over 30 years ago ...
With hindsight, that was the first generation of machines where you could actually say that the 3D graphics were any good. And, even though it was the most powerful machine at launch, and despite it's usual great first party game line up, they both totally wiped the floor with Nintendo's GameCube. Nintendo's cartoony image was no longer cool. Mario was not new any more. Mario 64, GoldenEye 64, The Legend Of Zelda Ocarina of Time, they all proved incredibly tough acts to follow. Like all Nintendo consoles, it had some amazing exclusive first party games on it, but next to the Xbox and PS2, the Nintendo GameCube felt, and looked, more like a machine for kids. The gaming landscape had changed in the last 5 years since the N64 was released. And Nintendo's sales suffered massively because of it. Where were the new ideas? Answer ... ripping their clothes off and jumping into bed with Sony and Microsoft. None of Nintendo's franchises felt new anymore. Like Sega before them, Nintendo were taking some big shots on the chin.
Nintendo looked a little lost in a changing world with an established user base that was growing up and leaving them behind in droves. People wanted the newer experiences. Nintendo needed to adapt their hardware strategy or go the way of Sega. The PS2 sold 155 million units world wide, over 50 million up from the PS1. It remains the best selling console ever and will take some beating, such was the impact it clearly had on the market by pushing to make gaming mainstream. The GameCube in contrast sold just 22 million. 10 million less than the N64, 30 million less than the SNES, 40 million less than the NES. The downward trend, combined with outdated image problems, did not look good for Nintendo at all. Even the Xbox sold better at 24 million and it was Microsoft's first ever console. No one had even heard of it before and it still beat Nintendo. But then sales are never an indication of quality, and thanks to the 80's and 90's, Nintendo had more money than GOD, so they had plenty of time to lie on the canvas and figure out where these punches were coming from, and more importantly, which ones they needed to be throwing back.
Fortunately for Nintendo, the home console wasn't the only string to their bow. In a world where smartphones didn't exist yet, they still totally dominated the handheld market. The GameBoy had previously steadily advanced with excellent sales over the years to GameBoy Pocket (1996), GameBoy Light (1998), GameBoy Color (1998), and then to GameBoy Advance (2001), and despite it being their most successful product range ever at that point, Nintendo decided it was now time for The GameBoy to go. They were very aware of Sony's ambition to try to attack the handheld market hard whilst they were on such an unstoppable run with the PS1 and PS2.
In 2004, Nintendo took the bold move to superseded the GameBoy with the new Duel Screen Nintendo DS range. The DS successfully crippled Sony's attempt to break the portable market with the PSP at the same time. The DS's added dimensions to game play beat the PSP's raw power hands down, which was basically a portable PS2. Once again, just as the GameBoy did to the GameGear, the underpowered machine shone by actually being fit for purpose. Battery life and charging time mattered above all else for portable. Sony had made the exact same mistake that Sega had all those years ago. And with the added dimension in game play that the duel screen brought with it, every kid wanted a DS, especially those that already had a GameBoy (and there were 118 million of those) ... the PSP not so much.
Again, not because it wasn't any good. It was an amazing device for it's time. Way more powerful than the DS, but at a cost of battery life. As good as it was, it didn't offer anything new to the PS2 people already had, and nobody wanted to re buy the same old games just to be able to play them 'on the go', ironically chained to a power socket anyway. Playstation owners wanted the PS3, not the PSP. Where the hell was the PS3?
It was a long time coming still. It wasn't until 2007 that the PS3 finally arrived, this time very late to the party, with guns a blazing going for a showdown with Microsoft's Xbox 360 that had beaten Sony to the punch this time by over a year. It was Microsoft's turn to enjoy being unopposed market leader with the most powerful machine on the market. The Xbox 360 was going down a storm with gamers. Whilst these 2 graphical powerhouses went head to head and toe to toe, jabbing and taunting each other as they danced dropping the odd right cross to each other when the timing was right ... Nintendo was continuing their new strategy from the sidelines.
Attempting to offer something different by adding some new dimension to traditional gaming, they had released the bizarre Wii with its weird motion control thingys. Many people thought that was it for Nintendo. Considering the immense power and quality games of the Xbox 360 that had already released almost a year before it, and with the impending behemoth of the Sony's PS3 on the imminent horizon ... what the fuck is this?! Many people thought the writing was on the wall for Nintendo. What were they thinking!?
Hopelessly underpowered compared to the new PS3 and Xbox 360 powerhouses that did exactly what they did before, only even better and with even more power than ever ... people genuinely began to worry about Nintendo's future.
And yet, the humble Wii totally wiped the floor with the pair of the muscle bound powerhouses sales wise. Which was an incredible feat seeing as this generation of machines was the first to have truly excellent 3D graphics. The PS3 and Xbox 360 were total arcade killers. For the first time in history, home gaming was all you needed. Of course graphics will always improve over time, but you're never going to look back at this generation and think my god these graphics are fucking shit. Well, not about the PS3 or Xbox 360 at any rate. Power wise, the Wii was little more than a souped up GameCube with motion controls, which in the long run, would lead it to suffer badly trying to secure 3rd party developer support from the top game studios. But it really didn't matter at the time at all. Not only were sales incredible, people genuinely loved their Wii's and the new experience it had to offer.
The Nintendo Wii, as with the Nintendo DS, had dared to add new dimensions to gaming in the name of fun, and at the cost of power and better looks ... and both paid off big time. Graphics had reached that point where they still looked good enough regardless, and the added experience meant they sold by the bucket load. With the main aim of the DS and the Wii being fun, Nintendo opened up the gaming world to more people than ever before by capturing the 'casual' gaming market. More females and older people than ever had become interested in gaming thanks to the Wii's casual fun affordable attraction. Just as Sony had opened up the gaming market demographic to new territories with the the PS1 and PS2, Nintendo had done so once again with the Nintendo Wii And the Nintendo DS. Whilst Sony and Microsoft were battling hell to leather on outdoing each other on graphics and teraflops ... Nintendo was cool again for being light hearted, fun, and different. The image problem was flipped on it's head.
The Nintendo DS stands as the second best selling console of all time, only very marginally behind the PS2, with a staggering 155 million units sold. And the Nintendo Wii as the 5th, only very marginally behind the PS1, with 102 million units sold. The GameBoy sits in 3rd place with 118 million sales. This meant that combined, surprisingly Nintendo were by far the most successful, and profitable considering how underpowered their machines were, console manufacturers of the PS3, Xbox 360 generation. They had predicted the cultural zeitgeist, and had created new ideas to capitalise on it with phenomenal success: they knew people wanted new ways to have fun and get together, over just incremental improvements in graphics, and they delivered by making their devices to facilitate this desire. Their strategy had clearly worked well ... for now.
What no one saw coming, however, was the fact that in 2007, a Mr Steve Jobs had had this sudden urge to mix his cell phone with his mp3 player ... creating a device that facilitated this spirit of the times better than any device ever before. The rug was firmly swept from under Nintendo's feet.
The iPhone and the start of the smartphone revolution, with motion control and swipe screen navigation, didn't just completely steal Nintendo's casual gaming market ... it also stole the mobile phone and camera market in general too! The next new gimmick/dimension in game play was here. By the end of the Wii's cycle, the human race had already turned into mindless zombies addicted to swiping and flicking little screens in their palms. It wasn't just an IT revolution ... it was a revolution in human behaviour. It actually altered the way humans behave, communicate, and interact for ever more in a big way. And more importantly for the legions of Apple fan boys of the time ... it allowed jeans to be skinnier and tighter than ever as you only needed to carry one device in your pocket.
Now you could play casual games anywhere on your phone ... and for free. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and Candy Crush Saga were the games on the tip of everyone's tongue ... or should I say finger. You didn't need a tv, console, or gimmicky motion controllers to play games anymore. You just needed Mr Steve Jobs and his shiny new 'i' product range.
I remember clearly how Steve Jobs became the Messiah of Apple fan boys the world over. There was a scary fervent quasi religious following of the man. He could have sold them anything ... and at any price; and he knew it; and he did. Steve Jobs had the Midas Touch: he alone had predicted a cultural zeitgeist, and had created new ideas to shape and capitalise on it with even more phenomenal success than Nintendo and Sony before him. His emphasis was on style and the coolness of the feel of simplicity to the end user in the palm of your hand ... and most importantly, at a hefty premium selling price. And that last bit really was the key in implying quality to the casual IT purchaser; still is. Of course, what Apple was really selling at a premium, was the 'cool' image. And boy did it work. Apple quickly became the coolest brand on the planet.
The more he charged, and the less features he put on it ... the better it sold! Any criticism of shortcomings was spun in to a 'feature' of simplicity. It was incredible. He hadn't just taken control of the casual gaming market ... he had taken control of the casual IT market in general and persuaded them that he was the only choice going forward. It was quite remarkable to observe. When the iPad launched in 2010, the PC was all but dead to the 'i' religion masses. It was the past. The future was only Apple apparently ...
Even schools ordered iPad's in by the bucket load on the promise of their greatness as it looked good to parents, only to never use them. And yet just general observation would tell anyone that it was basically a massively overpriced device for browsing the internet / pottering around with shallow gimmicky apps, and for their kids to play Angry Birds on all day, possibly charging you a small fortune in in-app purchases in the process. Functionally, if you wanted to do any kind of work on it, it was a ball of shite. And the well mapped out hardware update cycle every couple of years made them a totally unviable option. No office back then would favour an iPad over a much cheaper fully functional PC any more than they would today 8 years later. The iPad was a bit of fun, the ultimate gadget, a symbol of status for wallies, deceptively posing as the ultimate device for functionality, so it could attach a massive price tag to it. It still is. A really big smartphone, without the phone basically. It's not a pc killer at all.
I'm writing this 8 years after that time whereby PC's still smack the living shit out of iPad's in terms of functionality and power, and functionality to price/value. But also in a world where Apple has been the richest company on the planet for some time. Although I think brand loyalty without a decent assessment of what you are paying well over the odds for is always foolish, you've got to give credit to Steve Jobs for what he achieved. Like him or loathe him, Steve Jobs is possibly the best genius of marketing the world has ever seen; maybe will ever see, who knows. Whatever you made of his products and his aggressive, uncooperative, bullish principles, there can be no denying that Steve Jobs was pure marketing brilliance of the highest and rarest order.
By the end of it's cycle, nearly every Wii ever bought was gathering dust somewhere after not being used for years. The smartphone revolution took its mantle and thrust gaming into the mainstream more than ever before, albeit it in a very different way than was ever done before. Free to play games, with in-app purchases, gained massive prominence, and notoriety, in the casual gaming market. They were a bit like arcade games of old in that you had to keep pumping money into them in order to get anywhere, only unlike the arcade games of old, the games themselves certainly weren't ground breaking in any way. But it did mean, thanks to Steve Jobs, a past time that had once been seen as nerdy and geeky had now become eternally cool provided it was on an 'i' product and you were wearing skinny jeans ... otherwise it was even nerdier and geekier than ever! How does that work? It was strange time to be alive in, sorry to be aware in I mean ...
Meanwhile, the PS3 and Xbox 360 had become firmly established as the only real competitive options left for 'serious' gamers. Serious gamers. Lol.
What they meant was, gamers that prefered games that had top rate cutting edge graphics and a proper controller, that you would happily, and much rather, pay a one off purchase fee to play. The traditional gaming model if you like, that had been tried and tested to produce high quality games. Free to play with in-app purchases, touch screen, motion controls ... they all led to disjointed gaming experiences, and were seen as mere one off experience gimmicks for 'casuals' only looking for a bit of quick fun in the moment, by developers seeking to ruthlessly cash in on new trends. They did have a point. But to be fair, it was early days in 'free' to play gaming. Immoral, easy to click, non refundable in-app purchases did become more regulated over time as consumers back lashed. And the way purchasable content was delivered in games did start improving ... albeit very slowly. Basically, the way games were being delivered was starting to change at that time. The 'freemium' model of game delivery was now the in thing, but it was still in its infancy. Whether it was to the detriment of experiences and quality in games or not, was down to your perspective I guess. But the hard core PS and Xbox fans did not like it at all.
How did Nintendo respond to the death of the Wii sales? In 2012 Nintendo tried the tactic that had previously worked so well for Microsoft and Sony before it ... and struck first. It was Nintendo's time to enjoy being the first next gen console on the market. The Wii U was the most powerful machine on the market on release, and easily Nintendo's best ever console. It was like a cross breed of the original Wii and the DS. Nintendo's first HD console boasted a unique additional touch screen screen controller, just like the DS, for yet more added dimensions in game play and the ability to play on the go in your own home. You could even use all your existing Wii games and controllers with it too. No other console allowed that. And with the promise of many great new Nintendo titles on the horizon, for the first time ever, all in glorious HD, Nintendo thought they had it in the bag. That all sounds lovely ... if it was still 2007 Nintendo! Remember that concept of zeitgeist? Nintendo didn't.
Sales were bad. Very bad. Nobody bought it. Nobody even knew what it was. It was barely advertised, presumably due to the fact that there was barely any first party Nintendo games for it at launch, let alone 3rd party. Its name made it sound like an upgrade. Why would you want to upgrade that box covered in dust that you haven't used in years? And it wasn't technically truly next gen either, it was like half a gen up from the PS3 and Xbox 360. Nintendo didn't have a bad product, they had a bad product to try and sell in the current market. And they had positioned themselves between a rock and a hard place from the outset. Their purpose was simply not clear or well communicated at all. Had Nintendo already become the next Sega? Casual gamers were glued to infinite amounts of 'free' games on their iPad's and smartphone's and 'serious' gamers knew that the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One were due out in a year anyway.
Nintendo had a good machine with some great games in the pipeline for it but had totally ignored the market and the current zeitgeist. Totally ignored the fact that that is what actually sells machines. Quality software means nothing if no one buys the machine to play it on. They found themselves in a position where by they were just so behind their main competitors in terms of raw horse power AND business acumen.
To make matters worse for Nintendo, developers were already targeting their new games for the PS4 and Xbox One and had reported both that the Wii U was too underpowered to run their next gen games, and also too awkward to program for because of the machine architecture and second screen thing. Even Nintendo themselves barely utilised the new controller in the ways that they suggested it could be used. And with sales of the machine so low, even with no new competition yet, game studios simply didn't see that they would make their money back in software sales with the Wii U. They were not prepared to take the risk on it. And, although a self fulfilling prophecy, they were probably right.
And yet Nintendo had all this amazing top quality software on their hands ready to go, and people knew this, but in the highly competitive gaming hardware market, being fought by the richest companies on the planet, people began to once again speculate if Nintendo were destined to become a software only company like Sega had done before them. After all, surely it would be better if you could just play Nintendo games on the more powerful Sony and Microsoft machines, just like Sega games. Why would you want to spend hundreds of pounds on Nintendo's hardware just to play a couple of games? Were Nintendo committing suicide as Sega did before them by ignoring the market in favour of their own ideals?
So competitive was the gaming market by this point, that both the PS4 and Xbox One launched in the same month in 2013 and totally smacked the living shit out of the Wii U sales wise.
The PS4 even totally smacked the living shit out of the Xbox One sales wise too due to a calamity of ridiculous business choices by Microsoft that pissed off its core fan base just before launch. It was like Microsoft put a bunch of circus clowns in charge of the Xbox One division. Like they tied their own shoelaces together at the start of a 100m race and then wondered why they fell flat on their face as their competitor raced off into the distance. The PS4 was also slightly cheaper to buy and showing better performance in many games. And given that the games were the same on each, this made the PS4 the obvious clear cut choice for those wanting a next gen machine. In short, although the PS3 Xbox 360 generation was closely fought between Microsoft and Sony (whilst Nintendo blitzed the pair of them stealthily from the ringside), in this generation, just like the PS1 and PS2 had done before it sales wise ... the PS4 was kicking major ass.
So much so that the Wii U had to be discontinued early before the end of it's planned cycle and Microsoft stopped releasing sales figures for the Xbox One. Sony had become like Ali standing over Liston(Microsoft and Nintendo) taunting him on the canvas after a first round knockout punch.
And it was no phantom punch ... to rub salt into their wounds, Sony even released a PS4 Pro in 2016 that was even better than the original and intended for 4K gaming. Sony totally smashed Nintendo and Microsoft right from the outset in a way that would make Hulk green with envy ... if he wasn't green already. Brutal. I told you this was a war.
Fortunately Nintendo still had more money than GOD in the bank, and had already gone immediately back to the drawing board very early on in the Wii U's cycle once they realised what was happening to the Wii U's sales. Once again, after totally revising their whole sales strategy, in 2017 they brought out what the Wii U should have been from the outset ... The Nintendo Switch. As Nintendo hung from the cliff edge they drove themselves over, it's as if a random employee suddenly said, 'Hang on a minute lads ... I've got a great idea.'
Strong advertising, a colourful fun looking product, top 1st party games and many of those great Wii U games ported over with improvements, and most importantly ... excellent 3rd party support.
On the face of it, the Nintendo Switch looks to be a resounding success story for Nintendo. Although how much the Nintendo Switch sales eat into Nintendo DS sales is yet to be seen. Given the nature of the two Nintendo devices, it seems that Nintendo's own DS will be the main victim of the Switch's success, rather than the PS4 or Xbox One. Although, for many Xbox One and PS4 owners, although they would NEVER buy the others machine, they would buy The Nintendo Switch as a portable additional console. It will definitely be interesting to see how The Switch will change the landscape of gaming ... or even if it can. Time will tell.
Realising they had cocked up too, Microsoft, with even more money than Nintendo and GOD combined, accidentally dropped between the groove in the sofa cushions let alone stockpiled in the bank, also beefed up their offering in 2017 with the Xbox One X. The most powerful games console that has ever existed. An Xbox One, exploding at the seams with power, pumped up to burst on steroids, a machine not for 'serious' gamers, but for 'really serious' gamers. And with a relative price tag to match.
A total narcissistic megalomaniac's ball bag full of genetically modified superhuman semen. In terms of raw horse power and teraflops, it flopped out it's giant cock and pissed on the PS4 Pro from a great height. And then ... tea-bagged it to finish. Don't touch this thing if you opt for a mild curry. Don't touch this thing if you can't handle three shredded wheat. Don't touch this thing if you take two bottles into the shower. Don't touch this thing if you need to look left and right before crossing the road. Don't touch this thing if you check the sugar content of your food. Don't touch this thing if you think 'Covfefe' is not a word...
This thing would pile drive Zangeif. It would out run Sonic. It would bum bounce on Super Mario's head. It would out tree the Wii Fit trainer. It wouldn't be the silent protector of Peach or Princess Zelda, it would shag their brains out, and have them both screaming for more in a threesome before smoking a fat Cuban cigar stolen from Arnold Schwarzenegger's mouth. It would send ripples through the Matrix that would have Morpheus believing it was the one ... and yet it's still only on par with a current mid range PC? Eh? Hmmmm? Interesting that one. More on that later. However, it seems to have done the trick and finally stimulated stronger Xbox One sales to the PS4.
Although Microsoft need to get the tea bagging in whilst they still can. Whilst highly unlikely either Nintendo or Microsoft can come even close to the PS4 sales by the end of this generations cycle, Sony, 3 times the past masters of perfectly timing their punches, is already speculating on releasing the PS5 either in 2019 or 2020, whilst Nintendo appears to going down a faster 2 year update cycle, more like how it did with the DS than the 5 to 6 year traditional home console cycle, with a new Switch projected for a 2019 release. This doesn't surprise me as they now have to keep on top of cutting edge mobile technology which is improving so fast these days. As well as increasing memory, storage, and power output, Nintendo needs to keep improving battery life whilst reducing heat output, and reducing fan noise, and improving the screen quality ... whilst keeping it affordable! It worked well with the DS. The Nintendo Switch is now competing with Google, Amazon, Samsung and Apple smartphones and tablets, as well as Sony and Microsoft consoles. If you could pick 6 companies on the planet that you wouldn't want to be competing with ... it would be those 6. If they don't have a relatively faster update cycle for the Switch ... they're fucked. But then they've been at the forefront of mobile console gaming for 30 years now, so must be fully aware of this.
And that's where we've ended up today as I write this. PC, Flash, Steam, online, voice chat, screen technology, Google, Android, Amazon, Facebook, Vita, VR, smartphone and tablet advancements ... it's safe to say there's a lot of things that I missed out that influenced mainstream gaming over the years. But then how long do you want this article to be for fucks sake? The past is just that: I'm now more interested in the present and future to be honest.
The hiatus section was only supposed to be a summary to get the gist of the main changes in the console wars since the N64. Truth is, none of it mattered to me at all over all the years covered anyway. I was an ex gamer remember? But, even though it was all just background noise over all but the very end of those years, I read the news, I was still aware of goings on. A bit of Googling from moments in memory and ... hey presto, I put together the above. And I have to say that I quite enjoyed doing it actually. It was very nostalgic. People take the fact that we can even do this for granted these days. I never could have done that in the first renaissance ... Google didn't even exist.
Anyway, if there's one thing I noticed whilst looking up all this info ... it's how console history success and failure is all documented in terms of sales figures? That's just so wrong as the only measure of history. More people need to write their memories down to get a truer picture of reality. A reality that contains both the objective AND the subjective of the time. A history of feeling from the time too, as opposed to just sales and financial results.
It makes you wonder if the rest of history that we read about is as heavily half assed unbalanced in the same way? All about sales, finance, and events ... totally void of human feeling? Human feelings are subjective, so if you only have an objective recording of events, such as teraflops, sales and profits generated, you have a recorded history completely devoid of humanity? What use is that? Perhaps this explains the UK Conservative party and why they think the way they do?
Anyway, that console history seems to be judged in terms of sales alone is so ironic, because the truth of the reality of all individuals playing console games is, that it has nothing to do with sales figures at all. I guarantee you, whatever console any one bought, they fucking loved it to bits in its time; passionately. I know this from how I enjoyed my BBC B, my NES, my SNES, my N64 ... they were all excellent in their own way. No winners or losers as far as consumers are concerned at all. There was never a bad choice with any console. When it comes to consoles, sales figures are NEVER a measure of quality. More just branding, marketing, and capturing the current zeitgeist. But that's the same with everything when it comes to sales. That quality will always prevail is a Capitalist myth. Quality will die just like anything else if someone drops a piano on it's head and or funding gets starved.
Much quality fell by the way side to all gamers that only bought one machine in each generation; which was most people back then, and now. Most people aren't made of money. What survives by whatever means is what prevails, that's Capitalism, but the machines and games themselves were all good, particularly to the individual that owned one. That's truth.
Truth is, the best machine was always the one that you owned: the one you actually played; the one that provided you many hours of value and entertainment in your life; the one that you develop this strange sense of loyalty toward as it has given you all this wonderful feeling; the one that has filled your mind with fond memories. Not the one that sold the most units or output the most teraflops. That is not what is enjoyable about playing games. That's not why people play games. And yet, it is clearly what is shaping why people buy the machines to play games on?
The console war is really between companies, sales figures, and profits. It always has been. And that does not directly correlate to value or quality at all. It correlates to business and timing more than anything else. Consumers get sucked into this and affected by it which is silly really; been there done that; seen it go on repeat for decades.
And, speaking of decades, as already said, although I've wrote all this, the reality is I'd had nothing to do with gaming for well over a decade since the N64 and the end of University. If you'd asked me what my favourite game was ... I'd have still said GoldenEye 64 every time!
Looking back, the hiatus was more to do with my changing life circumstance than anything else. As with all people, the transition from childhood to adulthood brought with it several sudden forced changes, that served to phase out playing computer games. Whether I wanted it to or not. But not just computer games: guitar, keyboard, illustration, exercise ... hobbies in general! At any rate, I was no longer a gamer: my priorities had changed; my circumstance had changed. As said, I tried the odd game on other people's machines, but I just wasn't into it any more. Consoles ended for me with the N64. Rent, poverty, work, relationship, kids: I found I had a couple of decades full of other much more pressing priorities than 'pistols in the basement' and 'slappers only' ... but they definitely weren't more fun! But then that is survival for you. As for most people without a financial safety net, and emblazoned with educational debt, the transition into adulthood was very hard with lots of hurdles. Turned out, that the majority of higher education is not directly relevant to general employment at all? How had no one realised this before? Oh wait ...
So much for work providing a means to find a sense of worth in society and a path towards self actualisation. The reality of life, was quite the opposite ...
It's only really after having kids, and as they started getting a bit older, that I started to get reminded of the priceless entertainment value of gaming all over again. And having a couple of enthusiastic little people to enjoy it with again didn't just feel good, it felt refreshingly good. So much so, that I actually wondered how I forgot about it all in the first place? About 13 years had gone past and suddenly, I began to feel like I was laying down the base sponge of a whole new cake for the next decade again. And that's because I was, only this time, I was enjoying the cake with my kids too.
One of the many great things about kids as they get older is, they move computer games from the 'time consuming fun hobby you used to enjoy that is frowned upon and that you told yourself you don't really have time for anymore anyway' category, into the 'amazing shared fun bonding session with the kids' category. It's funny how a change in circumstance creates a whole new perspective on the exact same thing; it refreshes the value; restores the meaning; much like having kids does for Christmas and a great many other things in life. Kids are great: it's amazing how they highlight how so much of what we feel is simply dependant on a relative change in perspective. That's an empowering thing to realise, even if it's not something that you can easily control.
And as the years went on, enjoying getting actively involved with the games my kids liked playing, I suddenly started to wonder ... had I inadvertently entered into a brand new gaming phase in my life? It was then that I realised, that 'The Second Renaissance', had already begun ...
THE SECOND RENAISSANCE
I'm not sure how long it will last, if it's just a catch up thing to make sure my kids are always up to date with the latest tech and the current zeitgeist, or if it's a hobby/interest that I will continue with longer term for myself, I really don't know. I guess time will tell. But either way, doesn't matter. Right now, it feels right. I've certainly been enjoying my second gaming renaissance over the past few years. I play mostly with my kids, on games like Rocket League, Fortnite, Speed Runners, Stick Fight, Disco Dodgeball. Good fun bonding multi player stuff. Lots of laughs ... and arguments. But not every day, otherwise there'd be no time to do anything else. Every now and again, I might decide to have a big session on my own, especially on racing wheel games and first person shooters, but like exercise, I deliberatly vary it.
Whether it's playing with my kids, catching up on stuff I've missed out on over the years, or enjoying sampling the fore front of technology and game design once again, it's all good. It all just another form of entertainment that breaks up the repetitive nature of slaver ... I mean work. And that is a brilliant thing. The more pleasure you can insert into your mind, in between the mundane repetitive routine of work, the better. Gaming is just one excellent way of doing that. Personally, I like doing several.
But sticking with gaming, my second renaissance all started by stealth around 7 years ago when my daughter was 3 near the end of the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation. She already enjoyed playing around on my iPod Touch and smartphone, and she'd already done the thing that happened to most parents back then, of accidentally ordering £50 worth of non refundable digital fish in some crappy 'free' penguin game app ...
There was an app for everything apparently, except it would seem, for getting your money back after an accidental in-app purchase.
Popular as it was, and as much money as it was making Mr Jobs, this in app purchase nonsense was totally ruining games at that point in time. I remembered when games were better than just swiping your finger and finding out you had to pay money to continue just because Steve Jobs told the world that that was the future. Apps were attempting to reclaim the place of arcades of old where by you had to continuously pump your money in to continue. I could see this so clearly. Difference was, these apps/games weren't cutting edge at all; arcades of old were.
The device they were on may have been groundbreaking, but the games themselves certainly weren't. And that's a big fundamental difference in value when your device is manipulating you for income in the same way. In the early days of 'apps' it was far too easy to purchase a non refundable digital item without realising ... especially if you were a kid. And it was also clear that they were deliberately designed this way. And with Apple taking 30% of all sales, of course they were going to be fine with this until the public finally complained in enough numbers to change it. At which point they simply span it that they were 'listening' to consumers, to top up the positive image and keep it rolling. I never did get that money back. Bastards. I wasn't happy with this. It felt dishonest. It felt a bad path for gaming to take. Never mind 'felt', it was 'literally' a bad path for gaming to be going. No parent should ever be playing Russian Roulette with their bank card whilst their kids play a substandard 'free' game. But Apple and Mr Jobs were totally fine with that in the early days.
I'd noticed how cheap you could pick up a second hand Wii with games online so I thought I'd give it a go. There were rumours of the PS4 and the next Xbox on the horizon, but I wasn't interested in power anymore, I just wanted something cheap for the kids to play with and have a bit of fun on ... that wouldn't accidentally cost me £50 each time. You could pick up an unboxed Wii with games for next to nothing at that time. Thick layer of dust included.
Turned out those motion control things were pretty good fun after all. And then Mario Galaxy 2, Mario Kart Wii ... these games were totally awesome! Tremendous amounts of fun. We loved it so much, I sold it about a year later to upgrade to the Wii U as you could still play your old Wii games on it. Seemed like a good deal. And it was. It may not have sold well in it's generation, but it was without doubt one of the best quality purchases I ever made. It was an excellent console to own. My kids absolutely adored the Wii U for years. It may have been Nintendo's worst selling console ever (only £13.5 million), but it was also without question easily their best ever at the time, and the games on it were fucking brilliant; especially for kids. All those kids that missed out because they were more concerned about teraflops and sales figures ... dear oh dear; I feel so sorry for them. The Wii U was fucking brilliant for kids. What had the console wars, started all those years ago, led gaming to become? Criminal.
The PS3/PS4 and Xbox360/Xbox One had nothing of the same quality for kids by comparison. Nothing at all even close. The market had been skewed by the wrong forces. On reviewing the scene again all these years later, consoles, tablets, even PC's, it was absolutely clear that Nintendo still remained the best choice for kids gaming. There really was no contest.
And even though it exists on everything, the Wii U was also where my kids discovered Minecraft. The touch screen phone and tablet version was totally inferior to them. Touch screen may have been the new in thing, but controllers will always matter. The are a pivotal and fundemental part of any gaming experience. The traditional dual stick gaming controller is still yet to be bettered.
The Wii U was like a family pet. It served us well for 4 wonderful years ... before being sold on ebay and going towards a Nintendo Switch last Christmas. I've already made enough crude jokes about leaving your loyal wife for a nubile young Pamela Anderson, I don't think we need another. But then the Wii U went the exact same way so why not? It served it's purpose, and then it was gone. Upgraded for a better looking model, and we didn't miss it at all. Didn't even notice it was gone. It seems old habits die hard. All that time had passed and nothing had changed. It'll never change as long as consoles keep rolling out. Like I said, technology is harsh like that ...
But although ditched in a heartless split second for the Nintendo Switch with no looking back, and although technically speaking it was actually their second console ... I'm sure my kids will see the Wii U as their first proper console. It will be their BBC B. I know that there will be a lot of love from them looking back on that machine when the decades have gone by. I think they were too young to remember that the Wii started it all rolling, especially given we didn't have it for long and both the controllers and games were all carried over to the Wii U. The Wii U was the first console that meant a lot to them basically. One day, it will be their own personal time machine to memories they thought had gone forever. We had a lot of fantastic fun bonding sessions on that machine over the years ... even though the Switch totally smacks the shit out of it now.
But the Switch was actually the secondary purchase in my review of the current console market last year in 2017, looking at where it was heading for my kids over the next 5 to 7 years or so, even though I bought it first. Spring of 2018 this year, I bought the primary investment; and I surprised myself. It wasn't even a console, but it seemed the only rational choice going forwards after weighing up all the options ... a full blown Nvidia 1080 GTX gaming PC accessible from every tv in the house. 4 Xbox controllers, steering wheel, pedals and shifter, I got the whole lot, the total experience: I wasn't going to get that niggle at the back of mind that I know from my childhood experiences that so many PS4 and Xbox One owners will have all the time right now; been there done that.
I know from my own experiences that whilst my kids totally love Nintendo for now, as they progress into their teenage years, those games aimed at older ages on the Playstation and Xbox are going to be capturing their attentions. Of course they will. No question. They are going to be the new experiences for them. However, it's pretty clear to see these days, the way things have evolved with graphics cards and home equipment, that PC gaming is always going to be superior to consoles from this point onwards. And mine will not only trump the next generation of games consoles, it will sort my kids out for many years to come with regards IT in general and all the other things you can do with it. Turns out this second renaissance of computer gaming has actually panned out to be an enjoyable learning project, not just a great shared bonding experience with my kids. I love a good learning project. Hopefully they'll remember these times fondly as they grow older. I know I will.
Although they'll continue to produce great games, to me, from this point forwards, there's just no point in an Xbox or Playstation console. Aside from the fact that a PC is an Xbox anyway, just one that can do much more and with much better graphics, Nintendo provides the better games for young kids without question, and the entire landscape regarding the ongoing console wars is also shifting once again. The only drawback of a gaming PC is that the initial outlet is more expensive. But if I saved up for a US SNES and a SCART enabled NTSC tv for myself all those years ago as a kid, I was damn well going to save up for a gaming PC for my kids as a dad now. And if you needed a PC for them anyway as I did, you can kill two birds with one stone. Fucking expensive stone admittedly ... but worth it. Best purchase I ever made. And it's not just about power, it's the diverse range of games. If you haven't played Stick Fight, you've haven't experienced gaming at it's most fun ever. Such a fun game. I have never laughed so much playing a game my whole life as playing that with my kids. It's fucking hilarious.
There is just such a wealth of available games on the PC these days, via online stores such as Steam, Blizzard, and Epic Games, all that can achieve superior graphics and frame rates to the Xbox One or PS4 whilst also being much cheaper to buy, particularly in Steam sales. And bar from a select few console exclusive games that I wouldn't play anyway, they are exactly the same games just with much better graphics and frame rates.
Plus there's all the free early access stuff that PC's get too. These days, you can't ignore the effect the YouTube culture that surrounds these early access games has on your kids. With the PC they can play along with it and be a part of it. They find the glitches hilarious, and enjoy the free updates that totally change the game as it develops further. It's almost like they are a part of the game's creation. It's that added dimension I've been talking about all along that PC's currently have over consoles. Hello Neighbor is a perfect example of this. My son was fascinated by this character and Dan TDM's videos covering all the updates.
And speaking of games, your games don't suddenly become redundant with each new generation of hardware on PC like they do with consoles. If anything they are only ever going to automatically have better graphics with new hardware. You can get games going right back to the 90's in Steam. And you can get console emulators for free on PC's too. And playability wise, you have the vastly more accurate keyboard and mouse option for first person shooters, as well as wireless Xbox controllers for everything else if you want them. Best of both worlds.
Networking is also king on PC's. So long as you are not currently playing games in your account yourself, you can share Steam games with friends and family on different PC's anywhere in the world. This means dad's like me can build up a game library over time very cheaply in the Steam sales, and in the future my kids will be able to play these games on their laptops, when they are old enough to need one that is, wherever they may be. That's pretty amazing when you consider how tight console manufacturers are when it comes to sharing anything. Even more amazing when you consider how so many games die with the machine as they are no longer compatible with future consoles. PC doesn't have this problem. And it never will.
Or if you want to all be in the same room, games like Fortnite, Minecraft and Rocket League, already allow you to network PC's, laptops, and even Nintendo Switch's together, so you can all play together in the same room with your own dedicated screen each. You would need multiple tv's in the same room to do that with the PS4 or Xbox One. Never going to happen. I can currently play Fortnite with my kids in the same room as a squad, me on my laptop, my daughter on the PC, and my son on the Nintendo Switch, and get the GoldenEye 64 couch experience feel in the modern age. That's amazing. It's so much fun doing this.
And although Sony are desperately trying their hardest to use their considerable well earned power in the gaming industry to slow down the process, everything is becoming cross platform these days. It's only going to accelerate as time goes on. If they really were 'for the gamers', they would realise that and embrace it, just as Nintendo and Microsoft has done. And when you consider all the rest that a PC can do, that games consoles can't, this just adds even more weight as to why I see no need for an Xbox or Playstation console from this point forward. It would just be doubling up on what I already have much better of. By the same logic, it also totally trashes the need for an iPad. But then, smartphone's have always done that anyway seeing as everyone already has one. Apple are still trying to push iPad's as replacements to PC's. But truth is, an iPad, as with all tablets, is still just a really big phone, without the phone. It's a nice portable browsing device with limitations for style. But if you want full functionality at a good price ... you still need a PC. That fact never changed. Only the current zeitgeist did. But fortunately, it's swinging back to logic.
Also, the way I see it, in competing for the ultimate graphics and power as their selling points, and in focusing on predominantly adult games, the Playstation and Xbox are now, inadvertently setting out the future terms of their own demise. Their fans are screaming out loud what they want the next gen to be. Without even realising it, they're basically saying they want the next gen to be as good as a GTX 1080 gaming PC. But due to cost of components, particularly considering the emergence of Bitcoin Mining(Google it), they never can be. My gaming PC with 7th gen i7 processor, 16Gb RAM, and 8GB Nvidia 1080GTX graphics card, should easily out perform even the next unreleased console generation, which in my mind, I'm predicating will be the last generation of such type machines anyway. So that's the money on two console generations and controllers saved, as well as the continuation of being able to get the same games much cheaper, to offset the cost of the PC which I needed for the kids anyway. This stone is killing lots of birds at once now! And the RAM and graphics card can be upgraded in the future too if I feel the need. I doubt we'll ever see a PS6. After the extended run of the PS5 / Xbox Two XYZ, I think the way games are delivered will be totally different anyway. Changed in the way that the delivery of tv programme's and films has already been changed before now. But we'll get to that at the end.
It's safe to say, gaming advanced a long way in my absence. And I'm glad it did. With memories flooding back to me by the bucket load, I felt the need to do the whole retro gaming nostalgia thing with the kids a while back. But it was very short lived to be honest. They weren't particularly impressed and neither was I. The rose tinted glasses are now firmly in the bin. What a load of shit. As good as they were for me and my time, today's games are vastly superior in every way, even to GoldenEye, which I realised that I had held as the pinnacle of video games for far too long as it is now well well past its sell by date. The state of their fucking heads? It's pretty bad by today's standards, aside from the timeless comedy value of the bad AI and simple graphics that is. Like I said, we're working on a new cake of memories now. Better ones. The past is best left as good memories. I quickly realised that trying to rehash them in the present will only serve to change and ruin that. As such, it's safe to say, despite the fact it made up a huge chunk of my childhood ... I'm not into Retro gaming. But then I never was. Back then it wasn't retro, it was cutting edge.
I'm looking for the new experiences. I always was. And the fact is, there's a vastly more entertaining modern version of every old computer game franchise going, by some margin, Nintendo or otherwise, that you'd be better investing your time in. Even GoldenEye has been updated to the fantastic and completely free GoldenEye:Source on PC, which if you liked the original in it's time, I strongly recommend you try this out so you can put the old one to bed. It's awesome fun, true to the feel of the game, and fully updated with crisp HD graphics.
I enjoyed gaming in the past because it was current at that time. And that's the way gaming is meant to be. It always was. It always will be ... except for one game that is.
The only game that still holds up perfectly from the 20th Century, for me, is Street Fighter II. So the 30th Anniversary Edition with the arcade perfect version of the game was warmly welcomed and still gets the odd play by me. Don't get me wrong there are some absolutely amazing fighting games today, Ultimate Capcom Vs Marvel 3, Dragonball FighterZ, Super Smash Bros, Stick Fight ... but as far as the Street Fighter series is concerned for me, all the attempts to add 3D depth to the 2D proceedings in later sequels took so much out of the originals crisp efficiency of the combat mechanism, just adding clutter and noise where it wasn't required. I much prefer the efficiency of the simplicity of the original.
Street Fighter II stands as the sole survivor from the first renaissance. It's the only game that hasn't been significantly bettered or rubbished by later sequels or versions, and that still withstands the test of time regarding all the key factors of playability, visuals, and sound. It's no surprise to me at all that it stands as third in the all time grossing list at $10.6 billion behind Pac Man(which I never got into simply because my sister was SO good at it, I couldn't compete) at two, and Space Invaders (which was before my time) at number one. That's as iconic company as you could get as far as computer game history is concerned. Like Space Invaders and Pac Man before it, Street Fighter 2 was an unprecedented revelation in gaming in its time, both in the arcades, and on home consoles. Insanely good for its time. And all the added artwork and design libraries added to these SFII re releases is simply incredibly enjoyable and satisfying to sift though. Great timeless stuff. Thank you Capcom.
But for everything else, the truth is, those times, games, and machines are now much better in memory than in reality. And that's how I want them to stay. That's where they belong. My advice to my kids with regards tech is to always stay current. Don't live in the past, or never mind being left behind by the future, things move so fast these days you'll just get swept away by the current. Progress waits for no one. And it's only going to move faster and faster as they grow older. It's inevitable. Embrace It. Don't ignore it. Never fear it.
The hiatus was a good thing for me: I needed the long break from gaming; the incremental changes were just not doing it for me; I wanted to feel a big leap once again like I did when I was a kid; the fact I couldn't get this from gaming anymore felt depressing; that's when you know you need a break.
Back at the turn of the millenium, I no longer believed that gaming could provide that experience I was after: I genuinely believed I was done with gaming as a form of entertainment. And yet, a decade and a bit out of the game combined with kids of my own to share the experience with, and it was gaming that provided just that. And even if still not quite on the young Pamela Anderson, Denise Richards and Rachel from friends all at once scale ... it's close. Just because you can't replicate those exact feelings of excitement from childhood, doesn't mean you can't watch your kids experiencing them! There's some amazing stuff out there right now. There really is. In truth, games, and the machines they run on, are significantly better now than they ever have been. And this is clearly a trend that is going to continue, whether your rose tinted glasses will accept it or not.
And yet despite this, still you get people saying that people playing computer games are just sat there twiddling their thumbs and wasting their real life? Computer games have created many incredible shared memories and bonding times for me and my kids; that is real; it matters. I'm sorry traditionalists, but you just can't do that with an Action Man or a Bratz doll ...
Or even a football if your 30 years older than your kids and your knees are fucked. And even if you could ... your kids wouldn't want to. They'd only be humouring you out of pity to get it out of the way. The next generation has spoken loud and clear.
Not to you ... but to each other by dancing in the playgrounds and online in Battle Royale Squads with their friends on Fortnite for free. If you can't beat 'em ... join 'em! And why not? It's fun. It's free. It's taken 10 years to see it, but Fortnite is the perfect example of a AAA cutting edge free to play game that does everything right, in strong contrast to the early iPhone games as mentioned earlier. It's a timeless gaming classic for me as well as my kids. It's the new GoldenEye 64 and Street Fighter II combined for the new generation. Not only is Fortnite a totally free AAA game with no advantage to be gained what so ever by purchasing anything, it makes $300 million a week, and has even had the effect of boosting console sales. Truly remarkable. They got everything spot on, right down to flawless cross platform play. I fully understand why so many kids love it.
It would seem, that playing computer games as a kid is finally becoming acceptable. Or at any rate, parents are increasingly starting to realise that they can't stop the tidal wave of progress. The real question is, should I really be playing computer games at 40 years old and onwards? Should any grown adult? Really? Answer ...
Absolutely. Obviously not all day, or even every day for me. No more than you would read a book all day or watch tv all day everyday. I work. I pay my taxes. I save monthly. I have other hobbies. But, that doesn't mean I should be ignorant to the pleasures to be gained or to the boundaries that the industry is expanding itself to just because I'm an adult now. Not only are computer games an exponentially expanding part of contemporary culture, they're heavily intertwined with times in my own life. They are even heavily intertwined with my relationship to my children. And I'm grateful for that. I like staying up to date with them. Plus I enjoy them, and discovering what they have to offer, particularly with my children. I'd be a fool to close my mind to that positivity just because of the amount of times the Earth has orbited the sun since I was born. Age on it's own is not a good reason to stop anything.
Most people come to find, that as a grown adult, it can become hard to find the time indulging in any hobby, let alone playing computer games. But that doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with it at all. Far from it. To me, it's not hard to see that computer games are a combination of multiple art forms, by some of the most talented creative human beings on the planet, utilising the cutting edge technology of the time, all rolled together into an interactive experience that is bursting at the seams with original ideas, art work, and music, and that is designed to stimulate your mind in a way like nothing has done before. There really is nothing else like them. As an art form, and as a technical achievement ... that's pretty damn impressive. So much specialist work goes into making them. Such a unique blend of technical and artistic left and right brain genius they are, that if he were alive today, I'd wager that Leonardo Da Vinci himself would be at the forefront of modern computer game creation.
It sure beats looking at a toaster on a plinth in a Stockholm museum of modern art, tilting your head 45 degrees and stroking your chin pensively saying, 'Hmmm... Yessss ... I see what the artist has done here'. So do I you agreeable moron. It's called the Emperor's New Clothes. The only art to that shit is the con. Wake up.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, although they often get a lot of bashing, computer games are actually fucking amazing creations. That have only become possible at the very peak end of human civilisation as we know it so far. And that's just a fact. In the short space of time that has passed since their humble inspired beginnings, games these days have become highly creative, artistic, technical mixtures of interactive audio and video masterpieces that serve to create strong bonds between people via shared enjoyable interactive experiences. And not just in your own home, but all around the world. And the best bit is, its all done in the name of harmless fun. Some people have a problem with that ... after all it's just 'escapism' and that is bad apparently. Even though it has spawned a very real and thriving multi billion pound global industry and market that shows no sign of abating. Like I said, I guess it's all a matter of perspective. Instead of fearing the unknown, and attempting to categorise it in your safe pre defined little world, why not try it and expand your horizons? Your kids sure as well will. If I were you I'd get used to it, because things are going to continue to change without waiting for you to catch up whether you want them to or not.
Computer games have always represented the cutting edge of the time they exist in. And that trend is going to continue into the future. And as such, that's why they'll always continue to impress, and why they are always going to generate a desire in gamers to keep up to date with them. It's also why there will always be groups of people that will vilify them and view them as dangerous. But that doesn't make them right. Of course it doesn't. It makes them ignorant. Some people will always be afraid of things they don't understand. New or old. That's just the way it is. It's always been that way. It will always remain that way in the future.
Despite ridiculous media and motherhood backlashes towards hugely popular games such as Fortnite (whose player base seems to be rising exponentially at the moment - it's currently something crazy like 140 million and still rising!) from people with delusional subjective fairy tale sepia toned images of how life should be floating around in their narrow minded heads, truth is, playing computer games can be as positive a hobby as watching sport, watching tv or film, reading novels, drawing a picture or playing an instrument, and certainly infinitely more positive than the bilge tripe of social media that pollutes our daily being and that most media types and mums themselves are no doubt helplessly addicted to. It's all just a choice of how you utilise your free time. It's improved since 30 years ago that's for sure, but there are still many stuck in the past. I think this concept will become much more widely accepted in the future.
People have had hobbies since the dawn of human existence, and people will have hobbies right up until our final days when we're all wiped out by AI ... which will be sometime next week if you listen to the scaremongers out there. Never mind AI terminators, I'm still waiting on a toaster that doesn't burn the toast. I think people are getting a little over excited on that ...
Since they arrived about 40 years ago, people are always going to be compelled to make computer games. And people are always going to be compelled to play what has been made. And people will always enjoy both processes. Whether it makes money or not. That's how it begins, and that's how it continues. Outside of big corporations, people never start out creating games for money alone. Notch didn't start creating Minecraft for money. Even successful You Tubers never started what they are famous for for money. It all starts as a hobby that explores their abilities. It all starts as 'escapism'. Something greater is at play here. Where it goes from here nobody knows. But that's something to look forward to, not fear.
That hobbies have become so artistic, technical, and creative is only testament to the inquisitive and creative nature of us a species. In twiddling our thumbs, we've come a long way from sitting around scratching our balls as a pastime. Well some of us have at any rate ...
With all else wrong with the world over the past few millennia, it never ceases to amaze me the crap computer games get for even existing in the past 40 years, and the perpetual negative hysteria kids have to face from parents for genuinely enjoying playing them. I mean what is the world coming to? How dare our children be corrupted by the evil of having fun games to play in their childhood ... the bastards. That's what's causing all the world's problems ... kids screen time.
There are no two ways around it, no matter your age, hobbies are good for your mental health. And computer games for most are simply a hobby. A stimulating interactive form of entertainment for your brain. I've claimed my hobbies back in middle age since I've had time to realise how shit life is without them. I don't see hobbies as an 'escape' from reality at all. That's such a negative term and outlook. They are part of reality. They exist. And they enrich and excite your senses, induce pleasure, improve your mental well being, and reduce stress. And people still talk about escapism as if it's a bad thing? Watching films, playing guitar, playing keyboard, playing computer games, reading, writing, drawing, coding ... I see hobbies as adding to reality, not escaping it! They are a good thing. Are you half full or half empty? To me that's what it boils down to. Again, perspective. But either way, it's all real. All of it.
I feel sorry for those that think you are just sat there twiddling your thumbs. That's like thinking you are just sat their looking at ink on a dead tree whilst reading a book. Or just moving your arm up and down whilst having a wa ... I mean playing guitar. It's a level of ignorance verging on Autism. Just because something isn't tangible, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or have any worth. That is why we have the word 'intangible' for goodness sake. Love, creativity, pleasure, learning, humour, freedom of thought ... it's actually hard to argue that the intangible things in life are not in fact the most valuable things of all. What would any of us we be without them?
I think the console wars will finally end when the way games are delivered changes. By 2030, 2035 maybe, surely the internet infrastructure in the real world will be good enough across the board to support streaming of games from high powered super server centres, so that all that is required by the end user is an internet receiving screen to play games on. As coincidence would have it, looking out the window, I can see BT Openreach engineers digging up the pavement to lay fibre optic cables as I write. I'm talking Netflix but with AAA games. No need for cross platform, no need for storage space, everything can be portable, every player receives the highest level of graphics, and all you need is a low cost internet enabled screen to play games on via streaming. There'll still be a big market in controllers and how they can interact with the screen as touch screen on it's own has never been good enough for the vast majority of games. You then choose who you want to subscribe to to play their games, whether that be RockStar Games, Nintendo, Sega, Blizzard, Epic Games, Treyarch, Bethesda, or who ever. Or perhaps there will be a blanket subscription that covers several developers, who knows? But I'm positive it's going to happen one day. A day when all cars are electric and emissions are water. I see it as inevitable ... although that's coming from a guy that thought the Playstation would never catch on 20 plus years ago! As with all things, only time will tell.
And as a direct positive result of social acceptance of gaming, without the need for expensive proprietary hardware to play it, in future decades past, perhaps there'll be old people in nursing homes keeping mentally stimulated and sharing online joy with friends playing computer games, well after their bodies have long since been rendered incapable of other forms of recreation, as opposed to sitting there dribbling into their laps staring at a blank wall waiting for someone to visit that never will. Which is the better reality?
And they'll never visit as they are too busy getting mentally ill themselves, spending their days mindlessly cramming their brain into a small box with a title on it, chasing a carrot on a stick, wearing clothes they don't want to wear, speaking to people that don't want to listen, in a place that nobody wants to be be, whilst desperately craving status from people that don't care two shits about them anyway, and never will. All of them desperately hoping that if they cram their brains into their small box with a title on it hard enough, and for long enough, that one fine day, they might actually be able to ... escape. Most of them never will. Instead they'll end up sitting in a nursing home dribbling into their laps, staring at a blank wall waiting for someone to visit that never will ...
Can you really even begin to imagine the horrors of a world without 'escapism'? Ironically, it doesn't bear thinking about ...