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Dec 02

The gamer a console generation left behind

Today is my birthday, so I’m a little bit reflective. I usually get myself a new toy, which is something game related, this year I passed and am taking my boy out for a donut and a hair cut instead. Mainly because I’m in fear that I just don’t fit into the modern gaming area anymore, not because of my age, but because of my gaming habits / style. I feel like I’m the gamer this generation has left behind, it’s unfortunate too, because I’m a good audience, disposable income, family so I’ll buy a variety of games, and I don’t have a set genre, so I buy just about anything that looks good (aside from war fps games, those are unbearable).

In 1987 after endless pleading and begging for my 10th birthday I got a NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), this was one of the crowning moments in my childhood. Prior to that I had my Apple II which had some basic games, we even had a book that taught me to do some basic programming to make my own games, mind you I was 10 at the time. I had a lot of fun with that, but seeing Mario for the first time, and controlled by a little square pad was amazing. It beat pong, it beat my atari 2600, anything I’ve ever seen. The graphics and animation were so fluid, I was simply mesmerized. There was one problem however; I was a terrible student. So getting rewards was a bit hard. But I remembered I tried and tried to do well just so I could get my hands on it, and even though my grades were still ‘marginal’, my dad I think caved in because he too liked the technology. So I got it, I don’t think I opened anything else, I just took it down stairs with my dad and we plugged it in. And the 8 bit graphics filled my eyes with wonder.

Mario is a game where you go from left to right and jump. I think pros can beat the game in under 30 minutes, but for me I remember endless hours sitting up at night playing mario, going left to right jumping over things. It wasn’t complicated, and I know for sure no game would hold my attention like that ever again, but it was amazing. And that was me, the gamer defined. I liked to come home, before everyone else, turn on mario and play until someone else entered the house. Then I turned it off, and did what else I had to do. NES was my little escape, my time away from everyone else.

Even growing up I didn’t care much for playing with friends over, I wanted to play outside with others. If we played together it had to be a 2 player co-op game, nothing bored me more than watching others play a single player game, literally nothing is more boring. If you like to read books, would you want to sit and watch someone read a book? Looking at this insane phenomenon of people watching gameplay videos, then the answer may be yes.

I few years later the SNES came out, but I would not get it. In fact the NES was the only console I would ever receive from my parents; rightfully so, my grades never improved. My friend got his hands on a SNES and I would go over and play that for hours with him, as that was driven towards multiplayer games. We had Street Fighter, which we spent endless quarters in the arcades, now saving our money to bash each other trying to improve our game. This was the core of multiplayer for me, sitting with a friend on the couch playing a game together. And when we got bored, it was easy to just say ‘ok something else’, and we’d go outside and do what not. Even as much as I loved video games, I hated playing them around people who don’t play them. So if parents were in the house, or guests were over, I wouldn’t turn it on. I don’t like being spectated while in my ‘zone’, gaming is / has been a personal thing for me. It’s an escape from other business in our world, not something I do to bring me together more (unless I’m playing street fighter with a friend).

The years passed and I wouldn’t see another console in my hands until 1996, when I started to make some decent money during highschool and got my hands on a Nintendo 64. Mario 64, blew me and the rest of the world away, what an amazing game. The 3D graphics and seamless motion was epic. My game libraries have always been small, I think I owned less than 10 NES games over the 8 years I had that console. N64 I had a handful as well, but some great ones, including Turok, and Golden Eye – (the defacto 4 player in a room game). Golden Eye was the first time me and multiple friends would get in a room and play a game together, we were playing against each other simultaneously, it was gaming generation defining.

As I got into College and had more disposable income, I started my game collection, I grabbed every major console I could get a hold of, at the end of the day my library consists of (to date):
Atari 2600, Atari 7800, NES, N64, Nintendo Gameboy Color, Sega Genesis (Standard, Nomad, 32x), Nintendo Gameboy Advance (Standard, SP, micro), Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation, Sega Dreamcast, Sony PS2, Nintendo Wii, XBox, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS (XL), 10 iOS devices, 3 Android devices, 1 windows phone device, 5 computers, countless emulators.

All in all my purchased game library consists of over 200 350 games across all those platforms. Mind you I don’t really play that much, it’s just more of a collection thing these days. I spend my time making games, not playing them anymore. But when something great comes out I’ll play it through, then it goes in the case and sits.

I’ll jump forward a bit, to my point, why do I feel left out? Well I’m not a fan of watching people play as I said above, gaming is a personal thing that I only share with my close friends. It’s not something I’ll do with an acquaintance or stranger, there’s no connection there. I’d rather game by myself versus with someone I don’t have a connection with. So this XBox Live etc, stuff was fine for me to get my games, but now It’s only on there because I forget to cancel it every year. I intentionally avoid online / multiplayer games as I don’t ever want to wear a headset and look like a douche when people are over at my house. I think we’ve all been there, walked to a friends house to see a roommate, partner, friend, etc just sitting on the couch with a headset oblivious to the world around them. It’s obnoxious, and they look like a fool.

So this new generation of console gaming (focussing on PS4 / Xbone) really don’t excite me. They are focusing on social media more than gaming, all they did was pump up the graphics, with no new interactions. Look what the wii did, that was amazing, we all thought motion control would take over, and it would have if anyone dared to innovate with it, but no one did. And I know it’s been said to death, but the lack of backwards compatibility is a real kick in the balls, as all the new games are cross platform anyway, so you just get better graphics, so why not play our existing games? Had they done that I would have picked up a new console as my 4th Xbox 360 is on it’s dying breath, and I’d like to play my 100+ games if I want to. — Now I understand the technical issues, I’m a developer, I know it’s ‘hard to do’, but it’s not impossible, it’s a decision they made to not do it. Nothing is impossible, just hard, MS and Sony went the ‘easy’ way and cut it off. Also the step from Xbox -> 360 was huge, HD graphics, Surround Sound, Media / DVD, Streaming Video, Music, Online Store, Web, wow. The XBone has… well all those same features. So what really is different? ‘It’s just a bit bigger and better, but totally incompatible with your 8 year old catalog’. If it (or Ps4) genuinely did something new then it’d be worth it, but it’s like buying a newer model car in which everything is incompatible with your previous car fittings, (seat covers, wheels, lights, etc), but only boasts a bit more power and it’s prettier, but they’re both big and pretty, just this is ‘newer’. I drive a car made in 1990, my first car was made in 1968, so ‘newer’ isn’t really my thing as a reason to buy something.

So with the shift from gaming to being a personal experience, to being something we are meant to video share, twext, social share, voice chat, online group gang meetups, etc, all I can say is ‘meh, no thanks, it’s not for me.’.

So where does this leave me? I think the Wii U is the only fit for me for a console, until Apple finds a way to get gaming into our living rooms (AppleTV I’m looking at you), I’ll hold off a bit as I have some games to finish programming first. But Wii U can play my Wii games, has some amazing single player games, (Mario, Bayonetta 2, pikmin) and some great multiplayer experiences, which is proper multiplayer, where me and a friend sit on the couch and play together.

Sony, Microsoft it’s a shame you dismiss me as a gamer. I have grown up with games, have a nice spending power, and like to collect things. But you haven’t given me any interest in your consoles. The strange online requirements, the in your face advertising, micro transactions, social media, not for me. Just for your sake I hope the economy picks up and the 13-18 year olds you do target can get jobs to buy your equipment. Because as a parent I’m distancing my children from your products, as they are less and less family friendly. Nintendo is still the safe bet, and in hindsight my best memories gaming are with them, (and sega) I really wonder why I left them for so long… I think it was the splash graphics and explosions, which I’m all too tired of, I just want something fun.

This post is probably way all over the place, and not a great read, but it’s here for my own record. As always comments are off, as I get 1 valid comment for every 800 spams, and I don’t want to filter through that many ads. If you really want to reach out ping me on twitter, (the only social media I can tolerate currently).

Nintendo carved the path for every innovation in video game history, people tend to forget that, because they don’t go over powered, and try to keep it simple, which in the end is what I want.

T