Friday, November 22, 2013

Roll with the launches, a brief history of the console experience

So, Xbox One is out in the nicer parts of the world, PlayStation 4 is out next week for us Euro types and I definitely need a PC upgrade next year. What better time to think back on my personal gaming history, before I take that next step.

Okay, so I'm a bit old. My first sight of any games system was probably PacMan on a school friend's Atari 2600, then owning one of those handheld Space Invader LCD games, Duck Hunt with the light gun being awesome fun on the NES and lots of other goggle-eyed 'Wow' moments as a kid.

There was looking at a super-expensive Vectrex in Woolworths, the first time I went into an import shop and wondered which bank I should rob. Fast forward through an Atari ST (years of Elite and Bard's Tale) and that first clunking PC (a 40MHz 386 DX with 40Mb HD, but played X-Wing brilliantly) and I hit the 16-bit console era with some actual hard-earned cash.

Choosing a Megadrive over a SNES might seem like the bad sort of evil now, but I was young and Sonic went soooo fast, then there was Madden and the original FIFA, years of late-night multiplayer in the proper elbow-banging style! Then things went a bit wrong and I got a Jaguar (for Aliens vs. Predator and Tempest, naturally) and a Lynx (RoadBlasters and not-quite Gauntlet) as the console market took that funny turn.

Then there was PlayStation and its endless gaming brilliance, Dreamcast (House of the Dead bundle), PlayStation 2, plus all the shared consoles my college and flatmates had as I moved out and up in the world. In between them came the PSP, a day-one Japan import and a jealous bunch of friends watching Ridge Racer and WipEout on a small screen.

My last generation went Wii (at launch, having stabbed refresh 1,000 times on some Find-a-Wii-in-stock site), Xbox 360 (when the non-exploding Jasper model came out), Vita (at launch, naturally) and PS3 (early 2013 latest model, driven largely by my PS+ subscription and all those free games).

This gen looks like being PS4 (next week), the Wii U (whenever the next price cut arrives) and lastly XboxOne (probably 2015 when the first hardware refresh arrives). After that, its conceivable there won't be new consoles, just some cloud service farting any-game-you-like to our 4K TVs. How weird will that be? Will we stand outside the shuttered remains of long-closed GAME stores with candles?

Even though I barely have a tenth of the time I used to have, something in my DNA says I must own these things and play the games. They helped me get jobs (with a little technical know-how too), made me friends around the world, and when I see my son building whole worlds in Minecraft I know they'll help him in future life too.

What were your defining moments, and wouldn't this have been all much simpler and cheaper if we'd been in pubs and clubs fighting? Feel free to share your generational experiences too.

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