For better or worse, the wheels of technology roll on…
Some of you youngsters may not be old enough to remember the days of Atari 2600, or perhaps the gaming renaissance that happened during the mid-80s, as the Nintendo Entertainment System (with Mario at its helm) literally saved the gaming industry from the brink of extinction. Those consoles, which will always hold a special place in our heart, are archaic relics compared to the next-gen gaming machines of today. The idea of a gaming console only being used for one thing (IE: games) is kind of unheard of in today’s market. Some will no doubt remember when we were first introduced to compact-disc based gaming systems. We flipped our shit when asking the question “…you mean, this thing will not only play video games but it’s a CD player too?!” How about being able to play DVDs on your PlayStation 2 or Xbox? Those were the days of gamers being much easier to impress. To us, these were the heights of innovation!
Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a time when we were satisfied with such simple little concepts. Granted, we had no idea the embarrassment of riches that today’s technology would afford us, but it’s clear to see that game systems in the future are effectively done being a one-shot entity. Microsoft, Sony and other developers who happen to enter the hardware arena in the near future are making it their mantra to be all things to all people. For example, Xbox director of product planning Albert Penello recently stated at CES that “From a console perspective, the idea that a console is a single-purpose device is the past. The future is a multi-tasking customer--a device that does more than just gaming at home."
That last line is one that struck me. When talking about a device that does “…more than just gaming from home,” there’s a visual in my head of exactly what that used to look like: the desktop computer. Now it seems that due to the infusion of technology and the melding of a completely different mentality when it comes to how we access our content, consoles have become the new PC in that regard. Of course, I’m not looking to restrike the match of the console vs. PC debate, but it is interesting that our gaming systems have become more and more like media computers. Actually, I’m gonna’ go ahead and say it: that’s EXACLY what they’ve become. With both the Xbox and the PlayStation, you’re able to play your favorite titles AND access expansive networks of content to download additional games, movies, music and more. Not to mention that these very advances in tech have allowed for new frontiers in gaming. In days gone by, when a game was finished, that was that. You’d either repeatedly just play through and re-beat it over and over until you finally got bored with it, or just sell it in a yard sale. Now, games get second and third leases on life due to the nature of DLC that expands on the original content and freshens it up. It’s an easy point to make that the $59.99 you spend on a game can be stretched much further than is used to be, all thanks to the shift in the industry.
Now, you’ve probably heard the back-and-forth argument countless times in the past that better gaming hardware doesn’t make for better games. Instead of us opening that can of worms, ask yourself one simple question instead: is the gaming hobby better off today than it was 20 years ago? Granted, some may say no, as they preferred the days of the arcade and listening to the sound of their PlayStation spin out the next level of Crash Bandicoot. However, I think if you look at it objectively, this is one case where we should be grateful that advancements in technology have pushed us forward. I can tell you that my Xbox is an integral part of not just my gaming life, but other facets of entertainment as well. I’m sure this is a sentiment that many of you share. It’s amazing to think back to the days of the blocky, single pixels of the Intellivision and imagine where this would all lead us.
So the next time you stream an episode of The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones to your console, just remember you owe it all to the likes of Mario and Sonic.