Although the latest generation of games consoles are still alive and kicking the end is definitely in sight.
Just over on the horizon, the dark shadows of two black boxes that are set to bring them crashing from the top of the tree are edging ever closer, personally I’ll be putting up the bunting for their arrival.
But as much as I’m beyond keen to welcome the PS4 and Xbox One into my life, I can’t deny that the departing generation has been one of the greats.
It’s been the gaming equivalent of the 70’s Brazilian football team, Muhammad Ali and Jimi Hendrix rolled into one. It saw the explosion of online console gaming, it brought a graphical punch that made games feel like life and floored many a jaw, it connected gamers across a global playground and it opened video games up to a whole previously untapped audience.
Sure, it wasn’t all Pelé and Voodoo Chilé, there were also a few Osmond’s moments such as the fabled red ring of death that brought many an Xbox to its knees (and then swiftly off to Germany for another repair), and the fact that the knees of the gaming brains and boffins touched ground again before the new god known as motion control keen to shift the future in neat packages called Kinect and Move, I embraced it at first, I moved but there was no kinection and I moved on.
It was the generation of the franchise too.
Call of Duty dominating friends lists with its war by numbers gameplay and online arsehole convention (that doesn’t apply to all, I know a lot of really nice CoD players, but, if you want to run into a complete knobhead play CoD online). Then there’s FIFA where losing players often do the gaming equivalent of taking their ball home by hitting the quit button, there’s Halo, Gears of War, Uncharted, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed…and so on, and so on.
It’s a strange one personally, as Call of Duty has been my most loved and most hated title of the past few years. It’s given me unforgettable moments such as playing online on CoD2, 3 and 4, and the fabled Ghillies in the Mist level from the aforementioned CoD4, but I’ve also hated it for reasons far too childish and petty to go into here (honestly how the **** is a knife more powerful than a ******** gun! And he was glitching, and camping, arrrrrgh and now he’s belly-flopped while shooting me, you ******* ****** ********!! Pretty much sums it up).
This gen also took us to places beyond gaming.
At times I spend more hours watching YouTube and Netflix on my consoles than I do getting my game on. We were told that the console was more than a simple gaming device, I didn’t like it but played along, accepted the notion that what sat before me was a complete entertainment hub for the entire household, then I’d play Sonic the Hedgehog from the Arcade.
Apps appeared and my curiosity meant I downloaded every bloody one of them. I’ll remember this gen as the one that said gaming isn’t enough, we want to give you more, when all I really wanted was games.
It’s been another character generation, but rather than the Sonic’s, Mario’s and Crash Bandicoot’s of previous ages, this time things became a little more grown up.
Marcus Fenix burst into view, all bad language and revving chainsaw, Nathan Drake the Indiana Jones for the console kids, a younger but far more brutal Lara Croft made an appearance, Soap MacTavish, Captain Price and the CoD crew, Ethan Mars and Scott Shelby P.I. singing in the Heavy Rain, Lee and Clementine getting all emotional on us in The Walking Dead, this gen I felt like gaming came of age.
All us kids who grew up on Spectrum’s and Manic Miner and typing in pages of code from magazines to play some space shooter laden with beeps and dots where sound and graphics now stand, were now 30 and 40 something’s designing the games and crying out for more, and this gen delivered more than any other.
And not only did gaming come of age it also hooked a new audience. Like the yin to grown up gaming’s yang, gaming this gen also embraced the casual gamer.
Auntie Dot put her crossword aside and danced to Lady GaGa on the coffee table PS Move waving erratically and pacemaker straining, the family gathered to test their movie knowledge under the annoying guidance of the Scene It host and everyone decided to lose weight via the wave of fitness titles that washed up.
For kids this new found grandparental enjoyment of the video game world reaped rich reward as Granny Betty and Grandpa Alf were cajoled by young Timmy into buying that new 18 rated game that was okay really and was probably deeply educational too, suddenly GTA stood for Good Times Ahead.
And if you were a fan of the old skool, then this generation had some real good times ahead. The online arcades started small but grew to become one of the truly special new features of X360 and PS3. True arcade classics rubbed shoulders with new arcade ideas and perfect harmony was found. Indie developers then got the chance to spread their wings and give flight to imaginations and ideas that may otherwise never have been seen. The arcade became, not just a good place to play, it became something incredible, and incredibly fun.
Then there was a darker place, a place that could be equally as fun but also had a habit of being a bit of a bastard. Of course I’m talking the bad mouthed, ‘I shagged your Mum and kicked your dog’ realm of online gaming, and I love it!
I’ve loved the competition, I spent time in a clan, I’ve made friends I’ll never meet, I’ve topped leaderboards and frequently sat bottom of them, I’ve lagged and complained about lag and learnt the word lag, I’ve raged, I’ve laughed, I’ve had arguments with 12-year-old American kids and struggled to understand drunk 50-something Geordie blokes, but every bit of it has been an absolute pleasure, and probably of everything that this current batch of consoles has delivered, online gaming is my own personal highlight.
As console generations go, this current one has been amazing.
It’s had its moments of overwhelming frustration, disappointment and anger, but, it’s also been home to some of the brightest moments in gaming’s long history.
Perhaps we’ve become a little spoilt as gamers, given too much too soon, we maybe take the amazing for granted now and demand more, and possibly that’s why I personally feel ready to move on to new pastures and new worlds, the current gen has become tired but if you’d be running full throttle for that long you might be a little weary yourself.
Wait………………Don’t go!………I’ve just remembered the main thing I’ll look back on this generation for!
It’s not games, characters, new ideas or any of that gubbins, the thing I’ll remember this gen for most, is PS3 updates and that little bastard spinning ring on the Xbox 360 dashboard.
Taxi!…..to my happy place, now!