We now stand on the threshold of the 8th generation of home video game consoles, in a matter of months of writing this, our living rooms, bedrooms and gaming rooms will have a new centrepiece, either a PS4 or Xbox One.
Now one could argue that we’re already in the eighth generation seeing as we already have the Nintendo WiiU, PSVita and 3DS, but to me it’s not yet complete without the front runners, the titans sent out by Sony and Microsoft to do battle over your wallet.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the upcoming generation, as I’m sure a lot of people have, but more importantly the dying generation we’re still in.
It’s both nostalgic and somewhat depressing that I can still clearly remember the day I got my very first PS3 as if it was yesterday.
In an almost cliche, TV show-like way I can peer across my living room as I write this and see the ghost of myself almost a decade ago, unwrapping my 60GB PlayStation 3 (the old fat one that had PS2 compatibility and a myriad of SD card slots that I never used), being excited and searching the back of the TV for a HDMI port.
Now we already talked about this generation as a whole in our “Generation Retrospect” podcast, which you can find HERE and I’ve even spoken about my personal history with gaming in my article about Trophies and Achievements HERE but in this article I want to really express how this generation changed the world (of gaming).
Before this generation and even to some extent the last, video games were generally portrayed as “toys” often by the way they were marketed and perceived by people.
There have always been “adult” games that minors couldn’t buy, even back in the days of Atari there were games “banned” due to their “graphic” content, for example Texas Chainsaw Massacre on the Atari 2600 was kept behind the counter at game shops but largely games were aimed at children.
I may be going off on a tangent but my point is, generally speaking, up until this generation video gaming was reserved for the geeky and the kids.
The seventh generation saw gaming go mainstream and when I mean mainstream I mean commercials during Superbowl, websites live-streaming press event and even concerts where orchestras play themes from old retro games.
With the addition of widespread online multiplayer to the consoles, any Tom, Dick or Harry with broadband could hop on their console and be a commando from the comfort of their living room and for some reason this seemed to appeal to a lot of people.
For me, it’s hard to pin-point the exact reason why gaming’s popularity exploded this generation but I like to think that the seventh generation was the one where gaming grew up a bit. The gaming industry is now huge, bigger than it’s ever been before, it’s bigger than the movie industry, often big AAA games have budgets larger than that of a blockbuster, for example GTA IV had a development budget of $100 million, that’s more than the budget of all three original Star Wars films combined.
If you’re like me and a product of the 90’s or grew up in the 80s by the time you were in the seventh-gen you were an adult, gaming had grown along side you and I think that’s what’s made it a success. The people who played the games as children have taken their favourite “toy” and brought it into their adult life, whether it be a pastime, a hobby or even your actual job to develop games.
I also love how gaming is now socially acceptable.
Like I said earlier, it used to be considered somewhat geeky but now people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities can partake in gaming and it’s just considered another thing to do in your free time, something to chill out to after work. I like how a gamer like me, who’s in their 20s can have a deep discussion about a game I’m playing with someone ten, fifteen years their senior and it’s just normal, we’re not stereotypical nerds with thick glasses or anoraks. The fact that military bases have games consoles for soldiers to play when off duty is testament to how gaming in this generation has evolved beyond toy to an accepted form of entertainment, bigger than movies, better than TV.
Rather than list my gaming experiences again I’ll keep it short –
We’ve had many highs and lows this generation, we’ve had the most fantastic games across the platforms from your Red Dead Redemption to the recent The Last of Us and terrible flops and misguided choices like Aliens: Colonial Marines and well, pretty much anything with the word “Party” in it on Wii.
We’ve seen great innovations like the Wii’s motion controls and the Xbox Kinect to flashy gimmicks like 3D gaming and exercise peripherals. A whole range of experience created to keep to playing, keep you paying.
I look towards the oncoming eighth generation with hope that it’ll not only bring the joys of great games and hardware again but also to bring something even bigger, to totally outdo what we once thought as “next-gen” or revolutionary and now just consider as standard.
Lets hope our standards are redefined, the bar pushed higher and who knows, maybe in ten years I’ll be nostalgically looking upon an imaginary ghost of myself un-boxing a PS4 and think “damn, that was a great time to be a gamer!”