So, I picked up our family's special Zelda edition Wii U today. I've been happily updating the system and testing a few used games (bought on sale in anticipation of the system), and as I write I'll be downloading Wind Waker, despite reserving the physical copy that comes with a Gannondorf statue.
All of this is being done out of site of the kids, and once I'm done, it'll all be packed up and hidden... for over three months.
The Wii U is our family's Christmas gift to our family, and our boys are eagerly saving up chore money until then to buy their own games. I'll admit, it will take a bit of mental hand-slapping to pack it up all up again and be patient, but such is the duty of a responsible parent. And in the meantime, we do own a *few* other games I could play.
After several updates to the system and each game, as well as the network setup, it definitely reminded me of an unfortunate advantage our older consoles had; plug and play.
Gamers my age likely remember a Christmas or birthday that painted this scenario:
First, a younger us excitedly tearing the wrapping off a new Atari/Coleco/Intellivision/NES/Genesis/SNES/Sega CD/Turbo Grafx/Game Boy/Neo Ge-HA! WE WISHED!!- etc. and after mom/dad/uncle/older sibling figured out how to connect it to the TV, we slapped that first cartridge in and a new, unexplored (besides store demos), vibrant, virtual world awaited us. Part of the appeal was the immediacy; once that system was hooked up, all that was required was finding a controller and game and you were good to go.
Now, every new system requires some form of setup. Sometimes we get by just inputting a region and name, but nowadays we have profiles, internet setup, firmware updates, game updates, day one patches, and on and on. One of the things that made me slow to incorporate the PS3 into my common gaming was how often I would purchase a new game, unwrap it, pop it in... and mandatory installs or updates required me to spend anywhere between five minutes to a few hours (looking at you, Gran Tourismo 5) before I could actually play. For a guy who's game time is often measured in less than an hour, even a fifteen minute chunk of un-interactive screen staring means I'm thinking of a different game to play.
All this time setting up the Wii U (not to mention downloading Wind Waker!) made me feel bad for any younger kids who gets a new Xbox One, PS4, or Wii U on Christmas... and then have to wait while online accounts are set up, profiles created, updates delayed due to server overloads, installs required...
Yeah, boo-hoo, first world problem, not a biggie. Make those rug-rats go play football in the snow or play a real board game with Grandma while they wait, just like we had to do when we didn't even have a game system to wait on!
Which got me thinking about how picky we really are about games. My preference over the years for consoles instead of PC gaming developed in part because of the setup required for computer gaming. Nowadays though its pretty much the same; install, check for patches/updates, customize the controls, create a save-game... am I playing on a PC or a 360/PS3? With social media integration, messaging services, and apps such as Netflix, there is often little difference. Some gamers delight in this; a 'share' button on their controller, DV-R for their gameplay, instant tweets over gamerscore.
I know I can be a cranky old-timer when it comes to gaming, but most of the time, if I could skip signing in to my game machine altogether, I would. My 'gaming career' of scores, time spent on games, and K/D ratios can be fun to keep track of and compare/compete with friends, but there is a reason I have my profiles set to "always show offline." I game in very different, often dichotomic moods; sometimes to survive a Horde of Locusts with fellow Gears in co-op bliss, sometimes to blow things up alone to work out frustrations. Sometimes to get a quick, frantic fix of some Robotron 2084; sometimes to play a slow marathon of Tetris while my brain processes the backlog queue. Point is, the game machine is there to 'serve' my use, and somehow in the name of features and connectivity, we've enslaved ourselves to maintaining them. Just keeping the 360 LAN updated so my friends and I can sit and play anything we want any given weekend can be a tremendous chore of keeping each system and hard-drive updated and correctly connected for any game we'll possibly play.
And in a thought that could easily generate enough content for another article, this perpetually required attention extends from consoles to the games themselves. I lose interest in games like GTAIV because of the required in-game social maintenance for virtual characters. I have a difficult enough time keeping up with all my real-world social responsibilities; making sure Niko calls his girlfriend or relative may sell a more realistic experience, but when gameplay breaks down to what feels like tedious exercises to me, I quickly lose interest. I recognize this as a 'different strokes for different folks' paradigm, of course; I've completed many a JRPG or StratRPG that bored my beloved to tears. (Gave her plenty of time to read, though.)
Perhaps therein lies one of the many reasons classic cartridge systems are always connected across our home; we're always a few seconds away from another round of Super Mario 3 or Galaga.
And now I can't wait to hear my kids ask about that collection of giant, black, 'vinyl Blu-Rays' under the entertainment stand...
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Now this is something that we can see eye to eye on, slackur me ol' boy. Modern gaming has actually gotten less convenient than their PC related brethren, as my computer will not threaten me with signing out of the Internet if I don't install the latest update (or take several hours to update), and that is sad. By the time I pull out my copy of Super Mario Bros., put it into the NES, wiggle it around a bit, pick up my controller and start playing, my Xbox still hasn't logged in all the way, much less gotten to the point where I canplay GTA5.
Lets lift one up for the old Plug and Play consoles. Gone but not forgotten (we can go play one right now in my basement).
Even someone like myself can relate to what you're discussing here. The beauty of the older systems is the simplicity. They were gaming machines meant to entertain us and that was the end of it. And best of any game designed for a console would work without needing updates.
The new systems that are over the horizon are just really spiffy computers at the end of the day and the manufacturers openly admitted that.
I agree with bomba that we should offer a toast to the good ol' days.
Sometimes I wonder if being a "gamer" is over simplified. "That guys a 'gamer' he likes to play those video game things." As if they are all basically the same thing. I wonder if sometimes we do this too, sure there are fighting games and rts's and fps's but it's all just video gaming. Right?
I don't think everyone is entertained the same way with video games. It's like saying everyone who likes doing stuff outside is satisfying the same urge. Some people are outside to workout, some to relax, some to enjoy nature, some to serve others and still others to socialize. Gaming satisfies more than one part of our brain, maybe its to use the puzzle solving side of our mind, sometimes to be competitive, sometimes we do it to socialize with others, or maybe we are just "turning our mind off" for awhile.
With that said, video games are such a huge, huge industry now. Billions of dollars. The incentive is for companies to hire the most skilled game makers to make the games and products that will sell the most. The things that sell the most aren't always games which are simple, easy to turn on, and quick to play. Sure, we do get the occasional Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride but mostly the most talented people are on more involved projects.
This is part of why I never saw any reason to "move on" from one system, leave it behind, and upgrade to something else. I saw new systems as a chance to add to my gaming repertoire, not replace what I had. With the Xbox 360 I can play Halo 4, enjoy the awesome graphics, play online, get new maps, play with people all over the world. But if I don't want to do that, I can easily put Tetris into my NES and have at.
I'm sure many of us on RFG are the same, besides the meta game of collecting, we keep around different ways of gaming because it isn't all the same. Sometimes we want something a little different than to wait for the next gigabyte DLC to download.
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