Friday, June 12, 2009

Retired from the Console Wars

The console wars have always driven a lot of Internet discussion, but from this blog's perspective, they really shouldn't matter, and they don't to me personally. I find the perspective of dedicated fanboys entertaining, but I can't really buy into that kind of flamethrowing narrow-mindedness anymore.

When I was a kid, of course, the situation was different. I remember typing up a long justification to myself in the late 70's (there being no Internet forum on which to share it) as to why the TRS-80 Model I was a better deal than the Apple II, and realizing some years later that maybe price isn't everything. At the same time, I wouldn't give up my unique experiences gaming and programming on the Trash-80 for anything, and in the long run I got to work and play with the Apple II as well, so I can't say I regret making the more cost-effective decision at that time. I committed to a long succession of also-rans over the years -- the TRS-80 Color Computer, the Mattel Intellivision, the Atari ST, the TurboGrafx-16, the Atari Jaguar -- and I loved every one of them.

But eventually I realized that making a deep personal commitment to any one computer or console was driven by emotion and economics more than anything else. Not that there aren't good reasons to favor one console over another in terms of play time and fun factor and focus on building a game library -- but your enjoyment really all comes down to that console's library. When you find yourself insisting that your chosen system is the best anyone could ever want, and feel that nothing good could ever be said about the console(s) you didn't select, you're really proclaiming your insecurity about possibly being wrong, especially when the system you're promoting is clearly not what you're making it out to be. It's a typical mindset for adolescents, but there's a point where we should all acquire some critical thinking skills and outgrow it.

And so I am glad I can finally say I've retired from the console wars. Being older and employed with disposable income helps a lot. As adult gamers, we don't have to make our choices quite so permanently, or make them at all. If we choose the wrong system when it's new and exciting, we can always switch gears later on and catch up with years of excellent games on the platform we've stupidly ignored. And we needn't limit ourselves to any one console -- as serious gamers, we ultimately spend more on our game collections than on the hardware that runs them. Economically speaking, any platform with a sufficient quantity of great games is therefore worth owning.

This isn't to say that I don't have personal favorites in each generation. As much as I enjoy the XBox 360 and PS2, I just play great games on those systems; my affection remains devoted to the Dreamcast and the Wii. I recognize the personal emotional element there -- I have been playing Sega and Nintendo games since the 1980's, and see them as true game companies, whereas Sony and Microsoft are consumer electronics conglomerates with an interest in the market. If they didn't have such great libraries, I wouldn't be interested, whereas if Atari decided to enter the breach once more with a new console, I would shake my head, roll my eyes, cross my fingers, and pull out my wallet.

But I would also own the market leader. Today, I recognize the strengths of the XBox 360, which are very different from those of the Wii, and am glad to have the opportunity to play anything worthwhile that comes along on either system. The PS3 isn't on my must-buy list yet, but that will probably change someday when its game library matures a bit more, it comes down in price a bit, and I replace my big-screen HDTV circa 2000 with something LCD or plasma-based that A) doesn't have to be manually converged every so often and B) has an HDMI input, making the Blu-Ray capability more attractive.

Right now I'm playing the 360 a lot, because my Wii is off being repaired, Wallace & Gromit episode 1 came out on XBLA, and Wolfenstein 3D and GTA IV have sucked me back in. But I will probably pick up EA's Tiger Woods 10 bundled with the new Wii Motion Plus add-on this weekend, so I am prepared to experience the next level of motion control when my console returns next week. I have been putting off buying a full-scale golf game for the Wii, even though every year I give Tiger Woods a close look, because as simplistic as Wii Sports golf is, it works pretty well with the Wii controller (putting aside). This year, improved motion-tracking technology looks to finally fulfill much of the Wii's promise, and I can't wait to give it a try.

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