Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Future of Gaming Looks Dark

Just look at all those black controllers, very dark indeed. But there is a double meaning to this dark forecast, so allow me to explain myself. As we enter the eighth generation of gaming consoles, lets take a look at how far we've come.

(If you'd like to skip the trip down memory lane and get straight to the point, scroll down the the break)

In the beginning, there was Pong... Ok that's it for the 1st gen, lets move on to...

2nd gen: Pong... again. Oh! and Frogger! Ok ok, yea there was a bit more than that, but we all know home console gaming didn't really start for us until...

3rd Gen: The Nintendo Entertainment System. Now we're getting somewhere. This thing came with a gun man... and two games in one cartridge, whaaaaaaaat? The amount of games for the NES was ridiculous, at least it seemed that way. Nostalgia has a way of making things seem bigger and better than they actually were. There was also another Atari, and some kind of Sega Machine, but no one had those. It was all about Nintendo, so much that your parents called all gaming systems Nintendo. It was a household name.

4th Gen: SUPER Nintendo, and Sega Genesis. This has to be my favorite generation, the most memories... mainly because I had Mortal Kombat on both systems. ABACABB.

5th Gen: Nintendo Ultra 64, Sega Saturn (Honorable Mention), and the Sony PlayStation. This is when shit got serious. The N64 was the logical step forward but not far enough forward. The Sega Saturn was a bit of a misstep all together but it's heart was in the right place. And then there's the PlayStation, which was supposed to be a collaboration by Nintendo and Sony in a joint effort but Nintendo backed out of the deal right before C.E.S. 1991 and didn't tell Sony. So Sony said "Fuck it, I'll do it myself" which turned out to be the best step forward. OMG DRAMS!!!

6th Gen: R.I.P. Sega Dreamcast... so sad what happened, PlayStation 2. Omega GameSphere Nintendo GameCube, and the new kid on the block, the Xbox One... 1... The first Xbox... FUCKIT! The one that had Halo 1 on it! Ok this generation was just DOMINATED by the Ps2. Sony just nailed the timing and the logic. This was at the height of DVD popularity and the genius decision to allow your console to play DVD's CD's and your Ps1 games was just too appealing. Everyone had to have one and I personally know a few people who bought a Ps2 exclusively for the DVD player. Then all the great games on it as well just sealed the deal. But there is no arguing that it was the Xbox... well mainly Halo, that guided us into the...

7th Gen: Or as I like to call it...[Dramatic Pause]... World War V (V as in Video Games). This Generation was gruesome. The number of derogatory names being thrown around over the Internet in places like YouTube and Xbox Live is simply staggering. The Console Wars have been around since the beginning, but this was the first generation where it seemed personal. In fact, it's the first generation where there really seemed to be two clear sides fighting it out. Before it was always the Corporations running smear ads on each other, but we the players really just wanted both (or all) of the consoles. But in the 7th gen, it was all us... War has changed.

The internet was really becoming mainstream. Halo 1 was an online phenomenon that took off  like a rocket in the 6th gen, and both Sony and Microsoft saw how important that was going to be in order for the Xbox 360's and the PlayStation 3's success. But the internet is a double edged sword, and what was supposed to be used to bring us together was also used to call each other faggots. The internet is a battlefield. The 7th Generation was supposed to be about High Definition and Playing games Online with your friends but will likely be remembered as the bloodiest console war in History. Oh and you getting beat by your Grandma in Wii Bowling.

Wasn't this write up supposed to be about the Dark Future of Gaming?

I'm Glad you asked that question. Yes it is! Just look at that history. Do you see a pattern? We went from virtual ping pong, to hitting frogs with cars, to stomping on turtles, to uppercutting each others heads off, to backstabbing our partners, to what can only be described as BDSM in video game form, and then broke out in an all out name calling... and theres no need for name calling. What I'm saying is, when we were sitting on the floor 12 inches away from the TV screen playing Punch Out, the future looked so bright. But in Reality it got darker and darker. Back then it was all about fun. today it is no nonsense and all business. We have to be on the look out for publishers trying to squeeze every penny out of us with DLC and Micro Transactions. We're forced to buy our games from certain retailers in order to get the exclusive content we want. And we have to live with the fact that our consoles just might be spying on us at all times. This is a dark future indeed.

But there is still hope! Did you see that picture of the four controllers? One of these things is not like the other. There might be a better future ahead of all this darkness, but we will have to whether the 8th gen storm 1st. I'm talking about the Steam Machines.

[Steam Machine]

Steam (developed by Valve) is arguably the main platform for PC gaming. It have evolved so much over the years it's unreal. At 1st everyone hated it, just like everyone hated the Xbox One after the reveal. Microsoft was trying to beat Valve to the punch I think with a business model that it largely the same, and handled it very poorly. Valve's Steam Machines, are going to be coming in under the radar of the console gamers and thus will not be subject to the same kind of backlash. Not to mention that today Valve is almost unanimously loved by everyone and can do no wrong in many people's eyes what with all the super sales 2-3 times a year and being the creators of Half Life and all.

What are the Steam Machines and why do they matter? Well the main reason why PC gamers and Console gamers seem so far apart is because of the mouse and keyboard vs Controller problem. Many games are better with a controller, and many others are better with a mouse and keyboard and there is just almost no easy way to play with mouse and keyboard while sitting on the couch in the living room. Valve is trying to fix that with the crazy looking controller in the bottom left corner up there. But there's more to it than that.

The Platform is Steam, not the machine. The Machine is meant for the living room and is upgradable, Steam carries over from machine to machine. Steam... Machines. You can play the same games on the same steam account with your PC or your Steam Machine which is essentially a living room friendly PC, and there is no such thing as backwards compatibility in the PC gaming world so that means you will always be able to play all your games no matter how old they are. Valve has put a lot thought into this, from developing a what we hope to be a good alternative to the Mouse and Keyboard, to also creating an entirely new interface specifically for the living room environment that is easier to use with a controller. Perhaps the most overlooked possibly it’s greatest strength is the fact that there are already millions of people who already own hundreds of games with thousands more to choose from on the platform. That means that there is a ridiculous amount of content to play on day one of release! And there is even MORE!

As I said, the Steam Machines are just PCs, so what operating system will it be using? Windows isn't controller friendly at all. Steam OS. It's not just for games, it's for internet too. Want to browse the web? Watch Netflix or YouTube? Want to Stream your games on Twitch? Install the app, just like to do on your phone. The beauty of the PC platform is you can do anything on it. The freedom to use your Steam Machine how you want with the power of choice. Valve appears to be trying to give us everything we want in one box, which in a lot of ways makes it a lot like the Ps2, and remember how well that worked out?

The 8th Generation could very well turn out to be the last generation of consoles. The 9th Gen might just be a PC in every living room, be it a Steam Machine, or something similar. Of course if some how everything works for Valve and they end up with a monopoly on the living room, how will that work for the industry? Would we still get all those awesome Steam Sales? Would the lack of competition turn Valve ugly? I don't know, but something tells me Valve is mainly interested in making things better, not worse, and that goes for everything they do. One thing is certain, there is no end to the creativity of game developers.

They say that competition drives innovation, but the closer we get to graphics that are indistinguishable from real life, the less innovation is required, and the more video games are viewed as an art-form. Art benefits from creativity more than innovation. Just think of  the creativity we could see if they weren't held back by certain platforms and everyone got to play together in the same ecosystem. No more console exclusives, no more console wars. It would be all about the games.

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