Over this past week, I found myself playing games from my childhood and wondering why I’d ever stopped. I guess having my family together for Christmas brought on an extreme case of nostalgia, but it was much more than basic nostalgia. The old games are actually much more fun than anything available today. It’s funny that as a child all I wanted was the newest and brightest toys and games around, but as an adult I am fine with dusting off the old Nintendo or playing monopoly. Part of growing up is basically forming a state of contentment with the things you can’t change while changing the things you can, and along with that contentment comes a realization of what makes things enjoyable. When I was a child I always wanted the newer item because I thought it was better than the one I had, but these days I have realized that a shiny new paint job does not make an item better. It’s no great wonder that advertisers target children so often, it is easier to get a child to want a new item every year than it is for an adult, since most adults are accustomed to wearing the same jeans for years. I think the longing people have for the good old toys and shows of their youth is more than just nostalgia, it is the fact that the products of the past had more heart and were actually more fun than the products of today. These days everything is about glamour and pomp, but when it comes down to it, games were just more fun when nobody cared about how pretty they looked.
Many people consider gaming to be a dead hobby these days, but with millions of dollars coming into companies such as EA and Ubisoft, the gaming market is ripe for the plucking. We are decades past the days of Frogger and Pong yet Microsoft, a relatively young player in the gaming world, has managed to make this old hobby seem new again. While companies like Nintendo and Sony have kept true to their decade long sales model, Microsoft is in the midst of doing what former CEO Bill Gates never wanted done. The company has now begun blurring the lines between the PC and the video game console. With game streaming additions to Window 10, and web browsing available on gaming consoles, it looks as though Microsoft is tuning their gaming console into a home PC. Bill Gates feared the possibility that the gaming console would replace the home PC, but with the decline of new adoption for both gaming consoles and Windows PCs, this blurring of the lines seems to be the most viable option for the financial future of the company. The Xbox One is actually making me, a heavy Apple user, consider going back to a Windows PC, at least for my home desktop in order to partake in the integration. If Microsoft wants to compete with Apple, they must continue to embrace the change that is cross platform functionality, and dive fully into it. I don’t think PCs will ever lose popularity in the corporate sector, but when it comes to personal use, the Xbox One may be the PC world’s final stand against the impending threat of Android and iOS devices.
Video games have definitely advanced since my youth, what was once a tiny man running on a screen with the ability to jump at the press of a button, has evolved into massive worlds with realistic looking characters who can be controlled to do just about anything. If somebody would have told me that one day I would be able to look at a game and not be able to differentiate the real from the fake, I would have said they were insane, but today’s gaming systems have shown the full power these developers now harness. I decided to try out the Xbox One this weekend, since I was once a big time gaming fan and I never actually played this now two year old system. At first glance this system looks like gaming has taken a step back, it is massive, like old school VCR massive, and honestly just based on the weight of the system I think they could have trimmed 30% off of the size. Once the console is turned on and after the somewhat lengthy setup, it is clear that it is no machine of the past. The Xbox One has the capabilities that were dreamed of in the past, and the processing power to do even more than it currently does, I never thought a video game system would ever reach the versatility of a computer but Microsoft basically nailed it with this one. The functionality of the system is great, but as with any platform, they live or die with software. The games on the Xbox One are exactly as expected, mildly entertaining and generic gameplay wise, but graphically stellar. It is almost impossible for developers to create a truly entertaining experience these days when they are so enamored with making a visual masterpiece. I have to say the thing I miss most about video games is how creative and entertaining they once were, but perhaps I am just getting old. I have to give the Xbox One a great rating as an entertainment device, but if you are not a “gamer,” save your money, it just doesn’t seem to be a must own device for an individual merely searching for a living room media center.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo or E3 as it is commonly known, is a huge annual fair and trade show that focuses on video gaming. Over the past few years my interest in this event has waned as my priorities have shifted, but from time to time I like to check in to see what good old Nintendo has in store for their fans. Every year during this event, the major video game companies hold key note speeches in which they show off their newest gadgets and demo their newest software. I’d like to say that the excitement for this event is at the same level as it has always been, but it is clear that the world of gaming has shifted from the way it was in the past. Today’s most popular video games are usually played on mobile phones and tablet devices, and since these mobile games are free, they have a larger following than traditional console games. Console gaming is quickly becoming extinct due to the high price of both hardware and software, and the lack of direct developer support that is seen on mobile gaming platforms. This year’s E3, at least to this observer, seems to be crucial to the future of home video game consoles. The rising cost of game development and the poor customer demand for consoles has made video games unappealing to former “gamers” and unprofitable to many companies. In this year’s event many companies have turned to independent developers in order to push their hardware, but it seems like these companies are trying too hard to emulate the success of mobile gaming. Mobile games are easy to pick up, and drop at anytime, and that is a feature that today’s massive consoles will never be able to copy. I believe that game creation is an art akin to making a movie, instead of going cheaper I hope to see major game companies release monumental games. I used to love playing games that had a great story and larger than life visuals, and I feel that in order for consoles to stay relevant they must return to high priced production, hopefully it would be a gamble that pays off and reignites interest in the hobby of gaming.