THE DREADED CONSOLE WAR
We’ve had a lot of stupid wars on this planet. World War I, Vietnam, any war that was predicated on “my God can beat up your God,” the Cola wars, the War on Drugs, and what the hell, let’s give an honorable mention to the Star Wars prequels. The Console Wars (ugh, just typing that stupid fucking phrase makes me roll my eyes), is just another exercise in idiocy where the two sides involved can’t see how dumb they’re being. Before we get too far into this, I’ll state my gamer credentials, and they are as follows: I have, in my life, owned an Intellivision (look that one up, kids), a NES, a SNES, a Sega Genesis (with Sega CD attachment!), a Sega Saturn, a Playstation 1, a Nintendo 64, a Playstation 2, an Xbox, a Wii, an Xbox360, a PS4, and an Xbox One. Every single one of those consoles has brought something worthwhile to the table, even the ones that were terrible, (Hi, Intellivision and Sega Saturn!), and I’ve never considered myself a “loyalist” to any particular manufacturer or developer because what the hell would be the point of that? Oh yes, please, let me limit my gaming choices out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to a company that wouldn’t care if I dropped dead five seconds from now. The fact that things have devolved into a pissing contest over which console is better is a god damn shame, and, even worse, it’s not making the games or consoles demonstrably better. Oh, it’s putting money in the pockets of a small number of huge multi-national corporations, but I don’t really see how that’s helping anyone that’s actually involved in the internet-based shouting match that constitutes most of this “war”.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
The weird thing about the console war is that it’s happening mostly in the heads of gamers. Oh sure, Microsoft and Sony are competing with each other like you’d expect, but they aren’t duking it out in the fucking streets. Hell, they aren’t even arguing on Twitter. The consumers are the ones doing all the screaming, and it’s born out of nothing more than the basic, shitty human urge to feel superior to other people. People can’t stand the idea that they aren’t correct about everything all the time, so anyone that doesn’t see things their way must be destroyed or, at the very least, yelled at until they understand what a catastrophic asshole they truly are. If you want to see this happen in real time, flip on C-SPAN. Just don’t blame me if your face melts like you’re a Nazi looking into the Ark of the Covenant. The point is that this whole shitshow, and the reason we have to keep hearing about it, is born mostly out of the insecurities of consumers and the unwillingness of the gaming press to stop throwing gasoline on the fire (more on this in a minute). I know this is the case because when it comes to buying a video game console, (or a smartphone, or a TV, or a car, or a house, or whatever), there are only two criteria that actually matter. First, is this the item you want, and second are you happy with your choice? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then congratulations, you own the right thing for you. It doesn’t matter if someone else doesn’t like it. Who gives a fuck if some jackass halfway around the world thinks you were stupid to buy a Wii U instead of a PS4? Do you like the Wii U? Are you happy with it? Are enjoying it? Then it’s the right choice. End of argument.
It seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? If that’s the case (and it is, I promise you), then what the hell is the problem? Well, everyone getting along and congratulating each other on having something that makes them happy is nice, but it isn’t terribly interesting. Conflict, as much as I hate to admit it, is more interesting to read about than cooperation. And oh, is the gaming press ever aware of that. It’s why you see articles that end with things like “What do you think? Are people who buy the Xbox One idiots? Tell us what you think in the comments section!” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea. I mean, son of a bitch, really??? Why not just throw a bunch of gaming nerds into a steel cage, toss them some two by fours with nails in them, and tell them to have at each other? Quick aside; I’m not big on soliciting the opinion of the general public. Why? Because, 99.9% of the time, they never know shit. I’d much rather get the opinion of someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. But that’s not the age we live in. No, we live in this weird, psychotic morass where everyone’s treated like a subject-matter expert o everything, regardless of whether or not they have the slightest bit of education, knowledge, or information on the topic they’re expressing an opinion on. Here’s a video of John Oliver making my point for me. Now, applying this logic to video game consoles gets a little sticky, because there isn’t any way to determine which one is universally, objectively superior. You can only determine which one is better for an individual user, and even that is based solely on their personal preferences. There is no universal truth, no correct answer. Otherwise, eventually, we’d all wake up one day and say “Oh, I get it now. Random Console X is obviously the correct choice!” That’s never happening. So the whole thing becomes an exercise in stupidity, minutia, and nit-picky bullshit. Hey, speaking of nit-picky bullshit, let’s talk about pixels and frame rates for a minute.
MOUNTAINS AND MOLEHILLS
The following phrase has become my least favorite combination of words in the English language. Well, ok, my least favorite combination of words is “Mr. Gallifrey was killed today after being knocked off of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge by an 18 wheeler driven by an evil clown.” But right on the heels of that is “1080p and 60fps.” Look, I have a PS4, and I have an Xbox One. They’re hooked up to practically identical Samsung 50-inch flat screen LCD TVs. I enjoy them both immensely. And I also cannot tell the god damn difference between their picture quality. At all. It doesn’t matter what game I’m playing, I can’t tell. Now, some of you are surely thinking “Well, he’s not paying attention and is an idiot because the hardware of the PS4 clearly would allow for maximum pixel count and optimal frame rate and” OH MY GOD SHUT UP. It doesn’t matter! It never mattered! What matters is only this: are you having fun playing games on the console or not? Is it giving you the experience you’re looking for? Look, I understand there is a group of gamers out there who take their hardware very, very seriously. It’s part of what they love about gaming in the first place. They care as much about the tech as they care about the games, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m not one of those people. I care about whether or not a game is enjoyable to me personally, and I care about playing those games with my friends, and that’s it. I have absolutely no problem with people that are hot for the hardware, but what I do have a problem with is when pixel counts and frame rates somehow become the primary points of contention for gamers and the press when talking about Xbox One vs. PS4. (I’m not leaving Nintendo out of a lot of this to be a dick, by the way. The Wii U is, by Nintendo’s own admission, a failure and just can’t be included in the same conversation as the Xbox One and PS4. Keep in mind; I’m not saying the Wii U is bad. I’m only saying that it’s not particularly relevant in the console battle at the moment.) Out of all the things these machines can do, out of all the things we could be focusing on, we’re picking this? Seriously? Look, if you have to have an argument, have it about which system has the better exclusive IPs. Have it about which console has the greater potential for integrated virtual reality. Talk about anything besides fucking frame rates and pixels. If you’re basing a purchasing decision on that, then… well, I honestly don’t know what to tell you other than you’re missing the forest for one very, very silly tree.
THE BIG FAT MYTH
This next thing just makes me laugh. It’s the notion that Sony was a scrappy underdog; clawing and scrapping their way up the ranks Rocky Balboa-style, to deliver a completely unexpected knock-out punch to big bad Microsoft’s Apollo Creed. Look, here are the facts: both Sony and Microsoft are massive, multi-billion dollar corporations that give precisely zero fucks about anything any of us have to say unless it directly impacts their bottom line somehow, which it pretty much never does. Sony is in no way, shape or form an underdog. And when Microsoft started getting heat after the Xbox One launch announcement and they started making changes left and right, it had nothing to do with giving the customers what they wanted. It had everything to do with money. And that’s as far as it goes. Any loyalty you have to either of these companies is misplaced and wasted unless you’re on their payroll, which I’m guessing you’re not. Has Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo ever done anything for you personally? If they have, then sure, be as loyal as you like. My guess is they haven’t. So don’t. Buy what you want. Buy what makes you happy. Don’t buy anything because you feel like you’ve chosen a side, and definitely don’t buy anything because you’ve gotten taken in by the idea that a company that could buy and sell you a thousand times without blinking is any kind of underdog. That’s a special kind of crazy. It’s also worth mentioning that the two major players in the console market right now are not, strictly speaking, what I’d call gaming companies. Microsoft has done a good job overall with the Xbox brand during the last decade and change, but it’s still barely a blip on their corporate balance sheet. They care way more about Windows, MS Office, Windows Azure, MS SQL and their enterprise business than they do about Xbox. A lot more. Sony is a little bit of a different story, but not radically so. The Playstation brand still accounts for a very small overall piece of their business. This is one of the reasons Nintendo is struggling. They’ve got nothing else. There’s a reason that when someone says Nintendo, you think video games and only video games. It’s all they do. And they’ve been losing fiscal ground for years because of it, which is just sad. I’m not a huge Nintendo follower anymore, but the gaming scene is way more interesting with them than without them, just like it was more interesting when Sega was cranking out their beautiful lunacy. I’m honestly worried that we’re heading to a place where the company that, more than any other, has been responsible for making video games a part of our lives is just going to fade into memory. I’m not counting Nintendo out; they’ve pulled off massive successes out of nowhere too many times for that. I just hope they have another one up their sleeve.
LET IT BE ABOUT THE GAMES
I’m not naïve enough to think I’m going to change a lot of hearts and minds with this article, but really all I’m trying to do is help. Really, I promise I am. Despite some of the things I’ve said, and will continue to say, I like people and I adore anyone who identifies as a gamer on general principle. It makes me happy to see others happy. It gives me the warm fuzzies when I see people on opposite sides of a debate smiling and laughing together, because I don’t think universal agreement should be a condition of friendship or, at the very least, civility. So if you’re one of the people heading to message boards to troll others for being Xbox users or PS4 users, please stop. You’re actively making the world a little bit worse, and all you’re doing is trying to reinforce your own choice by making other people miserable. That’s a shitty thing to do, and it’s unnecessary. Be secure enough to be happy with your own choice, and be magnanimous enough to be happy for other people even if they don’t agree with you. The major studios and manufacturers are doing enough on their own to fight it out, and that’s enough. Competition between those companies is good. It’s what gets us better hardware and better games, which is what we’re all ultimately looking for out of this whole thing. We just want great games. Healthy competition between developers and manufacturers drives the innovation that is going to get us there. Being at each other’s throats over who is buying what doesn’t help anybody at all. All it’s going to do is make the gaming community look like a bunch of petulant, child-like idiots. Last I checked, this was an image we were all desperately trying to shed.