On Becoming Console Agnostic

Over the last month, I’ve been getting automated voicemail messages from someone running for public office here in Wichita, talking about how they’ve changed their political party and how they thought they’d never do it, followed by them explaining why they were doing it. As a gamer I’ve been going through my own level of changes as I get older and as the business philosophies of the hardware manufacturers change.

When I was growing up in the suburbs, I lived in a Nintendo household. I had an NES and by the end of 1992 I had a Super Nintendo. I never had any of the Sega systems, but my neighbor had a Genesis, so I got to play a lot of the popular games. The first Sega hardware I ever had was a Game Gear, a console I wanted because it was in color and was backlit, a major jump in hardware from the various shades of monochrome offered by Nintendo’s Game Boy. Around 1994 I finally got a Game Boy, jumping in on the “Play It Loud” era advertising that brought various colored hardware. The games didn’t look as nice as the Game Gear, but the substantial gain in battery life was worth it.

Somewhere in there I managed to acquire a Sega Genesis, but I only ever had three games for it: Sonic the Hedgehog, Ecco the Dolphin, and Desert Strike. I borrowed plenty of games from the neighbors, and my dad and I actually played through Desert Strike together, but that was all I ever had. The system was a hand-me-down from a family friend, so I was never that invested in it.

When the Sony Playstation came out, I never got it. I stuck with Nintendo through the N64, and ended up amassing a great pile of excellent games. By the time the Gamecube came out, I was actually starting to fall out of video games altogether, and only ended up buying a few games for it. When my group of friends in high school started shifting, I started to fall back into gaming. Long nights of Mario Kart Double Dash and Super Smash Bros helped drag me back into the clutches of gaming, and at that point I decided to sell off my N64 collection to fund the purchase of a Playstation 2. I wasn’t giving up on Nintendo, but I wanted to find out how the other half lived. Sega’s hardware division had already gone to the bathroom, and the Microsoft Xbox never appealed to me. The Playstation 2 had become the dominant platform that generation, and I wanted in.

I sold my Nintendo 64 and all of my complete, mint-in-box games– something I still regret to this day– and used the money to fund the purchase of a Playstation 2 from EB Games. Since I never had a Playstation before, the first game I bought to go with it was Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t know what Playstation 2 games I wanted, but I wanted to play Final Fantasy VII. I still don’t really know why I did it, but I know for a little while I didn’t have that many games.

Since I now had a PS2, a lot of doors were now open to me. I had this crazy catalog of PS1 games I could play, and all of these new games–many of them exclusive to the system–at my disposal. I fell in love. I understand why the PS2 ended up “winning” the last generation. I had so much catching up to do in fact, that I was incredibly late to the party when the current generation started.

I remained Nintendo faithful, and while I didn’t buy one at launch, I did end up buying a Wii. By this point, Nintendo had become to me a company that existed outside of the dick waving contest that the other consoles occupied. Nintendo was just Nintendo. They made games I absolutely loved and I didn’t really care about the “more power” mentality that gaming ended up taking up.

Having friends who were gamers, I became exposed to the pros and cons of the current generation. Some of my friends pooled some money together and actually bought me an Xbox 360 for my birthday. Almost immediately it got the dreaded RROD, but I swapped it out and had another unit that survived for over a year. Eventually that one died as well, so I ended up just buying one of my own, and I still have it to this day. I got really into the XBox 360 for a while, and in a lot of ways I saw it as the evolution of some of the ideas Sega had been working into the Dreamcast. I had become a faithful Microsoft fan, as they were offering me what I wanted out of gaming.

After a couple years, my perception of gaming began rapidly changing. My tastes started shifting considerably, as I started getting out of Western developed games. My interests started shifting back to Japanese oriented gaming, and by then, consoles had started coming down in price. I picked up a slim Playstation 3 and a couple games to get me started. Almost immediately I was hooked again. Having been used to the ad infested layout of the Xbox 360, the XMB layout of the PS3 came as a huge relief. Everything was easy to find and I adapted quickly. It felt like a media center, and I liked that. I know the online community isn’t as vocal or pervasive as the Xbox 360 community is, but as someone who doesn’t do a lot of online gaming, I quickly found that didn’t bother me

The truth was that I was growing out of playing a lot of online games with other people, and I felt like most of the games on the Xbox 360 just weren’t made for me.

Growing up I was really into playing games with my friends, and typically what happens is that over time it becomes more difficult to hang out with those friends to play together. Online play finally became a viable process during the current generation, and while I’m somewhat thankful for it, it does feel rather soulless compared to playing in person. This was a big reason I started getting out of online gaming. I missed being in the same room as my friends. It also didn’t help that I’ve found that the online community on Xbox Live is horrible. I don’t understand where that sort of shit-talking became a thing, but that’s an argument for another day.

Over time I started buying more games for my PS3. I spend a lot more time on it than I used to, and at this point, I don’t think I’ve turned my Xbox on in a couple of months. I just have no desire to. The increasing majority of the games I play lately have become single player focused. When I do delve into multiplayer, it’s usually local multiplayer only, and even then it’s usually limited to arcade games or fighters. Shooters are not a big part of my gaming vocabulary anymore, and I’m finding more games on the PS3 that grab me in ways that the Xbox 360 never did.

I knew the transition was happening when I bought a competitive fighting game on the PS3. Games like that tend to do better on the Xbox 360, but I just feel better playing them on PS3 now, especially if they are Eastern developed. Plus, it feels weird playing a Japanese developed game on a Western developed console.

Another big part of why I’ve been making this transition is because of Sony’s approach to how they handle region locking their console. The PS3 is essentially region free, always has been, and presumably always will be. I love this approach and I wish the other hardware developers would take note of this. I know there is a lot of upset people regarding Persona 4 Arena’s region locking, but considering the incredibly short gap between releases in America and Japan, I’m not that upset about it. Atlus has apologized up and down and has said they have no plan to make this a regular practice, and I believe them. I understand that things like this are business related to prevent reverse importation and market cannibalism. While I’m not as militant as a lot of people are on the issue, I do think that region locking is anti-consumer. No, it doesn’t usually affect me directly, but it does affect the community and that does bother me.

While I know the argument can be made that as far as the multi-platform games go, there is a ton of overlap between the Xbox 360 and the PS3, but the majority of those titles also come out on PC, so that has become my platform of choice for a lot of those games. Since the PS3 actually has an existing market in Japan, I feel like it has a much better library of exclusives than the Xbox 360 does these days.

I don’t like making fanboy arguments about what system is the best. I’m in the fortunate position to own all of the major consoles, so gaming has become a crazy buffet for me. I don’t buy into fanboy sensationalism or anything of that sort. I love a lot of how Sony handles their user interface, I’ve always been a Nintendo fan and while I don’t agree with a lot of their business decisions, I do have a soft spot for some Microsoft’s games. Play the games you like on the consoles you like, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for doing so. Video games are about having fun, and it needs to stay that way.

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