The “Death” of Console Gaming

Slashdot was kind enough to point me at this piece from Wired that proclaims dedicated gaming devices are obsolete. The funniest part of that to me is not thinking how often I see people claim that PC gaming or the PC itself is dead, but that I would actually be very happy to see consoles disappear. Quite frankly, PCs can use keyboard & mouse or controllers, and consoles have rarely embraced the keyboard & mouse.

When I was in grade school way the fuck back in the early 90s, I had two ways I could play video games. I had an old DOS computer, followed by Macs, and I had a Super NES. I’d had my copy of Mega Man X loaned to someone who either lost it or decided they weren’t going to return it, and it had been my favorite Mega Man game (and the only one I owned). Buying used games was not something on my radar, so I had no idea how to possibly get a copy until emulation popped up. Once I got it emulated, I was ecstatic until I started trying to play it. If you’ve ever tried playing Mega Man with a keyboard then you fully understand my pain. Here was a game I cherished for years rendered nearly unplayable by the input device I was trying to use. I bought a gamepad the first chance I got, and everything was golden. Several years later I was leafing through the manual to Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII for PS2 and discovered it supported Keyboard & Mouse. I had a blast at that game, which got terrible reviews mainly for it’s gamepad controls that worked very poorly for a shooter.

Let’s now move ahead to four years ago. It’s the current console generation, and I have just purchased an XBox 360 to add to my collection that now included a Wii and the shiny original PS3. I had also just been forced by finances and World of Warcraft’s system requirements to switch from my college PowerBook G4 laptop to a Windows 7 desktop machine. A good friend instantly demanded I play Portal now that I had a PC, and it took a disturbing amount of time for me to listen to him. I now have a rule he is clearly aware of; If he recommends me a game, I must play it. The next game on his list was Assassin’s Creed. I started trying to play Assassin’s Creed 2 (I was told to skip 1 in hopes the refined gameplay of 2 would sink its teeth into me faster, it did) with the keyboard and mouse, as it had been years before USB that I had bought a gamepad. I very quickly stopped, installed drivers for my PS3 controllers, and started again. Assassin’s Creed was the first game series I encountered in a while that is best with a game pad. And even if I hadn’t used random drivers to use my preferred PS3 controller , most games these days are designed to work with a 360 controller with little to no effort.

These days I find myself doing almost no gaming in the living room. My Wii has not been used in ages. The 360 is used mainly to watch shows from Geek and Sundry on YouTube. The PS3 by far gets the most use, but as a Blu-Ray/streaming media player. Despite owning every Nintendo and Sony console to date, I find that I am a PC gamer. I have no intention of buying the Wii U, or any other console. Quite frankly, I’m an adult, and I can’t afford to keep my PC hardware completely up to date, let alone buy every new console that comes out just so I can play the latest Mario or Metal Gear games. To my horror, I actually strongly dislike motion controls and wish they were optional. The last console game I bought was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I own every console Zelda game and have enjoyed them all (except Zelda II, that was kinda lame), but I haven’t really been able to play Skyward Sword because my dog thinks I’m trying to play with her. The last console game I played? Rockband 3. Consoles still have the local multiplayer advantage, but even that is out of date.

The downside of being a PC gamer is the industry’s obsession with piracy and its supposed impact on their business. To this end we are subjected to crazy DRM and delayed release dates. Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham City are perfect examples of this. For the past 30 months both Arkham City and the latest 2 Assassin’s Creed games have had huge ad campaigns with set release dates only to have their PC release dates moved quietly. I didn’t know Arkham City was delayed for PC until I couldn’t install it on the supposed launch day. Searching for the answer led me to the knowledge that Assassin’s Creed Revelations was also delayed. The reasons given for this were that vast majority of game sales are right away, and while I could download Assassin’s Creed 3 for XBox right now if I wanted to, it’s much harder to pirate games on a console than on a PC, so console piracy isn’t something they care about. PC piracy is supposedly too easy so they push those release dates back enough that they aren’t available pirated before the launch date on consoles, thus supposedly ensuring they lose less sales to easy piracy. It’s a dick move, and it’s not going to work. Hell, I had to use a pirate crack to get a store-bought copy of Dragon Age II to work, just because I lived on the east coast, and it was time-locked until midnight pacific to deter piracy. Considering pirates had been playing the game for a week, it didn’t work very well. I can’t remember the last time I virus-scanned something three times. The real best way to get rid of piracy is to get rid of the physical media so no one can make illegal copies before release. That’ll work way better than anything else in practice today.

Whether or not Console Gaming is dead doesn’t really matter, because it’s dead to me. I would love it if the industry agreed with me so I don’t miss out on any games though. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hide in a hole in the ground with no internet for 3 weeks so nobody can spoil Assassin’s Creed 3 for me. Fuck you Ubisoft.