For seven years, we’ve enjoyed gaming on the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. All of these consoles were revolutionary in their time and brought us into a vastly connected world of gaming. These consoles, particularly the Xbox 360, also brought video games to the forefront of popular culture among young adults. Gaming is no longer a cult hobby, but something to be enjoyed by all. The results of this have elicited mixed feelings, but there’s no denying the irrevocable changes these consoles and their developers have made. Now, with the next generation looming on the horizon, it is with a bit of melancholic nostalgia – and some scathing criticism – that the Think-Entertainment team takes a moment to say farewell.
This is from the perspective of a gamer who started in the current generation. Most of the releases that I have played are triple-A action titles, so I feel like I have experienced the back-cover synopsis of what current-gen games have had to offer.
Within this scope, the current generation seems like one that is set in its ways. From a mechanical standpoint, most triple-A’s borrow from a checklist of basic qualities – light role-playing elements, some kind of multiplayer mode with a progression system, moral choices, frequent in-game scripted events, and frequent bursts of half-baked gameplay variety (turret sections, basically). Many of these conventions were very recently established, but triple-A titles seem to follow them to the letter.
This bleeds into current-gen games aesthetically. There seems to be an expected standard for visual quality, an expectation for movie-like soundtracks and voice acting, and a requirement for high production value in cutscenes. I often see reviewers criticizing games based on these standards, rather than looking past them for unique qualities.
And these unique qualities exist. Within each major release of this generation, there is likely at least one new mechanic or idea. I just feel that these innovations are often awkwardly tacked onto triple-A gaming’s set of standards. This generation can be described with a back-cover synopsis because it is largely homogenized. Its games seem less like individual entities and more like extensions of an established model for “the good game.”
Overall, I think it has been a really good generation of gaming for consoles. (I am going to put emphasis on consoles here for the sole reason that I couldn’t possibly fit my feelings for PC gaming into two paragraphs.) I think that the PlayStation 3 really sealed the deal for me this gen. I have spent more time playing my PlayStation than my 360, but I have had good times with both. The games that have provided the most entertainment for me this generation are Dark Souls and Little Big Planet.
I choose these because they are games I could play – and have played – repeatedly since I got them, not that I haven’t gotten my money’s worth out of other games. Not by a long shot. But when it comes to Dark Souls, I have beaten the game too many times to remember, on so many different characters, many of which have been deleted for to make space for more new characters. The Souls series in general has given me everything that I expect from a good RPG, with a brutal difficulty that I can’t help but love to hate. Little Big Planet… Who hasn’t this game given hours, days, months, worth of entertainment to? The community has carried that game to heights I could never imagine. The sheer volume of community content is simply amazing, and what’s more is the high quality of it.
by Aaron Tuazon
If you asked me seven years ago which console I thought I would enjoy most out of the Wii, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, I probably would have chosen either Nintendo or Sony’s console. I certainly wouldn’t have picked the Xbox. Yet over the last few years I’ve found myself highly in favour of the 360 – a preference born from a desire to play Dead Rising and sustained by the comfort provided by the system’s superior controller.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy gaming on the Wii or the PS3. These consoles offered some great titles - Super Smash Bros. Brawl, God of War 3 and The Last of Us, just to name a few – but with the exception of exclusives like these, I felt no reason to use these systems. The Xbox experience felt more solid, enjoyable and, overall, significantly better than that offered by Nintendo or Sony.
In my mind, Microsoft won the console war last gen.
by Tom T
When I think of last gen, I think of the little town of Libby, Montana. This small town had a mortality rate 80 times that of the US average, but when activist Gayla Benefield tried to draw attention to that fact, she was condemned by the community. “You are living on asbestos,” she said. “We couldn’t possibly be,” the community replied. It took years before people acknowledged the truth, leading to many unnecessary deaths.
Last gen, gamers were living on asbestos. They were treated to sequel, after sequel, after barely refined sequel. They pre-ordered games, with no assurance of quality, then defended said games against all logic. Online gaming took hold, single player suffered, and gamers became victim of a kind of consumerist peer pressure, electing to play games not out of merit, but because that was what their friends were playing. Through it all, gamers were blissfully unaware of their exploitation. They willingly paid extortionate fees for substandard online services (using unreliable client-based networking models), along with purchasing day one DLC and disk locked content. Told they were being ripped off, they were willfully blind; they couldn’t possibly be.
Last gen was scene to a loss of integrity on all fronts. Developers learned just how much they could get away with. Gamers became a contemptible sort (and I haven’t even touched upon their behaviors under guise of anonymity). For all of these reasons, I moved away from the mainstream last gen. It was toxic.
This generation was the first that I truly branched out from Nintendo, out of a combination of social “encouragement” and morbid curiosity. I had never played an M-rated game until I was 18, not by parental limitation or simple respect for the rating system, but by willful disinterest. I didn’t play games to run around shooting my friends. I played to immerse myself in a great story filled with lovable characters and exciting gameplay. With the exception of my fun-filled experiences on the Sega Genesis (way, way back in the day by some people’s standards), my love of video games was nurtured single-handedly by Nintendo.
The Wii cracked open the door of motion controlled gaming – without sacrificing traditional styles of play. Its main launch title, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, is still one of my favorite games in the series. After a long wait, we finally got our hands on Super Smash Bros Brawl, which I now regard as proof that there is in fact still plenty of merit to grabbing your friends, parking them all on the couch with some controllers, and having an all out… well, brawl. Though I did come to enjoy a few select franchises on the Xbox 360 (Halo, Minecraft) and PlayStation 3 (Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, Darksiders), my fondest memories of the past seven years are of vanquishing Morpheel, fighting over smash balls, and saving the universe with the help of Pixls.
This generation had its share of scandals, many of which have been mentioned here, but like the ever-wise Princess Zelda said, “Shadow and light are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other.” It’s inevitable that in a massively expanding industry, some unfavorable business tactics or generic titles will seep in and color our experiences. With gaming becoming more and more popular among all demographics, there will be more divisions between gamers over preference, ideology, age, gender, and anything else that sets us apart. And without these flaws, we would not appreciate the companies and people who rise above them. With any luck, these incidents will serve as harsh lessons as we move into the next generation.