You’ve served well.
After seven years of service, which all started on Christmas Day 2006, I now consider this current generation of HD consoles – PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 – to be over for me. Last night, I finished Beyond: Two Souls, my final (essential) game for the current cycle. I can’t talk about Beyond until the game’s US release on Tuesday, so you’ll have to wait for then to get my thoughts.
But now that I have finished it, that’s it (mostly) for me. After seven years, my journey with PS3 and 360 is now at an end. You might end up asking why I am wanking over such silly nonsense, but the truth is it these two consoles mean more to me than just game machines. Over the past eight years, this generation has come to define who I am as a person: a gamer, a games journalist or a guy who just loves writing about games, from the very crappy writing and grammar I had when I did my first website in 2005, just as PlayStation 3 was getting set to be announced at E3 2005 and Xbox 360 was just announced, to talking to Sony indie master Shahid Ahmad for one of the biggest websites in games, a place I spent a third of this generation of as its UK Editor. It’s at least a good portion of my life, a near decade.
But it’s not even just that. I keep remembering the experiences I’ve had with some of these games over the course of this cycle: that cliffhanger of an ending playing Half-Life 2: Episode Two on The Orange Box for Xbox 360, the hotel in Uncharted 2, the entire seventh chapter of Halo 3, the entire fourth act and ‘that scene’ towards the end of the fifth act of Metal Gear Solid 4, playing The End on The Beatles: Rock Band, the first level (after the prologue) of Mirror’s Edge, exploring the world of Skyrim for the first time, the rollercoaster that was the Mass Effect trilogy, the ending of Winter in The Last of Us. The list can go on for forever, but I’ve encountered so many incredible moments these past seven or eight years that anyone who says games aren’t a legitimate form of entertainment – and in even some cases art – I’ll bitchslap them! (okay, maybe not bitchslap them, just respectfully disagree with them — and kick them in the shin a bit)
Basically, a lot has happened in the past eight years that has changed my life for the better thanks to games and in particular this cycle. I’ve got in to the one industry I always wanted be part of and do the one job I have loved doing these past eight years, from enthusiast to specialist journalist, I’ve travelled parts of the world to cover some of these games – I’ve met new friends because of said travels and I met my biggest hero (Tom Bramwell) as a result at gamescom 2010 – and I’ve interviewed some of the biggest names in games within these past seven years. And I achieved my biggest life-long dream this past summer thanks to being in this industry when, after starting out as an enthusiast eight years ago wanting to write for that very website, I finally had a work of mine actually published on Eurogamer for all to read.
What’s the coherent point to all this wanky sentimentalism? None, I guess. What I think I’m trying to say is that this generation of games has meant a lot to me, even more than the PS2 generation, which basically made me realise I wanted to have a part in this industry. Do I regret that choice? It’s a tough, demanding industry, but no, definitely no regrets. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows since 2005 when I started writing, but absolutely no regrets. So much so that thinking back on these past seven or eight years kind of left me with a few tears when thinking back last night. That’ll look silly to most people, but that’s much this generation has meant to me, personally speaking and for the fantastic games – even the landmark games – that have come out since.
Now, I’m sure this question is going to get asked a lot on Twitter after this goes live: ‘what about the remainder of games coming this year and early next year to PS3 and 360, Johnny?’ For Batman: Arkham Origins and South Park: Stick of Truth, I can just easily pick it up for PC. ‘And Dark Souls 2?’ DS2 is also coming to PC. The only game I’d be missing out on either console that I’m somewhat interested is Gran Turismo 6, but at this point, I’m just about ready to move on. Of course, I am technically cheating on ending this now: for one, I’m due a copy of F1 2013 on Xbox 360 and I won’t be dismantling the PS3 or 360 from the shelves just yet as I’m still up for revisiting a few games on the backlog to finish and there’s Netflix too on either system. The day they will be off my TV shelves will be November 29: the day PlayStation 4 releases in Europe.
As for my collection of games I’ve amassed since 2006, I’ll be doing something I didn’t do for the last generation. When PS3 was just coming out (I got my Xbox 360 as a Christmas gift in 2006), I traded in a good majority of my PS2 games to help pay off my PS3 pre-order in March 2007. As a result, I traded in some of my favorite games from the PS2 era: the SSX games, Bully (or Canis Canem Edit as it was known then – thanks for Bully HD, I guess, Rockstar), 007: Nightfall, etc. This time, the intent is to keep them – but not just so I can plug in the PS3 or 360 every now and then (though come GTA V DLC time, that time may well come). It’s so I can pass on what I’ve gained onto the next generation.
A while back, I learned I would become an uncle for the first time. And earlier this week, I learned I’d be an uncle to a nephew. It kind of brings to mind a quote from a piece Tom Bramwell wrote for Eurogamer when Microsoft made its DRM/anti second-hand u-turn for Xbox One.
“I have a lot of old games – Super Nintendo cartridges like Chrono Trigger and EarthBound – that I look after very carefully, and I am excited about the idea of showing them to my children. It will be natural for children born today to understand and appreciate video games throughout their lives, and while the artistic achievements of the games we have now will seem primitive compared to the games they play as they grow up, it makes me happy that I will be able to show them the original building blocks for something they love. For them to understand or even contribute to this artform, I believe it is important that they are able to trace those origins and experience them, in the same way that somebody who wants to understand the cultural legacy of Citizen Kane can go back and study that film.”
Tom meant that for his own kids when that happens and I’m sure it’ll be the same for me when my time comes, but until then, I intend to show my nephew (and possibly another nephews and nieces in future until my time comes) the joy I’ve felt in playing games, the best possible form of entertainment, from this generation. As my nephew grows up, it’s my hope I want to show him the happiness of a game and develop his creative side with something like LittleBigPlanet, somewhat teach him to play music with a Rock Band game (assuming playing a plastic instrument can count as teaching him how to play music – best give him Rock Band 3 and a live guitar for it) to then slowly get into more mature stuff as he grows up. By that point (not withstanding that PS5 & 6/the next two Xboxes, assuming they’re things that exist in the next 18 years) it’s my hope he will experience more mature games similar to how I more or less discovered the maturity of videogames thanks to Metal Gear Solid 3 and – more recently – The Last of Us.
Plus, on a personal level, I just love having a box in my hands each time I buy a game, it’s a feeling that’s just not beatable by having a digital version of a retail game (Remember when a FIFA game would come with the smell of a recently-cut football pitch? Unless smellovision is invented in the next 50 years, I highly doubt that’s something a digital version can replicate).
Anyways, this generation has meant a lot to me – personally and professionally – and it’s my hope I get to pass that feeling onto the next generation. In fact, though games aren’t specifically in this line, there’s a quote from Metal Gear Solid 2 I’ve thought about when writing this that comes to mind.
“DESTROY THE FINAL WEAPON. METAL GEAR.”
GOOD GOD, NO, NOT THAT ONE! D:
“Life isn’t just about passing on your genes. We can leave behind much more than just DNA. Through speech, music, literature and movies…what we’ve seen, heard, felt…anger, joy and sorrow…these are the things I will pass on. That’s what I live for. We need to pass the torch, and let our children read our messy and sad history by its light.We have all the magic of the digital age to do that with. The human race will probably come to an end some time, and new species may rule over this planet. Earth may not be forever, but we still have the responsibility to leave what traces of life we can. Building the future and keeping the past alive are one and the same thing.”
That just about sums it up.