In Memory of Moon Leaps

The original Xbox was but four years old when its big brother burst on to the scene. The Nintendo Entertainment System was six when the Super Nintendo launched in North America in the late summer of 1991. It would go on to reign for five years. The PlayStation 2, arguably the most successful console ever manufactured, launched in 2000 and dominated the gaming scene until the current generation took hold and Sony pushed forward with the PS3 six years later.

By the end of this year, the Xbox 360 will match that six year cycle, and likely blow right past it.

This is the year it should be happening. Not just the announcement of the eighth generation of video gaming, but the actual launch. There should be gabbling buzz about hands-on opportunities at the upcoming E3. There should be bickering across every corner over the internet as unrealistic promises are backed with cryptic hardware spec-sheets. There should be codenames, leaked images and price speculations.

And as I sit back and think about this well practiced tradition of sniffing out new-console-smell, I can’t for the life of me imagine what the point of a new generation would be now, and I find this incredibly disappointing.

There was a time when gaming systems were capable of producing barely a handful of colors. A time when memory was measured in single digits of kilobytes. A time when audio was little more than a series of delightful bleeps and bloops. A time when approximating a 3D space in a virtual environment seemed all but impossible. A time when creating a curved line was an act of genius. A time when playing a console game with a friend required a couch (or at least a nice open spot on the floor). A time where a physics system within a game seemed like the math of gods. A time when you couldn’t watch a crappy Will Ferrell, much less television , on a gaming system.

Now, it’s hard to imagine things that consoles can’t accomplish. I can integrate entire platforms of multimedia and gaming through my systems, switch on the fly between fantastic computer-derived worlds into social networking systems, streamed television or ultra high definition films stored on remote hard drives across a network, all through a software interface.

I ask you, what’s really next? What’s missing from this picture that we should want a new console generation to spring up from the ground and supply?

I realize of course that games could perhaps look incrementally better, and maybe there would be some gains in just packing a box in your entertainment center with more memory and faster raw processing power. But, we are a people who have become accustomed to bounding moon-leaps of improvement for our dollars. What could the industry even try to jump toward?

And yet, I have to admit that I want smarter people than I to come up with this imagined next generation, to wow me with the spectacle, and—despite my better judgment—to lust after meaningless numbers. As gaming evolved through the spectrum of 8, 16, 32 and 64 bits, the truth is that I had no idea what that meant or how it impacted my play experience, but I did know that 32 was a bigger number than 16—like, twice as big!—and so that meant that it was definitely, absolutely, empirically better.

It didn’t matter that the practical upshot of the increase was beyond my meager tech capacity. It was a great marketing message, and I just wanted to get wrapped up in the anticipation and the spectacle of a new generation. The thing is that half the fun of being a fan of this industry is about the thing around the next corner.

I find myself missing the sense of growth, the sense of speed and momentum of an industry and culture hurtling toward the future, with the unerring sense that year after year games are going to keep getting better at a geometric rate. It feels like we all hopped on the bullet train to The Future, and had a big party as technological hurdles whizzed past outside the window. Now, suddenly, we’ve reached the end of the line and we’re all standing around in The Future we had so looked forward to—and we’re wishing we were back on the train having the party.

Gaming systems pretty much do anything I can practically imagine. Sure, it’d be great if they had some kind of artificial sentience, or if they could project some kind of artificial reality for us to play in, or even if they would just sprout legs and clean the litter box, but really I’ve got to go to those kinds of ludicrous lengths to think of the things I want that machine to do. Most other things just seem like the kinds of things that can be accomplished now with a creative enough programmer, a big enough budget and enough time to make it all cook right.

That’s kind of disappointing. It tells me that the fun I’ve been having all this time is as much about the evolution of this young industry as it was the games it produced. If that’s true, this is kind of like a video game mid-life crisis, and my desire for the meaningless flash and sexy curves of an otherwise pointless new generation is a lot like wanting to get hair plugs and buy a $60,000 sports car.

It’s childish, impractical and utterly desirable. So as we sit idling through the sixth year of this generation with no sign of change on the horizon, I will dream of the wind blowing through my hair and the promise of impossible fun just around the corner.

Comments

I'd be perfectly happy if the current console generation ran another ten years.

I'm a late adopter, and I'm kind of sick of outlaying half a grand on a system only to find out it's been rendered obsolete a few years later. I have two kids and a mortgage, and I can't afford that kind of arms race anymore. Heck, I couldn't afford it then (I never owned a SNES or a PS1, basically I skipped every other console generation)

Focus on exploiting what's possible with the hardware you've got now, rather than trying to get everyone to fork up another six hundred bones for a system you're probably going to lose money on anyway.

But would new systemz have more of the graphics? Because if so I would like as much of the graphicses as possible.

Slumberland wrote:

But would new systemz have more of the graphics? Because if so I would like as much of the graphicses as possible.

This!!1 Nd consolez ned as much hardcores as possible!!!

Sean? Do you have majicke powerz? Because it was what, like 30 minutes after this went live that Nintendo news started leaking?

Gravey wrote:
PseudoKnight wrote:

- True hardware backwards compatibility (ie. not emulation or separate hardware))

This too (see above). Otherwise, PseudoKnight, I think what you're looking for is a PC.

The same thing could be said back BEFORE consoles were HD, online, wireless, had USB 2.0 ports, 2xAA, etc. There's a lot of trickle down from the computing world, once it's been refined. But it makes sense that what I'm describing sounds like a PC, given that I'm a PC gamer.

What's wrong with a period of refinement, anyway? I think so far it's done wonders for the industry. Another console generation of refinement is most welcome. My list reflects what I think would be appropriate in such a box. (though, the SSD/HDD hybrid is luxurious)

First of all, kudos to someone name muttonchop for this quote: "If hell is full of people who slept with Christina Hendricks, then the primary form of torment will be sore hands from everyone high-fiving each other all day." Pardon me while I google for six minutes.

Anyway, aside from Nintendo bringing us a "Wii HD" there is just nothing more I need from the consoles. As the article said, we have pretty much hit the end of the line in terms of what these things can realistically do.

Sure, at some point we all want to see holodecks, but then all consoles will just be called what they will really be used for: SexBox.

When that happens, the Wii might just become the "Wee!"

Could not disagree with the premise of this article more.

About a year before the last generation started, Epic came out with a pretty amazing tech demo of something that was clearly early work on Gears of War. It may look a little pedestrian today, but seven years ago it was amazing.

This year we have this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttx95...

The other day, I think one of the Epic guys mentioned that they were anticipating a 10-20x increase in processing power in the next generation. More horsepower enables new experiences. We won't necessarily see it in year one of the next generation, but we will see it.

Honestly, I think both Sony and Microsoft are trying to figure out if creating more and more powerful consoles is worth the effort in a world where mobile and social networking games have taken off. Not to mention the emergence of Web-based services like OnLive.

I wouldn't be shocked if Apple gets into the game next round or shortly. AppleTV with apps or similar. With the success of Angry Birds, etc, all they need to do is add a controller.

magnus wrote:

I wouldn't be shocked if Apple gets into the game next round or shortly. AppleTV with apps or similar. With the success of Angry Birds, etc, all they need to do is let your iPhone/iTouch control more than just the menus.

There's that idea, though it wouldn't be a traditional controller.

As a kid, I just wanted really cool presents.
I was given an NES. I loved it.
I was given a gameboy. I loved it. I beat Metroid II multiple times.

I sold all that stuff to get an SNES because there was no more NES or gameboy. I loved it.

I sold all that stuff. I don't remember why, except that I didn't have a copy of U.N. Squadon.
Cause if I did have a copy of U.N. Squadron I would own it still today I'm sure.

My father bought me a PSX. I had to choose between a sony playstation and a sega saturn.
I played Panzer Dragoon 2 in the store (which I did not realize until I recently bought a copy of Panzer Dragoon 1).
Playing Panzer Dragoon 2 in the store was one of the best times of my life.
I asked him to get me the playstation because of the commercial for warhawk (luckily for them they included in-game footage so I had a good idea of how it would play).
I loved it.

I bought a GBA because the original Game Boy was freaking awesome and it had a Castlevania game which I fell in love with after Symphony of the Night.
I still love it.

I bought my PS2 because of Twisted Metal Black. I threw away my playstation when it broke.
I still love my PS2.

I bought a DS Lite cause I knew well enough to wait until Nintendo got its act together(I also waited to get a GBA SP) and because it had castlevania.
I still love it.

I bought my PS3 because of Twisted Metal and Wipeout. I love it.
I bought my 3DS because I have faith that I will get a space sim like Freespace 2 on it and that I will get to dodge missiles and beam weapons in 3D like I'm a robotech pilot. In fact, that's the only reason I'm buying Kid Icarus.

Actually I would suggest porting Freespace 2 over to the 3DS if not for the fact that when I had a CRT monitor I also had a 3D shutter glass system that would automatically work for any 3D application and FS2 did not do well on it. Of course porting the SCP version might be worth it.

So if you've stayed with me this far:
the moral of this story is, screw hardware. If there are games on it, I will buy it.