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Sometimes it seems like next-gen is trying to appeal to an audience that doesn't exist. Like they've concocted their own idea of who they want using their consoles, and are just hoping that some combination of loyalty and peer pressure will force the actual user base to transform into those people. They dream of a phantom demographic of attractive young people with spacious living rooms, who are all so psychotically needy that they need to be in constant Skype contact and posting endless streams of Facebook updates in order to be accepted by their equally good-looking friends. Physically active and somehow capable of enjoying motion controls, but simultaneously so bone idle that they want all their entertainment devices integrated into one that they can use without leaving their seat.
But it's not just vast swathes of the audience that next-gen consoles turn their noses up at - they're elitist in their approach to the games, too, from development right up to distribution. Already triple-A games are so expensive to create that developers are creatively stifled and even the highest-profile releases routinely lose money, but obliviously the next-gen consoles crank the technology dial up even further, adding a few more hazardous rungs to the ladder leading into the big boys' treehouse. Making the usual demands that the games crowbar in some use of whatever hardware gimmick they have deluded themselves into thinking is a selling point.
And what could be more smug and elitist than having no backwards compatability? Now then. Let's put aside the argument of "the current generation consoles aren't going to magically disappear". Let's imagine someone, we'll call them Bertha, deciding they want to get into gaming, so they buy an Xbox One, and play Assassin's Creed 4. She likes it, and wants to play Assassin's Creed 1-3 as well. What do we say to her? "You can't. All the previous installments of the story that provide the necessary background, all the experiences and highs and lows of the series thus far, none of that matters. Nothing that was made before this console matters, because we found a way to make games slightly prettier. And that alone, sight unseen, makes our paltry handful of bland launch titles worth more than the entire history of gaming put together. You should have played them in the last generation." And then Bertha explains she wasn't into gaming around the time of the last generation, and everyone laughs at her for being a noob.
A top-of-the-range desktop PC costs a lot more, but I wouldn't just be paying to buy into the new games club. I'd be paying for an entire history of games, safely filed away on GOG.com and the Steam listings. Through emulators I have access to every significant moment in gaming that has long since been considered pointless and binned by their original publishers because they were too busy fighting to be the ones wearing the prettiest hats.
Maybe all of gaming is elitist, especially in a world where one-third of the population doesn't even have electricity, let alone an internet connection. But if I'm going to enable someone's elitism, it's going to be the guy who's elitist because he's smarter. Not the one who's elitist because of fucking bullshit.
Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.