Joystick: The more consoles change the more they stay the same

Published 10:14 am Sunday, February 24, 2013

I was a one-console gamer until recently. Not that I owned just one video game system for the longest time — I had plenty of fun with the Playstation, my Super Nintendo, and my PS2 — but I only ever had one newer system whenever a new console generation came out.

And there was nothing wrong with that. I played the tar out of my Playstation until I got a PS2 for my 15th birthday, several years after the PS2 came out. I enjoyed that PS2 until I bought my Wii, about two months after I started here at the Herald. A couple months after that, I bought a PS3. Even if I have multiple consoles now, I still know how to have fun with a single, simple game.

I never really needed a second console in any generation, and I suspect that’s common for many people. I favored my PS1 over my Nintendo 64 when I was growing up, and I had no large desire to buy more N64 games.

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I thought that would have changed when the Xbox came out. It had a lot of flashy shooters like “Halo,” along with a few exclusive (at the time) games to play through. And the controller was unlike anything I’d seen before. I wanted one, simply so I could play all the games my friends were playing.

Then the 360 came out, and I wanted one of those, too. There were console-exclusive RPGs like “Lost Odyssey” and “Blue Dragon” that seemed incredible, plus there were even more console exclusive titles and better versions of “Halo.” The video games seemed better on the other side, even after I bought a PS3, and I wished to own a 360 as well.

My wish came true recently, as I got a 360 over Christmas. But there’s no real difference from my PS3. It has the same sort of graphics as my PS3, it has most if not all the same games I enjoy, and it goes online just as well — though Xbox charges money for many of its online services, while Sony leaves online multiplayer free-to-play.

My point is, there’s not a discernable difference between consoles. Having one console in this day and age really does mean you’re playing any other console on the market. Granted, people will argue about the various differences between one system or another, praising the engine behind one system or lauding the system interface on another.

Yet on the large scale of things, there’s really no discernable difference between consoles this generation. I suspect that will remain true after this year, when Sony and Microsoft join Nintendo in bringing the latest consoles to market. I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about how one system is better than another — more social capabilities, better graphics, easier interface, etc., but at the end of the day, parents need to know buying one system will more than likely mean you’ve bought ‘em all.