I can tell I’m getting old

…because I just don’t have the will to be angry about video games anymore. The past couple of days have been downright disorienting with all the rage flying around about the Xbox One.

I saw the same presentation everyone else did (live and in person, even), but I feel like we watched totally different things. I saw an overly corporate (frequently robotic) stage performance by a company that badly misaimed its message, to be sure. I know Microsoft’s been buoyed by its success with Kinect, but man, you just can’t launch a new home game machine and totally snub the audience that actually cares about video games — even if the console pretty much simply uses games as an excuse to insinuate itself into the soft underbelly of our living rooms. A pretty boneheaded debut in a lot of ways, but ultimately guilty more of misjudging its audience than introducing an actual dud of a machine, so far as I could tell.

Evidently that puts me in the minority, though. The general response to Xbox One has ranged from “unenthusiastic” to “downright furious.” I can certainly see where a lot of the blowback comes from; for one thing, the way Xbox One handles used games is borderline offensive and flies in the face of 35 years of console gaming precedent. But man, I have never seen the Internet collective gather their torches and pitchforks at the debut of a new platform the way they have with Xbox One. Sony must be breathing a sigh of relief; people were put off by the PlayStation 4 announcement, but that amounted to mere disappointment, not unbridled contempt.

(Well, almost everyone at Sony. I halfway suspect that Fumito Ueda saw all the speculation that Infinity Ward’s going to kill off the dog in Call of Duty: Ghosts and turned to his team heavily. “Sorry, everyone,” he intoned. “We’ve gotta start all over again on The Last Guardian.”)

Maybe I’m just easily hoodwinked by a stage show bathed in neon green light? Still, I feel like every console I’ve owned over the past decade has started really badly, just like this one. They present badly in their first appearance — remember people pretending to play golf by using a Wii U gamepad as a putting green? Remember 599 U.S. dollars? — and they continue sucking right up to launch. And then they keep on sucking right into their first year of existence.

Really, though, I just feel too old and tired to get worked up about this. I have other things to worry about, like keeping up with work… which actually involves a lot of Xbox One stuff, and even then I can’t feel too put out about it. I’m more annoyed these days by things like Monsanto destroying agricultural viability and demanding patent fees for doing it, or by America’s broken health care system which prevents my wife from getting affordable health care specifically because she needs health care. Microsoft debuts a boxy game system with poorly conceived messaging and that employs an account system similar to the Steam network everyone loves so much? Who cares? Yeah, what we’ve seen has been kind of lame so far, but it’s not actively hurting me. If it keeps on being lame, the worst that can happen is I don’t buy it and thereby miss out on a few cool games… but only a few, given the evaporation of platform exclusives and Microsoft’s deprecation of indie devs driving the people who make lower-budget games that interest me most over to Steam, Wii U, and PSN.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my rocking chair, biding my time for a few weeks until both Sony and Microsoft have to put up or shut up at E3.

37 thoughts on “I can tell I’m getting old

  1. I concur with your sentiments here Jeremy. The eagerness in some quarters to castigate the machine on pretty flimsy pretexts is equal parts saddening and maddening.

    I don’t know if it’s groupthink, a predetermined set against any mass market box (cue snarky comments about machines being built for lovers of mancaves) or a genuine sense of disenfranchisement in the fact the reveal didn’t repeat the alleged sins of the past: being overladen with testosterone, games and guns, GUNS, G U N S. What I do know is the ratio of intelligent commentary to lowest common denominator pandering has been pretty poor.

    The sad part for me is the ever hastening convergence between a lot of outlets’ reportage and their respective comments sections. The notion of presenting a lucid opinion that may run counter to the mob increasingly seems to be discarded in favor of creating a nice big bonfire of misdirection, speculation and half-baked ‘analysis’ and then warming your hands over the clicks. Where’s the leadership?

    Whether it’s as a consumer or a (tangentially) affected professional I know it’s early days yet; balanced appraisals reflecting that fact are few and far between. I have this ominous feeling the worst is yet to come when E3 arrives and people double down on the cynicism express.

  2. I think we’re about the same age and I agree with everything you said here. I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw of the presentation, or Sonys actually, and I sort of felt like Microsoft was just following the next logical step with their new “entertainment” system so I was a bit surprised by the backlash from Xbox fans of all people. The stuff I read about it’s “cloud” computing potential is pretty impressive and sounds very futuristic.

    I tend to react emotionally to current or global affairs as opposed to new gadgets. If Microsoft missed their target “core gamer” audience with the announcements, then so did the gaming journalists because I honestly felt like the gaming media were regurgitating official press releases from the source, rather than asking questions consumers would be interested in hearing about, like the used game thing. I saw the DRM issue coming, but still journalists should have followed up on it.

  3. Game consoles are born as adolescents; awkward and near impossible to judge til some time passes. In other words, I wholly agree.

  4. I feel the same, and I’m not even a geezer! Mostly it’s just disinterest in the console scene in general. Yes, let’s get excited for new (handheld) games. Yes, let’s go ahead and harshly critique the bad ones. But fuming rage is an exhausting business, not to mention utterly petty in regards to video games.

    I could understand the disappointment with the PS4, and the disillusionment with the Wii U, but the reaction this week really surprised me. The Xbox event went exactly as planned! All the rumors that fans have been raging over turned out to be true. What were people expecting?

  5. No rage here, either. Just a bit of disappointment that MS is doing the same thing just about every console maker before them has done and faceplanting (to a lesser or greater degree) on its third console. I find wrangling over this sort of thing to be a welcome distraction from the past eight months of wrangling with our insurer over the luxury-car amounts they say we need to pay for the delivery of our healthy baby who needed no nursery care! I won’t be buying an Xbox One, PS4 or Wii U anytime soon, but dangit, I can still engage in a debate over their specs!

  6. I’m not thrilled with the new Xbox and its more restrictive features, but really I’m just cynical of the Xbox One and PS4 in general. Many game companies this generation have died trying to compete in the AAA market, and now they’re making new consoles which will cost even more to compete on.

    It’ll be nice if these things have some good games, but personally I think the Wii U’s looking all the more appealing right now. It’s the comparatively safe option; if the Xbox One and PS4 end up being too costly to develop for, people can just make their games for it instead.

    I doubt we’ll see as much shovelware on Wii U as we did the Wii.

  7. Yeah, my feelings on new consoles is reminding me of when I gave up posting on message boards. After my thousandth squabble over petty nonsense, it became apparent that my energy is probably better spent on other things.

    The older I get (and I’m not that old), the less interested I become in AAA games. AAA games don’t have pixel graphics, for starters.

  8. There was one recent system that came out with a bang… The Wii.

    It’s too bad the Wii U hasn’t been as good, but at least it’s not fundamentally flawed like the X1’s game license policy and “preowned fee”, which also means that once the servers go offline, the new Xbox’s game library becomes unplayable.

  9. I’ve been struggling with this same sort of feeling, like an actual visceral counter reaction to seeing games analysts/journalists/consumers/etc rage as though this device were an insult to their being. It’s a ridiculous lens through which to view anything in the world, much less consumer electronics.

    Part of this is personal, having someone I love who works on Xbox One development and who, for months leading up to this, described increasing workload and resultant stress. Not necessarily from forced overwork, but from the kind of pressure that comes from wanting to put out good work and ensure things are working as they’re supposed to. As in, there are actual people behind the corporate face working hard to produce something consumers will find useful and worthwhile. This is true whether at MS, or Sony, or Nintendo. I realize I’m in no way objective about this, and that criticism is valid and necessary. But snark just for the sake of snark? Yeah, no one wants to hear that about their work.

    I think a bigger part of what bothers me is that seeing this sort of ruthless bubble of cynicism that exists in and around the games industry just feels sort of emotionally draining in the face of real world concerns, like those you mention. Seeing my Twitter feed fill up with friends and game industry professionals attempting to out-snark each other about a game (or entertainment, whatever) console they may or may not choose to buy suddenly reminds me that I must not be part of this supposed culture anymore, because I can’t find that kind of emotion. Not about this.

    Really, it feels like this whole thing is the opposite of well-adjusted: where the reaction to a consumer product — one of several in the same category with different approaches, audiences, and specs — should be to file the initial information away, research, observe, and test as available, and govern yourself accordingly as to purchase.

  10. Isn’t there plenty of rage in one person to fume at both Microsoft AND America’s health care system?

  11. I find myself pretty freaked out by the giant storms that have been carving up the midwest. That might just be because global climate change is one of those problems I keep seeing idiots (with political power, even!) keep claiming doesn’t exist.

    I have seriously thought about investing in a nice PC or something to that effect though.
    The most recent piece of game-playing hardware in this house is an XBox2.

  12. Eh, blowing off steam about botched game launches is cathartic for me. As Ren Hoek once said, being angry makes me happy! (Or at least, I keep trying to CONVINCE myself of this.)

    Also, I’m not big on people derailing conversations with “Oh, why be angry about [minor annoyance] when [horrible injustice] is going on somewhere else?” It reminds me of when my mother tried to make me eat lima beans by telling me about the starving kids in Africa. Yes, Monsanto is a terrible corporation (aren’t they all, really), but that’s not really germane to the discussion.

    As for the Xbox One, I don’t plan to buy one. I’m not seeing anything for it that’s piqued my interest, and the way the machine handles used games *is* pretty revolting. We don’t know what Microsoft has planned yet, but if it’s more complicated than the status quo of “buy now, sell later,” I’m not interested. If you want to nail my games to a single account like Steam, you can sell them for Steam prices. Until then, shove off.

    I’m hoping Parish tackles the question “Will game consoles have a future?” next. I’m starting to wonder this myself, with Microsoft and Sony pouring insane amounts of money into their respective systems and only getting a fraction of it back in sales and licensing. It can’t be sustainable, and it’s certainly not wise.

  13. Jeremy, you’re right. The past few days have felt like 1984’s Two Minutes Hate and it feels dirty. I personally need a lot more responsibility in my life to put this kind of thing in perspective.

  14. I’ve been angry at Microsoft, but more because of their attitude than the actual system. Their comments about backwards compatibility in particular hit a nerve with me.

    While I feel it is possible to be angry at EA and real social issue, I do admit that it seems like most gamers on the Internet care about the former. It’s telling when EA gets voted as the worst company in America ahead of companies that have actively destroyed people’s lives.

  15. With age comes wisdom my friend. Bitching and moaning about video games, popcorn flicks, tv, fashion, free internet, fast food and pop music is complaining about “first world problems” For all of us who complain about anything non essential, just pause and reflect for a second that approximately 1 billion, I said BILLION, of your species go to sleep essentially starving every day. So like you Jeremy, I think that Xbox One is way off on the mark, but I honestly don;t care anymore.

  16. Oh, I “raged” for a little bit (i.e. I was flabbergasted by the audacity of Microsoft in regards to being connected and used games), but I found that, honestly, I can’t sustain it.

    You’re right, in that there are much more important things going on in the world right now. I wish folks would pay more attention. We all need to regain our perspective from time to time.

  17. I was truly annoyed on the first day, but then I started thinking. The tech seems solid, and some of the things that they are trying to implement may not be all that bad. Not that I buy used games all that often, but if getting rid of used games gives me steam-like sales, then who cares.
    On the bright side, I did have Metroid to distract me from becoming altogether too angry.

  18. Regarding hate: We live in a troll culture. People love hating things.

    Regarding games: I don’t write about video games. For me, it is a hobby. The video game industry has gotten too big and corporate for me. I avoid Microsoft video game systems because they are the biggest and most corporate video game platform holder.

    I’m not sure what I’ll do this generation yet. It looks like Wii U and Steam so far.

  19. You’re still plenty mad, just at a bunch of stuff. You’re like a shotgun blast of anger.

    That said, I don’t care about the Xbox One. I hope it fails, yes, but only because I dislike redundancy. I’ll get a PS4 most likely and a Wii U eventually (only because Mario makes me do it), and that should be more than enough to cover the wide spectrum of console and PC gaming. I wish I didn’t need three boxes every cycle to get all of the exclusives, not counting handhelds and phones.

    Also, I’ve been Redboxing all of my newer games. I hope that Microsoft will find a way to allow rentals if the One becomes the standard; my days of spending $60 for a game are finished, regardless of DRM. I’ll find a new hobby.

  20. To me, listening to podcasts and reading articles about Xbox One over the last few days has sounded like a spoiled child screaming “IT’S NOT FAIR, PAY ATTENTION TO ME!”.

    As much as the game industry might like to think so, the “core gamer” (whatever that means anymore) isn’t the sole focus of the three big console makers. They know that to sustain their business due to the cost of creating top-tier games and the competition from mobile/tablet games, they have to cater to the largest possible market. Microsoft has accepted this fact and is embracing this more than Sony and Nintendo but I think it is easier for them because of their history with consumer/business products. I don’t hate or despise them, they are a business and that is their choice but I know that I have no interest in their console at this point and will find other avenues for my gaming (see OUYA). I won’t be surprised if the Xbox ONE is a great success for them but I also think that the idea of Microsoft being a staple in the video game industry will end with the retirement of the Xbox 360 when that happens.

  21. Well, I guess it’s two different kinds of anger here, though I think with the Xbox One it’s more disappointment, and worrying about the full ramifications if their system caught on in a huge way anyway, but I’m suspecting the may’ve ALSO miscalculated their wider audience and will just fumble the whole thing though, making it moot if not a blessing in disguise.

    Stuff like Monsanto and the Health Care debacle… Yeah, that’s where the real, serious anger and rage goes. I guess it’s easier to be apathetic about something almost entirely out of your control, at least you can refuse to get an Xbox One and leave the hobby aside at an extreme.

  22. Chris, I’ve been told by a former VP of Gamestop that for them the definition of “core gamer” is those who spend consistent amounts on solid franchises (i.e. Mario/Zelda/CoD/Madden etc.) all the industry cares about anymore is steady money flow, projected revenue and quarterly profits. The casual gaming crowd (Innitial Wii console sales being the exception) has so far proven to be a bust profit wise. Everyone keeps citing Angry Birds, but their money flow wasn’t from the game per se but licensing crap. Innovation is irrelevant to publishers, and that’s killing developers’ souls. Microsoft encourages this environment to no end. That’s why there’s so much hate towards them.

  23. Agree one hundred percent, Jeremy. There are so many more important things in the world to get worked up about. The XBone as a machine doesn’t do it for me, I’ll wait until there are a certain number of exclusives I really want to play. Why keep going on and on and on about it?

  24. At least your url is no longer gamespite. This post has negative spite about games!

  25. Dave said XBone, which I read as X-Bone. Must admit that humor alleviated my apathy for the new XBox, if only for a moment.

  26. At the end of the day, I remember that, as a retro-inclined gamer with no internet at home an absurd backlog of games on systems ranging from the Atari 2600 to the PS3, I’m probably not the target audience for this thing. The state of the console seems like a sad thing to me, but ultimately, I know that someone’s always going to be making interesting games somewhere – and even if there wasn’t, I have enough good games in my collection to last me awhile.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play the Micronics-developed NES port of Athena.

  27. You aren’t getting older, you are getting wiser. (As my relatives would say).

    I think this is the right perspective to have. I would only add that “I am more worried about Monsanto” and such is not the best way to understand other people’s reactions. Some people like to go on the Internet to talk about stuff that is the least important to them off the Internet, and some people don’t.

  28. Its pretty easy to root against MS in my opinion. Red Ring of Death, Vista as paid Beta for Windows 7, pushing subscription service for Office, pay for Xbox Live, and using OS market share to push IE. I’m not saying that Sony, Nintendo or Apple are saints, but MS at times has a negative public image that is, in certain instances, well deserved. So I’m not surprised to see the internet turn on MS.

    I also fully expect no one to care about today’s issues when Halo 5 and Call of Duty Dogs are shown.

    • I feel like Microsoft hate is so ’90s. They seem kind of toothless, almost benign, these days.

  29. I’m not even angry about Xbox One, just… disappointed. 360 was the horse I backed last time, and I honestly would have liked to carry on with that, but as it stands? I just feel there’s more incentive to pay attention to the PS4, or just try to remain content with the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.

  30. You don’t think the internet fervor over the XBOX One has anything to do with it being a MS product?

    I think consumers are naturally mistrustful of megalithic corporations. And in the case of MS I think there are negative brand opinions in play.

    In the grand scheme of things, XBOX anger is not consequential. But I’m also not surprised to see it.

  31. All of this has frankly made me appreciate what we had on past years much, much more. I’ve not been an avid gamer these past years, but I feel gaming has become so convoluted, with focus on everything except what I used to care about. So, it’s not that Microsoft has done much wrong to be honest, it’s that since we were accustomed to a different way of gaming, we’ve long past being their audience. Good thing all the classics and the vibrant indie scene remain, since I still want to support gaming.

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