The Xbox One, and What We Take For Granted

I’ve spent my life around video games. From my earliest experiences huddled around my friends Nintendo 64 trying my hardest to play Super Smash Bros to now, struggling to keep up with the swathe of new releases on a very tight budget. Over all of this time, I and others like myself have seen the growth of things that we could have never dreamed of. For example, there is the way that we connect over vast expanses of space to partake in a world that only exists in zeros and ones, or the way that we come closer and closer to making these digital worlds seem real – both through the use of peripherals and the sheer power of graphics technology. Perhaps even more astoundingly still, there is the enormous amount of stuff we can do with all of this power.
And after all of that, we have done away with the notion that a console can be measured by how nice it makes games look, despite having six generations of games boasting their computing might in a quest for market superiority. That isn’t to say that the most recent of generational consoles didn’t kick off with massive graphical improvements, but as time went on, they mattered less and less. The way a console presents itself doesn’t matter like it used to. No, we have grown a tad cynical over the forty odd years of video game design. If a console doesn’t have online connectivity, a peripheral of some description, and at least one game that eschews gameplay for the sake of graphical fidelity, then it simply isn’t worth buying. Is it? Coming into the eighth generation of console gaming, we are asking ourselves this question with a slow grimace crossing our collective faces when gaming companies flourish these new technologies in our faces.
Enter the Xbox One: a collection of all the little things that we truly wanted out of a video game console. The Kinect 2.0 offers unprecedented motion control for precise gaming enhancement, as well as offering hands-free usage of the console OS. The console is always online, making those pesky bugs or updates that you forgot to take of disappear, because it does it for you. And power? Oh, this bad boy is the best it could ever be, price permitting. On top of all of that, it can run TV services as well. A set top box on top of this Nirvana of kit? It doesn’t seem like it should be real. And yet here we are, far from our humble beginnings making a white box bounce between white panels, showing off all of the things that make gaming what it is today. So why is no one happy about it? It has everything we want, right? Except it doesn’t. There are too many buts and what ifs in the plan that make us uneasy.
Take for instance, Kinect 2.0. On its own, it would be almost harmless. But with internet access and a company built OS? Who knows what Microsoft could be looking at? And then of course there’s the internet connection itself. Doesn’t everybody have a functioning and fast broadband connection? You don’t? You must be living in the past with all of your primitive Xbox and 360 titles. Oh, there is no backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 titles, by the way. Of course not. Why worry about what happened back then when all of this new stuff is here, now, and so much better? We are an industry cemented in growth and birthed by progress, and every other console has been bigger and better and the last, with better and better results. Why would anyone want to give that up?
I’m so sorry, Gabe. I’m afraid I can’t let you play that.
This is the attitude of the Xbox One. I have been reading the reactions from the gaming community; the ones that make, play, distribute, analyze and love games. What surprises and disturbs me is that for a community so steeped in the nostalgia of games past, no one ever wants to step down off the pedestal we have build underneath ourselves. We are constantly aware that they are there, but ignore them for the sake of progress. While admittedly nostalgia and clinging on to bygone traditions has killed its fair share of industries, but so does ignoring where it all began. The joy of playing will always be greater than the thrill of a technological achievement, at least in my mind. I know an engineer or two that would punch me for admitting it, but I always look at it as the distinction between watching a plane fly and flying one yourself. Given the chance, I would happily grab that joystick with both hands and pull for my life. No homo.
The vast proportion of the games with a Metacritic score of 93 or higher only use the combination of joystick and button pressing first implemented into gaming in 1969. Simplicity does not mean stupidity, nor does it imply that we are going backwards. To harness this technology that we have, to consolidate and then to boil it down to its purest form would be the ultimate test of what gaming technologies have to offer. Instead, we are granted all of the bells and whistles. Why? Not because having all of this good technology is evil, but because that is what gaming has always done, from the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Wii. The warning shots that the Xbox One has fired are a call for gamers to truly think about what gaming means to them. If it is about the technology and the connectivity, it is perfectly understandable, totally legitimate and would be the view of most gamers in the same position. If it is about the games themselves, however, perhaps it is as good a time as any to take that walk down memory lane to understand what makes us partake in this first-world pastime in the first place.
I am about to cash in my ‘one-Yahtzee-quote-per-career’ chit that came with my amateur gaming opinion writer’s care package: “I started leaning more towards console gaming because they were approachable, easier to use, and you didn’t have to wade through as much bullshit to get to the point of actually playing the fucking games. That was where I perceived the future of gaming lay.”
Yet here we are, debating whether or not Kinect 2.0 can detect us scratching our balls. If now isn’t a time for reflection, then when?
Sounds like DBZ Kinect to me.

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