But the downside of PC gaming, for me, is that the demands of changing technology have outstripped my unchanging wallet. Without massive upgrades, I can’t play new games. If I try, my computer goes into sudden attacks of terror and crashes. I definitely wouldn’t be able to afford to build a new gaming rig, at least not one with any staying power. But I could afford a console.
There were a few advantages to the idea: Eighth-generation consoles double as media centers and it would be fun to be able to play my games on my television. I’d be able to join new communities and make new friends. Also, my PC wasn’t going anywhere, and it would definitely be able to handle the indie and adventure games I wanted to play which wouldn’t be available on consoles.
The solution was to become a renaissance gamer, using both a PC and a console. The transition was going to be difficult.
I slunk into my local electronics shop in a wig and sunglasses, then cringed when I realized I’d have to pay with a credit card. Everyone would know my shame. Or my credit card company would. Or maybe just Steve, the customer service guy I always seem to get when I call the number on the back of my card. Okay, based on my previous calls, Steve already knows plenty about my shame.
I wrapped my new toy in my coat and scurried back to my house, locking the door behind me. I set the box down on the floor and stared at it. I circled it a couple of times muttering, “Just you and me now. What do I do with you?” I cut the tape and eased the lid of the box open, leaning back lest my face start melting off when I saw what was inside.
The moment I laid my eyes on my console of choice, the PlayStation 4, I was intrigued and intimidated by it’s sleek lines and sharp edges. I picked it up and held it in front of me. Despite my console misgivings, I was amazed by how powerful it looked. Could I retask satellites with this? Could it tell what I was thinking? I wanted to crack it open and find out what was inside.
I also picked the controller up and held it. I’d used an Xbox 360 controller on some of my PC games, and the feeling was much the same. Using the controller felt more comfortable and natural than pecking away on my keyboard. I spent a little time depressing all the buttons, getting used to the differences between the triggers and shoulder buttons. It was surprisingly easy to pick up.
There were only a few wires in the box, and I pulled them all out and laid them next to each other. “I guess these go onto the back of my television or something,” I said. After I turned the TV around and stopped sneezing from the dust bunnies, I found a bunch of little holes back there. “Yes!” I thought, triumphant. I had no idea what went where, but it was a start.
The diagrams that came with the PlayStation were very simple and easy-to-follow. I managed to get everything into the right hole,and press the power button. Silence. I immediately panicked and tapped the button again and again, only to get no response. According to the diagrams, I’d done everything correctly. Walking backwards to get a better look, I stepped on something sharp. I’d forgotten to plug the power cable in.
Still, I was pleased that the power cable was all I was missing. It would have taken me a while to build my gaming PC and my impatience won out over my PC fervor in that moment. I’d bought a small stack of games to try out, so I was in a hurry to get started.
Then I’d made it. The welcome screen graced my HDTV, and it was so crisp and clear that I was smiling. I was so happy because I was finally done. Wasn’t I?
The PlayStation immediately set the tone of the relationship by playing soothing music and demanding my account information. Having never used the PlayStation Network, it took me two hours because I agonized over my PSN name, knowing I’d never be able to change it. Everything I suggested with the words “pirate” and “ninja” in it had already been taken. Really?
Then the interface came up, and it was all laid out for me. So simple and so easy. I put in my first game and, after an update that lasted thirty seconds, I was allowed to play. No hours-long installation, no fiddling with graphics to ensure smooth running, no nail-biting wait for the inevitable crash… just gaming.
Admittedly, I don’t feel the same freedoms on the console which I feel on my PC. The experience of playing one is different from the other, though not radically so. My hand-eye coordination is about as good to one as it is to the other. The communities are both very active and helpful.
The games are also very different. Playing Destiny or The Last of Us is one thing, as I’d never play those without a console. But it was a bit of a switch playing Dragon Age: Inquisition on the PS4 after playing the previous two games on PC. Once I got used to it, the feeling of playing them was just the same.
I’m now in a comfortable relationship with my new friend. It can be a little dramatic: For example, every single time I turn it on, I’m reminded that the Health & Safety Warnings are in the options menu. But I can live with it. If you had asked me a few months ago, I wouldn’t have willingly traded being hunched over at my desk for being hunched over in front of my TV. But maybe there’s room in my heart for both.