Feature: Getting back in the saddle

by Neil Merrett

Playstation 4 console – released 2013, Sony

Saturday – December 26, 2015… Several hours into the traditional turkey curry blowout….

Words are malleable. Over time they evolve and mutate to take on all sorts of meanings.  The term generations, for instance,  is no longer just used to describe a collective group of people born within a certain group of decades as a means to define a shared sense of identity and understanding.

In more recent times, it has been used for different variations of Star Trek, as well as defining successive cycles of videogames consoles, as if more proof were needed of how ubiquitous games and general geekery have become in our culture.

Each new X-Box console, we are informed, represents not just a technical evolution over its predecessor, but the beginning of a new era of games that will delight, infuriate and ideally change what has gone before.

Where once we used seasons as a means of charting the passing of time, there are arguably a growing number among us who define stages of our lives in the eras of the Sega Megadrive, Playstation and perhaps even – just for one peculiar Christmas – the Nintendo Wii.

The NES in 1989, Sega Megadrive in 1994, the Playstation in 1996, N64 in 1998 and the PS2 some four years later all seem like snapshots of vague periods in time.

The heady, elongated summer after completing GCSE exams, which was spent wasted largely on sessions of Nintendo’s Perfect Dark; that first Christmas with the PS2, starting a job and life with a new girlfriend that somehow made up for paying full price for Ridge Racer 5; even a mid-term malaise during my student years that seemed to necessitate picking up a Gamecube and spending  an alarming number of bed bound days on Mario Kart and Metroid Prime.

Consoles were always there at home, a respite from reality itself.

Yet as university came to an end and the Student loan payments dried up,  I fell behind on the home consoles, which were kept at the family home, as I attempted to get on in life elsewhere.

There were dalliances of course, but the age of the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 with their popularisation of downloadable content, online gaming and inexplicable love for ‘real time events’ passed me by.

A whole generation gone by without me then, not too mention the nagging suspicion that games may not be recognisable to me in their current form as I stuck to comfortable and familiar ten year old titles as if in some kind of timewarp.

So boxing day 2015 may seem an odd time to step back into the present, with the Playstation 4 serving as the method of choice.   With its social interaction capabilities meaning a player no longer even has to leave their own home to bum around watching friends spending hours on games.

The very latest games technology is now at my disposal, with no excuse not to throw oneself back into the world and at the very least finally give Minecraft a go.

It seems it is no longer good enough to cling safely to the happy memories of games past.

Consoles are once again a foreign and exciting country, with remote control batmobiles, open world cities and every infinitesimal lego creation at my disposable without a need to actually build the things.

How best then to begin this new era then a remake of 1980’s dungeon crawler gauntlet? A brave new world then.  Old habits still die hard it seems.

So here’s to a happy 2016 regardless.

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