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Gaming Facing An Identity Crisis?

I'm sorry. I know I'm just stating the obvious, and I'll probably catch a lot of flak for being an aging gamer in an era that features electronic interactive experiences the likes of which we didn't dare dream of a quarter-century ago. But you have to understand: I am excited every time a game like Killzone 2 comes down the pike, and in no way do I believe games were "better" on the Atari or Nintendo. Obviously, that's just not true. But I'm in one of these phases where I think the entire industry is suffering from a minor identity crisis.

Firmware updates (some of which brick systems). Photo lists. Movies. Wallpaper. Themes. Online access. Online multiplayer. Online store. Online everything. Console/handheld connectivity. Playable demos. Virtual interactive communities. Avatars. Stat-tracking. Trophies. Achievements. Motion-sensing. Exercise. Friends lists. Messages, e-mail, updates. Patches. Touch-screen. Stylus. Resolution settings. Backwards compatibility. Media compatibility. Flash drives. Hard drives. Wi-Fi. ...'sigh'

These aren't bad things. Technically speaking, they're all advancements and improvements, and many of them allow us to experience video games in a way never before deemed possible. But sometimes, I just yearn for the days when a console was a console and a game was a game. I don't particularly like the idea that every single game has a new update the week after it's released. I don't really like the firmware updates that consist of features I'll never use. I don't really care if my console can make me a sandwich and read me a story. I have it to play games, and while I remain firmly convinced that - thankfully - software still drives this industry, I'm starting to wonder when the "gadgetry" approach will start to encroach on the game dominion. I'd rather not have the major manufacturing companies think that we value sortable photo galleries over awesome games. To be perfectly honest, I'd be willing to sacrifice a great many next-gen features for any number of new games.

And that's the point: the games aren't replaceable. Without them, it really doesn't matter what your console can "do." They will quickly become uninteresting to gamers, and while that's fine in the case of the Wii (it's just a gadget that plays Flash games and caters mostly to NON-gamers, anyway)...but it's not fine in the case of the PS3 and 360. We need to keep pushing forward, and it's really not going to happen with more hardware options; it's going to happen with killer software. The good news is that the killer software is already here and more is coming, but I'm just a little concerned. This rant may only be founded in baseless nostalgia, but I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one who sees the beginnings of an identity crisis (especially in the handheld realm). Games. It's what I'm in this for. What about you?

1/27/2009 Ben Dutka

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