Sunday Thoughts: 20/09/09

Writing this article makes me a hypocrite, or at least the points expressed within probably do. Opening an article with that statement probably isn’t the best of ideas, particular for the TSA staffer with the thinnest skin. I tend to take things in comments personally and get overly worked up about comments made by some people that call the staff biased or fanboys. I personally think this is because I was one of the first staff taken on after the site’s expansion to multi-platform, so any attacks about how the site has “gone down hill” or become “anti-Sony” since the change take on added meaning for me; I mean I was added because of the change, am I the reason for their perceived decline in quality? Do they find me personally to be anti-Sony or perhaps pro-Microsoft? A brief aside here: I work with a Windows 2003 server all day, so it’s actually impossible for me to be pro-Microsoft. However, back to what I was saying…

I have, on one or two occasions, considered out-right quitting the site or taking a leave of absence for a month. This is the first time I’ve actually told anyone that, so I hope you guys appreciate it. I’ve no idea if the other staff actually feel the same way as I do, but I do know that they all have thicker skins than I do, or if they don’t they’re much better at hiding it than I am. I promised myself that this article would be honest and wouldn’t hold back, so since I started it I’ve considered taking a leave of absence once more, and also considered throwing my laptop out of the window. Told you I take things personally. I’ve been told by Alex and other staff that I need to toughen up and not let it get to me. They may well be right, but should I have to? What happened to reasoned debate without phrasing it as an attack? Maybe I’m just wearing rose tinted glasses and the world’s always been this way. On reflection the barbs traded back and forth during Victorian debates are an obvious precursor to the kind of thing I see on the internet day after day.

Those of you who follow my Twitter account know I’m planning a holiday. My first in two years. This is one of the reasons I’m finally planning one. One final thing before I get into the main body of the article and stuff (hopefully) becomes clearer. As I write this I have no idea if this will ever be published. For a start I have a habit of getting half way through an article or idea, getting bored and starting on some spin off of it. Given some of the things I have in mind to say I also have no idea whether or not Peter will let me publish this. I would suspect so, he’s a very forgiving editor and a good man all round.

Since the start of console manufacturer loyalty and defense gamers, at least some of the most vocal gamers, have been going back and forth over which console is the best. I read a very funny article the other day detailing console wars all the way back to the C64 and ZX Spectrum, although the links escapes me at present. It made me think, why have we been doing this for so long? With claims from developers and journalists that the industry has matured, why is it that fans haven’t? Perhaps it’s something inherent in being a fan? It’s obviously comparable to sports fans, but they have a reason to throw barbs and insults. In sport rival teams have no choice but to compete, that’s the point. This, clearly, leads to competition between fans, they want “their” team to win. Why is it like this with consoles? The manufacturers are, of course, competing for money and mind-share, but why should that matter to us? If I buy a Cookworks toaster I don’t expect to be attacked by people who bought a Kenwood toaster. That would, obviously, be bizarre. So why does it apply to consoles? Is it something to do with more expensive products? We tend to see the same response in cars as we get in consoles, people believing that brand X is obviously superior to brand Y. Does it honestly matter? In the case of cars can’t we all just be happy that we get to kill the planet together? In the case our hobby can’t we just be happy that we’re all gaming on our platform of choice?

Maybe we shouldn’t be happy though. Maybe we should feel grateful and lucky that we get to play our consoles. I warn you now, this is going to get awfully preachy. Doing some very quick research on estimated sales figures, if we take all the home consoles on sale (PS2, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii) we get around 242 million consoles in the world right now. Assuming that every one of those consoles is owned by an individual (that is no sharing, and everyone owns only one) that’s about 3% of the worlds population that owns a console. Even assuming that every console is shared between five people (which I doubt) we still come out with less than a fifth (around 17%) of the worlds population with access to a home console. Of course the other four-fifths of the population probably have issues. Taking into account that around a third of people live below the poverty line and more than a fifth of people don’t even have access to drinking water, the lack of console ownership is probably pretty low on their list of issues. Now if you want to attack me or call me a hypocrite I’d pick this point in particular. I’m certainly not grateful every time I turn my 360. Maybe grateful that it hasn’t red ringed again (got there before you could make the joke didn’t I?), but certainly not grateful for just owning it. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe, maybe not. I can certainly empathise on some level with the plight of those in third world countries, but I think it’s largely impossible for most Westerners to imagine what not having access to fresh water or food is like.

Gamers can do some good in this area. There are a number of very good gaming based charities out there, in particular Child’s Play and TSA’s friends at PS3 Attitude spring to mind, and some of these do supply games to gameless, although I don’t think there are many which support causes in the third world. Of course there are a number of non-gaming charities who do good work in that area and diversity in charities is a great thing.

So that’s it folks. Be happy with what you’ve got and be far happier and grateful that you’re one of the privelleged few who can have it. We can go back and forth over and over about who is the winner of the generation or who has better graphics or which console is ‘really’ cheaper, or we can take a deep breath, step away from the keyboard and play some games. If you’d like another point to attack me on that’s a good one.