It’s SUM UP time ladies and gentlemen, and it’s not even the end of the year is it. Which is nice. And novel. Or horrific if you’re on the other side of this Word document (which you are, you know). Yes it’s time again to throw ourselves bodily through the stained-glass window of nostalgia, plummeting 50 ft through the air with the dreamy look of self-gratification and general indifference smeared all over our faces, before we hit the floor with a thunderous crash and walk off leaving you all soaked in a thin film of disappointment. Or something. You must know the drill by now.
So what are we SUMMING UP then? We’re totalling up an entire generation, no less; we’re taking a Jim Davidson style ‘cuddly-bear-travelator’ jaunt of crudity through the jagged streets of the last EIGHT years of gaming! Except we’re not doing that at all are we, because as you may or may not know I have neither the patience nor a memory competent enough to do that ideal any justice. So instead, you’re going to hear how this generation changed my life. Because it did. Lucky you.
Any period of time that obtusely blankets eight years of your life like a coma or a rerun of Lost is going to involve a lot of changes, so perhaps this needn’t be said; but gaming has been augmented and twisted and distorted to such a brilliantly questionable extent, in some guises, it’s barely recognizable. Certainly if you consider something like the in-progress beta for World of Tanks on the 360. Nuts.
So. I caught up to this generation of gaming a little bit late. Why? Because I was too busy pretending to be a musician; a pretence I’ve kept up to, with an impressive total lack of development, to this day. What this meant in terms of barrel-scraping relevancy to this post though, is that my first real, tangible connection with this generation of gaming came late on in 2007, when Halo 3 was released.
I was not a Halo fan. When Halo came out, people tried to feed me the box in some sort of hazy-eyed euphoric madness; but regrettably, I only had eyes for Half Life. When I turned up at a friend’s place, quite by accident, on the day of Halo 3’s release, I witnessed something that would usher in the TOMORROW of gaming for me; dusk. And the one thing that made me think; Christ what have I been missing.
As the main campaign was booted up, my other friends, all in their separate homes joined the game. They talked as the cutscenes played out, and eventually spawned in-game and began playing something that had previously been a truly solitary experience, with each other. The very same single player campaign, but with other, less likeable, non-AI players. Cor. To me, this is still an impossibility I can barely believe has been imagined.
As such, that whole idea was and kind of still is, utterly skin tearingly exciting. A real, connected environment that allowed a seamless transition online, and didn’t require me to kill off the creaky old desktop computer again trying to make CS 1.6 work was all I wanted. Deep down. And so I became raucously involved in, what is somehow still, the current generation of console gaming. I banished the PS2 from its former pedestal and replaced it with an Xbox 360.
Of course what followed was the digital revolution. An unthinkable catalogue of free online demos to try (bearing in mind these previously needed to be bought for a fiver off the front of Official Playstation Magazine) the majesty of life-lengthening downloadable content, and the fact that I could easily speak to people that I may well have lost contact with otherwise. Before party chat, our ‘Live’ group used to use Halo 3 lobbies to talk, regardless of whether we were playing the game or not. We’d have a few rounds of Knives Only on the Shipment map from Call of Duty 4, dip into a game of Hide and Seek on Halo before finishing off the evening with a chaser of Uno whilst everyone fell asleep. These times are long since past due to jobs and life, but it was a inspired couple of years simmering with joy, brought on entirely by this generation of gaming. The glory days of this eight-year extravaganza.
Whilst I began the generation smashing cars up in FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage, a game I still stand by as being a great (insert reciprocal jeers here boys and girls) and building hilarious monstrosities in Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts and testing them online, not to mention shooting endless amounts of giant ants in the madness that is Earth Defence Force; these were the traditional gaming experiences that seemed to have slowly ebbed and bowed as we’ve inched toward the finale. And just as I write that, I think of the fun I’ve literally just had with Rayman Legends, and have to wonder if the landscape has really changed all that much. Sure a few impressive skyscrapers have sprung valiantly, and in some cases despicably, up from the ground, but the foundation they’re all built on is still visible between them, if you look closely. It’s all a matter of perspective.
With The Last of Us probably one of the generation’s most notable single player, narrative driven games (and I’m likely speaking out of turn there) the recent explosion of indie games into the limelight and the truly unrivalled offerings that success has brought to the attention of those that would otherwise have missed it completely, and experiences that still deliver more depth, replayability, consistent excitement and innovation than any other medium; it’s been an undeniably riotous few years and an even more unhinged last few months.
And so with Grand Theft Auto V out in a matter of hours, the game that will undoubtedly be the swan song, of sorts, of this generation, a donned hat making way for new consoles, new levels of connectivity and Christ knows what else, I want to say thanks. Thanks Current Gen, for being dreadful, brilliant, awe-inspiring, futuristic, social, surprising, political, disappointing, infuriating, overwhelming, moving, emotional, typical, gimmicky, and all the rest of the good, the bad and the ugly that’s been dragged along the ride. I’ve barely scratched the surface here, so share a story of your own from this generation of gaming below, and lets give a moment of thanks before we all get lost in Rockstar’s creative flex.