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In the seconds before the PlayStation 5's price and release date reveal - or I guess, reveals, since it's a staggered launch - I felt something very peculiar. A buzzing. A bubbling sensation. Actual excitement. Here's me, a man well into his adult years, getting excited for news on when I can buy a new video game console, and how much it'll cost me. Who'd have thought?
I mean, anyone, everyone, really. Everyone would have thought. Video games are great, and new ways to play them are also great. Yeah there's (quite a lot of) money to find and, for some, the panic of getting a pre-order in has been a wild ride (really, don't panic, these things aren't going to run out). But new consoles are exciting things. Everyone who loves games - from the AAA shooters and role-players to indie puzzlers and narrative stunners - should be into what PlayStation and Xbox (with its Series S and Series X options) are offering with their new consoles.
And yet, inevitably, the tribalism begins. Xbox is inferior to PlayStation because of [insert incredibly tenuous argument about teraflops]. PlayStation owns Xbox because [something about aggregated review scores for console exclusives]. Not that tribalism is new, of course. I'm old enough to remember playground spats over whether the ZX Spectrum was a better computer than the Commodore 64, and if the Nintendo Entertainment System was a more desirable console than SEGA's Master System.
After that came the Sony PlayStation against the SEGA Saturn ("299," mic drop). And after that, the Dreamcast against the PlayStation 2 - and all the rest of them (the sixth generation of console gaming really was amazing, and brutal). Which is to say that it's totally normal, around the release of new consoles, to stick your flag in one and call it yours - at least for launch windows when there's a clear either/or decision to make.
But the gaming landscape of 2020 isn't like that of the mid-1980s, 1995 or the end of the millennium. Today, when I see what is, in essence, those same playground spats playing out on social media, across Twitter, and in GAMINGbible's own comments on Facebook, sometimes I despair. Everything is so nasty, so personal, and slurs come too easily to people who can't see that the other person they're arguing with, probably, loves games just as much as they do. To go into their profiles and make some awful comment about how they look, or how their family looks? What is that?
It used to be that arguments over what was 'better' were fun. They weren't to be taken seriously - they were just conversations that happened at first break because a four-page feature in Mean Machines SEGA made a forthcoming game look incredible, and therefore Nintendo Was Bad, obviously. You didn't hate a mate because they got a SNES and you got a Mega Drive; you went to each other's houses after school to enjoy the other console, and see what it was all about. I didn't own a SNES as a kid, but I spent countless hours playing on one.
But to look at some comments today, you'd think the very existence of one machine was an unforgivable slight against, IDK, the very creed of the other. That the specs of one mean that the other shouldn't be an option whatsoever - that it should never have been manufactured, and its supporters should be ashamed. That a couple of high-scoring console exclusives in the outgoing generation means that history will repeat in the coming one. Or, worst of all: that both new consoles, all four new consoles, are redundant because did you know that PCs are a thing. Please.
I'm not saying: let's all get along, because goddamn we're so past that. There's so much in the world that divides us right now, in 2020. Politics, identity, the environment, this pandemic and how to live with it. Video games, in comparison to all of this other stuff, are so trivial, so meaningless - but absolutely not worthless, at all. They should be something to embrace as a good thing, a light amid all the darkness. They're our escapes and our second lives; our fantasies made real for a two-hour session every other night. They're getaways and good-time hangs. They're our pick-me-ups when we're down. They shouldn't ever be making us mad, especially at other people who simply choose to play a different way.
GAMINGbible is going through some changes right now, behind the scenes. We'll be sharing some exciting news with you soon. But as part of this process I've been thinking, a lot, about who or what a 'gamer' is, in the 21st century. And it's everyone, isn't it? You can be extremely invested in gaming and call yourself 'hardcore' or whatever, or have a very laissez faire relationship with the medium and only dabble sporadically. But the vast majority of us do, at least, dabble - on consoles (including the home/handheld hybrid Nintendo Switch), computers, dedicated portables (RIP, 3DS), phones, tablets, smart watches, heckin' pregnancy tests. We can play games on a wondrous range of things, effectively anywhere we want. And if you do, you're a gamer, to me.
Back when I used to go to the cinema - remember going out, and actually socialising? - I'd never, ever see a queue for a Marvel movie scream obscenities at those in line to see the new Star Wars film. You don't see Tom Hanks fans sending abusive DMs to moviegoers with a thing for Matt Damon (well, I hope you don't). It's normal to enjoy rap and rock music, experimental electronica and black metal. Indeed, it's healthy to explore new sights and sounds, new experiences, whenever you can. Yeah you can call someone a 'muso' or a 'snob', but it's not like someone else's cinematic or musical tastes cause you anguish, right?
So why are we so behind in gaming, as 'gamers'? Why so quick to attack? We don't need to be. It's okay to let someone else's opinion on a game stand without an 'actually', that quickly descends into name-calling and worse. It's okay to buy a PlayStation 5 first and an Xbox Series X later - or vice-versa, or just one of them, or neither. It's okay to be excited for video games now and into next year, and the one after that, as developers really show us what these new consoles can do.
It's okay to be excited for video games... without all the tribal baggage, the blinkered bombast and the barbed comments that too frequently appear beneath any post about A New Thing. 2020 has been a bastard, but let's allow ourselves a little fun, a dash of frivolity and a lot more friendliness, as we fight it to the end.
Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, 20th Century Fox
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