Opinion and Editorial

The console wars have deeper battles within

Alvin R. Cabral/Dubai
Filed on November 21, 2020

Research says the global video gaming market was worth $151 billion last year, but sometimes the price we have to pay isn’t meant to be literal.

In honour of the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles, I’m letting out a secret: I’m neither a psychologist nor a psycho, but I can publicly admit that during some of my downtime I find myself (still) fantasising being a Belmont whipping my way through Dracula’s minions (and, when I was younger, as Mega Man weaving through Dr Wily’s robot masters).

For those who got a hint, congratulations. Now I’ve got you digging deep into figuring out what your darkest secrets are — the effect gaming has on you, for better or for worse. I personally know someone whose beau would rather play than make love (wow).

That’s just an example of the conflicts within one of technology’s most interesting battles. The numbers don’t make it look close, but look deeper and you’ll see how intense it is.

Through September 30, Sony had all-time sales of over 460 million across all its PlayStation consoles. Microsoft, on the other hand, sold almost 160 million Xbox units; that’s a big disparity, but it’s fair to say the original Xbox came in to compete with the PS2, meaning Sony had a head start — a game-changing one at that (pun intended) — and you know having a head start is always good.

And Nintendo, though not as hyped as Microsoft and Sony launches, will always be Nintendo, the original king of consoles and master skill-honer; younger folks, you have no idea how our generation had to deal with three lives and three continues, so don’t throw tantrums with all your save slots and infinite respawning nowadays.

See? That was even before the console wars as we know it today. Grand View Research says the global video gaming market was worth $151 billion last year, but sometimes the price we have to pay isn’t meant to be literal.

I’ve passed down my gaming genes to my son, having introduced him to his first machine — a PSP Go — when he was barely four years old. Suffice to say that his early head start (there goes that term again), coupled with my rather lengthy hiatus from gaming, contributed to him handily beating the hell out of me in certain titles… when he was only seven years old.

Of course, the risk was there: Video games tend to get a bad rap, which is why I limited and strictly monitored all the titles he had, more so when he transitioned to his first Xbox (the same console he used to humiliate me in racing games); remember, being connected can expose you to all sorts of damaging things, whether accidental or self-inflicted.

And honestly, it invokes several feelings. Once I got my groove back, I turned the tables on him and I became unbeatable; the demon in me was like, ‘you’re just a kid’ — which was exactly the situation: As time went on, I realised he was becoming so frustrated at losing and I was, to a certain extent, morphing into a bully. I quickly dialled down my play, feigning ignorance and losing on purpose; I couldn’t bear seeing him so dejected and losing self-esteem (great; I’m curious to find out how he’ll needle me once he reads this).

Even so, I had to make it clear to my son: Much like in life, you can lose.

Eventually, I’d become his personal bully; every time he’d hit a dead end or some enemy he couldn’t get past, he’d gladly hand me the controller and let me do the bullying in his favour.

Yet another lesson I had to give him: If you run smack into a wall, it doesn’t make you less of a person to ask for help… but there will be times when you’ll be on your own. Daddy duties have never been so competitive.

It’s all part of an evolving scenario for the video game world. The original Super Mario Bros changed Japan’s negative public perception of it; Tetris, famously bundled with the first-generation Game Boy, proved that it’s for everyone. That evolution, however, isn’t always for the better: Indeed, there are a number of studies linking violence to video games, with the American Psychological Association deeming this entertainment segment a ‘double-edged sword’.

Game responsibly, I guess. It’s a winnable battle.

— alvin@khaleejtimes.com

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