Consoles And That New Car Smell

This is a special week for those of us that count ourselves among the “hardcore.” It’s the first time in decades that new console release dates have fallen within a couple of weeks of each other. The last time this happened was with the fourth generation of consoles, the Genesis and TurboGrafx-16 came out August 14

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and 29

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respectively in 1989. Usually when new machines hit, they are months apart.

But since last Friday, PS4 fans—at least the dedicated ones—have been playing around with their New N’ Shiny, and this Friday, it’s the turn of the Xbox One fans. This is a special time for those that love videogames, and I’d say that just this once, maybe until after Christmas, we should try to put aside the cynicism, the jadedness and especially the fanboyism… and just let people enjoy their shiny new hardware.

It’s still hard to believe in some respects that the seventh, previous generation went on as long as it did. Over that time, the hardware we had in our homes changed considerably thanks for firmware updates, and even the way we played and interacted with each other changed a lot because of online play, smart devices and social media. Now, after nearly nine years, things are finally changing big time.

So let’s just enjoy this period of excitement. Nintendo fans have been eating their next-gen cake for a year now. But for Sony and Microsoft fans, it’s like their cars have just rolled out of the showroom and into their homes and there’s still that tinge in the air of new leather and plastic, unsullied by human use. This is when everything about a console, even—the OS—is new, and for the next couple of weeks, every day of playing around with the system is going to yield some new discovery, something that’s only exacerbated by the firmware updates that are sure to be coming between now and Christmas.

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The biggest difference now is just how even more ridiculously plugged into the Internet we are today than nine years ago, in 2005, when the Xbox 360 debuted. Back in the day, getting a new console was a very personal experience. The opening up of the box, the installation to the family TV, the loading up of that first game. Everything was isolated to you and whatever friends or family were on hand to witness the event. Now, people are filming and uploading their own unboxings, social media like Twitter and Facebook document the first steps into a new console experience on a minute by minute basis, and people can furiously message, photograph, film and interact with other real friends and virtual friends on a smartphone or tablet, learning about quick fixes for problems, or even simply to let the world know that a feature that was hyped doesn’t deliver quite as promised.

It’s a brave new world not just because the consoles are new, but the ways we interact with them—and each—other have transformed a lot. I spent 30 minutes just cruising through the various broadcasts of live gameplay on my shiny new PS4, taking note of how some people with sizable viewership were interacting with people on their feed as they played, while others—with still sizable viewership—said nothing, and merely let the doings of Edward Kenway on Assassin’s Creed IV do all the talking for them.

This is a far cry from the days when you’d show up at the office after the weekend ended and people would simply ask, “So dude, how’s that new machine?” Now, if you’re willing to share, and people know where to find you, everyone can know everything about your experience. Which is pretty cool and pretty scary all at the same time.