We all know them, we all have opinions on different ones and we all know roughly some part of its history, yes even you PC gamers know, don’t pretend like you don’t. So over the years, consoles have undergone changes or…evolved if you rather, going from the revolutionary arcade machine Pong that started it all to the home console powerhouses we see today, but I’ll get to that eventually. To many people video game consoles started with the Nintendo Entertainment System (The NES) that saved the industry or the Atari 2600 which was the console that started the popularity of it all, but in fact it goes back even further, by about 10 years or so with the Magnavox Odyssey back in 1972. Right, with all that said let me tell you my own personal tale of these incredible machines and what they brought to us.
BIT OF HISTORY
The Magnavox Odyssey is the grand daddy of all gaming consoles we have today, this is where it started but what was it like? Well there were no graphics at all, you had a light cursor on the screen that you could move, but all graphics were physical overlays you actually had to put on your TV. Overlays on TVs doesn’t sound like much at all, but in the first years of the 70s this was ground breaking, you still used your TV to play video games, it was the first and it’s what inspired the industry to progress which meant that within 4 years we got the first console with graphics.
Mid 70s Atari released the well-known Atari 2600, which is the console that had the worst game ever made: E.T. Is the game really that bad? Well, from all over the internet it seems so, however the 2600 was popular due to actually having different games on different cartridges. Through that one particular game, along with other factors, would cause a massive problem in the 80s.
Ah the 80s…it had good and bad times with video game consoles and by that I refer to the video game crash of ’83, which was very very bad. But 2 years later, the 80s became the gaming era that I was yet to be born into….. it was the beginning of that company you may have heard of from Japan called ‘Nintendo’, who single-handedly ended the crash with their first home console. “What? Nintendo?”, you may ask. Yes, the gaming giants that are around to this day started back in the 80s with the Nintendo Entertainment System, which was a massive leap forward and spawned many of the gaming icons you see today, as well as being the inspiration of the other ones. Oh and let’s not forget good old SEGA for their blue blur called Sonic the Hedgehog, Though he wasn’t popular until the 90s, he was created in
So I’m going to combine the next 20 years together because…well because why not? No seriously, the 90s had a smaller advance in comparison until you reach the N64, Sega Saturn and PlayStation, which introduced 3D graphics and blew the minds of all gamers, which come under the 5th generation of Video Game Consoles. Then in the last years of the 90s and the 2000s, we got Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, GameCube, Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. These were all extremely popular consoles, you can even say this is where the console wars started its full swing and it’s still going strong today, with the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.
It’s now modern times and we have consoles battling to be the big bad ultimate machine….unless you’re Nintendo, then not so much. Now I could say more, but I’ve dragged the history out a bit much sooo…hooray you are somewhat all caught up with consoles.
SO WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Back with Atari and good old Nintendo, video game consoles were all about playing games, having fun, beating high scores or just moving on to the next level because you have struggled on that Mario under water level for so long shudders. Consoles back then were also much more simple: put Tin your cartridge, switch it on and away you go. these days it’s just not the same and if you have an up-to-date console (i.e. Xbox One, PS4) then you know what I mean. But for those who don’t, let me note the differences for you.
Retro consoles were as simple as simple can get and you can only do one thing on them, which was…..gaming. Who would have thought, a video game console to play just video games? Literally, you had a controller and a game and that was it. If you switched on that console without anything in it, then nothing would happen and this was the trend from the beginning all the way to the N64 and the PlayStation. Switching on a console with no game in the beginning just resulted in the white noise effect your old box TVs had, with nothing on the screen, and if you were lucky, you didn’t have the static noise breaking your ear drums ARGH! In the last years of this trend, it was more or less the same thing, the N64 just gave a black screen and the only difference with PlayStation was it would give you the option to look inside your memory card or use it as a CD player, which given the fact the PlayStation used CDs, it made sense.
Modern consoles are so much different: if you have no game in, then it will simply take you to the home screen, which is the console equivalent of a computer’s desktop. Modern consoles can do much more these days, so having no game in doesn’t really matter and that’s where I suppose this whole article’s question starts from: if it doesn’t matter if there is no game inside, then is it really a game console?
The biggest differences could arguably be with Nintendo consoles, with their motion controls, game pads and switch ability from console to portable…but is it really that different? To be honest…no, no it’s not. Nintendo’s differences may be the biggest in the way we are able to notice them and play games but if you think about it, they are also still the same as the retros as it’s all about playing the games, be it with gimmicky motion controls or just a controller. So if it’s not controls and design, then what do I mean? I’m actually referencing the two game companies who are continuously trying to beat each other: Xbox by Microsoft and PlayStation by Sony.
Xbox and PlayStation are the consoles with the biggest changes, but it’s far less obvious and more subtle (like ninjas), as we don’t take any notice and just take what they can do for granted. That was pretty vague, so I’ll explain my thoughts. These days, the majority of consoles can play games of course, watch and listen to media from discs, watch videos online, order online and even check up and chat to friends, whether they are on the console or friends on Facebook. Reading this you may even think “well that’s normal” and you’d be right, but if you compare it to the first two decades of consoles, then you should notice a major difference in what they can do. Now I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it’s different.
ARE THEY STILL VIDEO GAME CONSOLES?
There is no concrete answer in what is correct and what is not, in reality it all varies on each of our own opinions as I’m not going to say that I’m going to stop calling my PlayStation 4 and Xbox One game consoles, because they do in fact play games. This video game console conclusion boils down to what is your own definition of the term “Video game console”
I’ve had conversations in the last week with a handful people and one in particular, which was about the Nintendo Switch, actually related to what I’m writing here, so I’m going to tell you about it. Their argument or opinion (which ever you want to call it) was that the Switch was a partial let down due to not having what he referred to as the “standard” of consoles these days, which was to have video apps from the start, namely Netflix and YouTube.
This moment I debated that the video apps were coming and that are they really needed for a “video game console”, This person refused to move from their stance on the matter and kept saying that it is a standard that is needed, because he wanted it and other consoles do it. However, when I ended up calling it an entertainment centre, he somewhat agreed.
So…have they moved on from being about games? Or has the definition of them evolved over time? The decision is yours but I personally think both are true and I shall explain under a question format for you readers.
- Are they still about gaming?Yes, they are to a degree.
- Is it only about the gaming?No, for these last so many years it’s also been about media.
- Would you class them as “Video Game Consoles”I would in the fact that they play games, but I think the term “Entertainment Consoles” would better describe their ability.
Not to repeat myself like a parrot, well at least I’ll try not to nor contradict things I’ve already said crosses fingers, I don’t fully think that they are still about gaming, I do think it’s more about the entertainment in multiple forms from one device. However I do think that part of us have just accepted this and now take it as a standard. It’s not a bad thing….it’s just what has happened our time. So for now, I’ll leave you all with a question.
Would they be better gaming consoles if they had only concentrated on improving that one aspect, or have they improved due to trying to combine it with everything else…?