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The Waiting Game on Modern Consoles

This new console generation kicks off a new phenomenon in gamer culture. A phenomenon already beginning to be established in the 360/PS3 cycle of consoles. I call it the Waiting Game.

I remember back in the day when I got a Nintendo 64 I noticed just how easy it was to plug it into my TV and start playing my favorite games, Mario and Zelda. I noticed that as soon as I put the cartridge into the machine the game popped up instantly, without need to log in or enter some system menu to futz around with the settings and features, or to check and see what new deals are available that day. There was none of that. Just the game, you and your TV, and some semblance of a normal controller in your hands (I'm looking at you N64).

Today when I put in a game into my Xbox 360, I notice several things. These are minor things, but I think it's worth talking about them now for what they have become in this current generation. First thing I notice is a log-in screen to Xbox Live. This is not too bad, and I had hoped the Gamecube had a similar feature back in the day. But it is nevertheless a step-one on trying to play a game. Thereafter I notice the game starts loading. Game loading was sort of introduced around the xbox/gamecube/ps2 era where content had to be read in from disc or sometimes even decompressed. This just adds to the wait, but a neat loadscreen would always assuage my fear of waiting forever. Then if not a load screen a pop-up will appear and ask me - no, force me - to download the latest patch. So I must comply. This has of late been routine.

But what I had not known was that was just a taste of the Waiting Game. I had no inclination that things would get any worse, but they did. I have not yet bought an Xbox One or PS4 and I'm not going to argue here which is better. But I will say that the waiting game has been further intensified. I read that in order to play a game on the Xbox One you must install the game to disk. I also read the Xbox One has a fairly large disk space of 512GB. This is nice if it were 2008. Games for the Xbox One can take up to 40GBs. This is alarming, it must mean you can only have a dozen or so games of that caliber on your machine at any one time. I also read you can wait up to several hours to install a game of that size.

I have never in my wildest dreams guessed that a modern gamer must wait so long to plug and play his or her favorite games. Sure the installation is a one-off thing, except it's not. When you need to remove a game for yet another game you must then have to make these conscious decisions about how to manage your space! What are we now, accountants? The process is further exacerbated by the fact you cannot (legally) change the HDD of the Xbox One. It might be similar for the PS4, but I just haven't read a lot on it; IMO it's not getting covered as much on this website (for better or worse). Sure these newer consoles have/will have the ability to play as the game installs, but that's like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound. I have no idea how exactly the feature works but the computer scientist in me says the games data must be allocated in a way that opening-content is the first to load on disk and end-content is last (so the developers have to do this on their own). For some games, like Skyrim I know this feature would be very hard to pull off since any data can be used at any time due to the open-worldness. But that's a nit-pick.

So there you have it folks, a gaming age in which you now make more petty, conscious decisions outside of the game you play. This meta game of having to download, wait and wait some more has got to go if I am ever to return to console gaming. It's simply becoming too much.

Sure one can argue it's almost no different on the PC, but the PC is mod-able, upgradeable and doesn't necessarily carry the same sort of sting. Plus, there was this heredity with consoles that they "just work" and will "play what you put in em'". That era, that lifesyle of gaming is now deceased. And with that, I look at the grim future of what is now the distracted gamer. Oooh what's this.... a daily deal!?