I have been contemplating game design for some time. I will soon be going to a school to learn exactly how to do this myself, from the graphics and sound to user interfaces, different programming languages and coding. The recent rise of independent gaming really inspired me to use games as my narrative medium of choice to tell incredible stories. I’ve written before about my love of the indies and it would not be shocking to find out I am a bit biased.
It should be even less shocking for me to proclaim that the abomination of an “unveiling” by Microsoft for the Xbox One was a blatant piss in the face to both designers who do not have access to millions of dollars and gamers. Not just hardcore gamers or casual gamers. I mean people who have spent a day in their life paying money to play a video game. I mean the ones who first flocked to the original Xbox thanks to its integrated online play and are now wondering if this is still a gaming system or a glorified Roku player.
Microsoft, you’re embarrassing yourselves.
It’s funny to think that Microsoft is still the new guy among the three main manufacturers of consoles. Watching them on the stage during this extended circle jerk, you would think they were the ones who pioneered plugging a gaming device into the video input on a television. The show opened with Don Mattrick and his creepy smile reminding us of the good ol’ days when teenagers were just beginning to learn anonymous hate speech and bigotry through the use of online multiplayer voice chat. The money shot came when the veil was lifted on the Xbox One, a step backward in naming made all the more ironic by what Microsoft insisted on showing off as prominent features for a system being released in 2013.
For the first half hour of this dog and pony show, a metaphor from days gone by that I am happy to resurrect and use to illustrate my point, I learned that the Xbox One can be addressed directly and will recognize my voice. I do not need to use a controller but simply gesture with my hands to perform such complicated tasks as changing a live TV channel, opening a web browser and splitting the screen between the two. Many of these don’t even require anything more than commanding your Xbox One to do so, much in the same way you might order your bored significant other to the fridge for another Monster.
When it finally did come time to talk about the thing that originally brought them to the dance, we were made aware that Electronic Arts would be fully supporting the system with its line of sports titles. At this point in the conference, I felt very much like I had turned on ESPN at 3:00 PM while random athletes discussed their professions and the difficulties they faced when making more money than the Illuminati. Not a shred of actual in-game footage was shown, but if you truly cared about the quality of the games you were playing, you likely turned off the conference by now.
Alan Wake developers Remedy were the first to get their new “game” shown off. Quantum Break gave us live action, a shot of a boat crashing into a bridge, and soldiers taking fire. Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical of this new concept where a television show and game are set to go hand-in-hand. Furthering my uneasiness about this system was a pretaped piece from Steven Spielberg, the man who once directed Jeff Goldblum and Wayne Knight in the same film, announcing that he would be collaborating with 343 Studios on a Halo TV series.
All three of this generation’s consoles rest comfortably on my entertainment stand, and I have enjoyed them in different amounts at varying points in their existence. The Wii U has had a rough patch out of the gate, but my steadfast love of all things Mario will cause me to eventually buy the system. The PlayStation 4 was quick to show us games and game makers along with what went on under the hood. I am confident Sony will continue to cater to gamers of all kinds of fandom.
At this point, I have zero interest in the Xbox One, and that is the first time I have ever stated such a lack of desire for a new console.
I have an iPod for my music, a smartphone that calls and texts people while also utilizing social media features, and a somewhat old HDTV that performs its duty to display my video games reasonably well. I do not need an all-encompassing device to take care of all this for me, and if I did, there are currently TVs on the market that do everything the Xbox One does, possibly better and probably for less money. I honestly felt kind of bad for the people on stage, badgering us with technical figures and “trending” integration that they somehow think we would utilize. It was a little sad, really.
What has come to light is the lack of backwards compatibility for the Xbox 360. For disc-based games, I can understand this; it is a completely different core CPU and they are simply not going to work well together, much in the way the PlayStation 4 will no longer support any legacy platforms on its hardware. Where Microsoft completely dropped the ball is in their handling of digital purchases on the Live Arcade. Sony has figured out a way to stream just about everything thanks to cloud service. If the day comes that Xbox 360 support ceases, the hundreds or even thousands of dollars you have put into Live will have been for naught. I realize this is a new problem we now face in the digital age and we will at some point learn to deal with it, but the fact remains that Nintendo and Sony have found ways around this while Microsoft has not.
Microsoft announced that they would have 15 exclusive titles in the Xbox One’s first year of existence, but made no effort to show them off or even display names of the games or their creators. They must have felt that announcing the exclusive agreement for downloadable content in Call of Duty: Ghosts was sufficient, and for a lot of people, it will be. Maybe I truly am getting just a little too old to appreciate the fact that I will no longer have to exert my thumb muscles to browse my Netflix queue on the next Xbox.