Shank’s Spiel: Why Consoles?

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, listening to me on the various shows on the network, or watching these Spiels, you may think that the only thing I play is the PC. Of course, this isn’t true. In fact, many of my articles start by stating that I own both last gen consoles, both current gen consoles, and my PC.

However, I do find it odd that people somehow think that because I play the PC and constantly discuss why I’m disappointed by the lack of a true generational leap in these current consoles, that I have no right expressing such disappointment and should not be allowed to comment on them.

To that minority, you are completely wrong. It is precisely because I own and play consoles that I have that right to be frustrated by them. I own them. I play them. Therefore, I can comment them. It really is that straightforward.

So to the rest of you, I get many questions on a weekly basis asking just why do I even play on consoles? After all, my PC is more than three times as powerful as my PS4. You all know that I prioritize graphics above all else. So then, why would I even bother playing on my consoles?

Let’s construct this answer by laying the foundation of context. Consoles have their place in the industry. I will never say that consoles should never exist. There are many economic benefits that consoles have over PCs. Don’t mistake me here, however. If you want the absolute best in graphics processing, you’ll spend a decent chunk of change on a high performance PC. Additionally, games are generally far cheaper on the PC than on consoles. Finally, you can build a mid-range PC today that is more powerful and capable than the PS4 for not much more $550.

But we must understand the market for consoles. I don’t think it’s too far of a reach to assume that the average age of a PC gamer is higher than the average age of a console gamer. That is, if you are a parent looking to buy your kid the latest video game machine, chances are you will probably buy an Xbox, Playstation, or Wii rather than a gaming PC, especially if your kid’s friends play on those machines already.

It’s easier and cheaper to spend $400 once for a machine that plays games than spending a bit more on a PC that your kid would want to upgrade later…assuming he even knows how. As a parent, buying a console is a single purchase every five or six years. You buy it, plug it in, and forget about it.

All of this leads nicely into the beautiful simplicity of consoles. They have the “pick up and play” mentality. This is something I greatly respect. As an end user, I do not want to have to think about downloading updates, ensuring drivers work, or make sure my HDMI cord is seated properly.

Admittedly, driver downloads on PC are now easier than ever with the ability to tell your PC to download drivers automatically. With services like Steam and GOG, installing a game is usually relegated to a single click. However, it’s still not as simple as the consoles. This is one area I will always respect about consoles.

In addition to this simplicity, consoles have a much smaller footprint than a PC. And this makes sense because consoles are designed to sit in your entertainment center where free space is at a premium. Yes, you can build small form factor PCs, but I find something intrinsically simple about console design. The PS4 is the most elegant console I have ever owned. The angled edges, dual layer casing, and subtle use of LED lighting all come together to create some truly beautiful design language.

On a more personal note, I find consoles have more childish spark about them. This is perhaps more nostalgia than concrete evidence, but isn’t this why we enjoy games? Gaming is very much an emotional hobby and for me personally, playing on consoles evokes strong emotions from my childhood.

I grew up on the PS1. I remember my dad telling my brother and me that if we read 100 books over the summer, he’d buy us the Playstation. And so, my brother and I read with a determined ferocity. There was actually peace in our house. Finally, my dad took us to Toys R Us and bought us the Playstation.

I will never forget the excitement I had when I first played it. I had earned my right to play on this Playstation and now it was mine! It’s this same sense of childish wonder and excitement I get whenever I play on my consoles today.

These are all many reasons why I buy, play, and love my consoles. In my humble opinion, they are pretty straightforward and perfectly reasonable reasons as to why I will always play consoles.

But ultimately, it’s about the exclusives. Some of my favorite games of all time are exclusive to consoles.  Mario Kart, Smash Bros, Crash Bandicoot, Infamous Second Son, Zelda, Halo, The Last of Us. These are experiences that you simply cannot find on PCs. Yes, PCs have their own slew of exclusives, but as I said earlier, I grew up on consoles. And these are the games I grew up on. These are the games that introduced me to video games. These games are the reason why I am able to speak to you all now.

One exclusive in particular had an unbelievable impact on me. The Last of Us is one of two games that legitimately changed my life. It showed me the power of impeccable story-telling. It reawakened my belief and love for the industry. Perhaps more than anything, it showed the world the sheer power of video games as an entertainment medium.

This is why I buy consoles. This is why I love consoles. This is why I’ll always play consoles.

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