In Defense of the Gaming Unitasker

Image by Flickr user Great Beyond
Image by Flickr user Great Beyond

Here on United We Game, one of the things that often come up in our posts and comments has how wonderful it is to be a gamer these days. With nothing less than a plethora of games at our fingertips and means by which to play them, it’s hard to imagine going back to time when gaming wasn’t so prevalent. I know I wouldn’t want to, except…well…there is one thing I kind of miss. The gaming-only console. For a couple decades, from arcade machines to the rise of home consoles, we lived with devices that served one purpose and one purpose only: to play video games.  They weren’t music players, they weren’t video players, they weren’t connected to an information superhighway; they were just video game consoles.

If you were to ask me anything about the non-gaming abilities of any current console, next gen or last gen, I’d sound as dumb as a rock. Um…they can stream movies, right? And I think you can…uh…look at pictures or the Internet…maybe? Uh…oh, and you can chat with people. That’s something, right? The fact is that I could truly care less about the non-gaming “entertainment” aspects of any new or recent console. Can it play games? Yes? Good. Show me how to start a game, give me a controller, and I’m good to go. But wait! Don’t I want to connect to the Internet? No. Don’t I want to be able to switch over to the TV in the middle of game. No! Don’t I want to be able use apps? No, no, NO! I just want to PLAY A GAME! Is that alright with everyone??!

Sorry, sorry. I realize that this make me sounds stodgy and old-school, and sure, I can hardly deny how much improvements in technology have affected my own life. But sometimes, just sometimes, all I want to do is play a game free from load times, installations, and achievements. Because once you get rid of all the fancy accoutrements and  shiny exteriors of your PlayStations and Xboxes and Wiis, what really matters to any gamer when it comes to a console is if it can play games. And let’s be honest, the Ataris, Nintendos, and Segas did just that, and they did it very well.

But if you grew up with multiple consoles and only one (maybe two) household TVs, you know the terrible struggle of limited inputs. Having to unplug one console in order to play another. And then here comes your mom and she wants to watch a VHS…er…I mean, DVD (oh hush, I could have said Betamax), so now you’ve got to save your game (if you can save it) and get the video player hooked up. Oh! Such first world problems! Even with today’s fancy TVs with HDMI inputs, they only go so far. And there are so many devices that can be hooked up to them. Once you’ve got your gaming console, cable box, streaming player(s), and computer hooked up to the TV, there’s not much left for anything else. (And who in the heck wants to deal with component cables anymore. Sheesh.)

Alright, so I jest a little there, but I do understand the push for more all-in-one gaming/entertainment devices. And as gaming moves into the all-digital realm, I’m sure their reign will only become more solid. But y’know what? If, by some stretch of the imagination/purse strings, Sony and/or Microsoft would consider stripping away all the non-gaming software/hardware of their consoles and present simple gaming-only devices to the world, I’d be more than interested. Again, the simple plug-and-play aspects of older consoles is really what made them so very accessible in the first place. Nothing to install, no accounts to set up. Just insert a cartridge and off you go into the world of gaming. It’s probably the only aspect of home gaming that I miss from ye olden days.

So who, then, has two thumbs and is closely watching Steam Box news? This gal! Seems kike a nice step in the right direction for gamers who just want to game.

If there anything you miss about old gaming-only consoles? Do you still have an old working Atari, Sega, or NES that still holds a hallowed place in your gaming setup? Or have you met the PS4/Xbox One with open arms while waving goodbye to the gaming past?

13 Comments Add yours

  1. duckofindeed says:

    I still have and still love old consoles that play games only. And not once have I ever used a gaming device for anything but gaming, except for trying to download “FF7” from the Internet onto my PSP. I prefer consoles that are just for games. At the very least, it doesn’t make me any more likely to buy a console when it does tons of things I don’t need (especially since all these features I don’t want no doubt add to the price tag). My computer has Internet access, thank you very much. I also already bought a DVD player, and my cable company gave me a nifty cable box. A gaming console that has all these fancy features can’t do anything I can’t already do with other devices I own, except…what’s this, it plays the newest games? Okay, that’s one thing that will motivate me to buy it.

    Because that’s why I buy a console. To play games. That’s all. And I would be more than happy to go back to the days where gaming consoles played games only, as that’s what they are, video game consoles, not DVD players or computers or cable boxes. And I, too, would like it very much if I no longer had to wait around for the darn console to install a game or perform an update that doesn’t add any useful features whatsoever. How do I benefit from an update that moves my trophies from one spot to another? I don’t know, but thanks for making me wait for that.

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    1. cary says:

      Just the other day we had to sit through a lengthy PS3 update that made the store look…prettier? More accessible? I don’t know. (However, we did find it easier to scroll through downloadable games, and we paused quite significantly upon finding “Gex”…)

      The *games* are the only thing by and through which I judge a new console as well. Now, I will say that it is occasionally fun and even convenient to use consoles in different ways, for apps and the Internet, but those instances are so few and far between for me that it’s just not that important. Now, if they come up with a console that can play great games, clean my house, and make coffee…well…that’s another story.

      Like

  2. gimmgp says:

    My biggest gripe with the execution of “all-in-one” consoles is the inability to customize my experience. Specifically, every time I boot up my Xbox 360, I am bombarded by advertisements about television, junk food, and some popcorn flick that is about to hit theaters. If I am interested in playing something from XBLA, it takes a minimum of three clicks to even access my list of games. I would much prefer the ability to streamline my menus down to just the parts of the console I will actually use. Of course, that would cost Microsoft all sorts of delicious ad revenue.

    I appreciate some of the advantages of new consoles, but my feelings resonate with your article: most of the time, I just want to sit down and play video games. Not accidentally scroll over some ad which destroys my television speakers with mindless noise.

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    1. cary says:

      That’s a really good point. Honestly, I’ve pretty much quit with trying to find games on XBLA or PSN in favor of perusing Steam, which isn’t perfect, but it’s much better than having to navigate a dozen different menus.

      Like

  3. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    Many of us remember with fondness the good old days of the “plug-and-play” video game console. Well, as dangerous as nostalgia can be, the Ataris and Segas and NESs of days gone by are still vivid parts of many of our gaming lives. Pop in a game, press start, and off you go into a world without load times and cut scenes. Game consoles of today are true marvels of modern design and capability. They’ve serve multiple functions and show gaming in some of the best light they’ve seen in years. So it’s not like I want a total return to the past, as I discuss in this United We Game post, it’s just that when I want to play an Xbox or PlayStation game, all I want to do is play a game. No TV, no Internet, just play.

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  4. renxkyoko says:

    I’m with you. All I want to do is play. ( Add the fact that I’m tech challenged )

    Like

    1. cary says:

      It used to be so simple, right? Insert cartridge, play game…simple.

      Like

  5. Land is Mana says:

    I loved the SNES! It was awesome, but I have to disagree with most of the comments here, in that I’m glad I can do more than just game with my consoles. I love chatting with friends, and uploading my epic moments in the upload studio!

    Like

    1. cary says:

      If that’s your thing, then go for it, I say! There’s no way to downplay just how amazing the Xbox One and PS4 are — great machines they are, for sure. Having just got an Xbox One here, I’m still in awe of what it can do and how easy it is to connect with people. Plus, it plays games really well! Maybe I’ll come around to the other features someday… 🙂

      Like

      1. Land is Mana says:

        That’s awesome to hear, we need more open-minded gamers in the community!

        Like

      2. cary says:

        Here, here! In the end, it matters not what or how we play, just so long as we play what makes us happy. 🙂

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  6. catstronaut says:

    There’s definitely an understated joy in being able to turn on a console and play. I love being able to turn on my Super Nintendo and get right into a game, whereas I rarely play my Wii anymore because I hate having to navigate the dashboard with the Wiimote. And don’t even get me started on PS3 updates. They single handedly demoted my console to a Netflix 3.

    Like

    1. cary says:

      I thought our poor PS3 was going to quit during one of the latest updates — it took forever!

      I gave away my SNES many years ago, and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I still had it. I’d be quite alright today with that and working copies of Super Metroid and Super Mario World.

      Like

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