Pushing Buttons: The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ushered in an era of technical brilliance – but creative timidity
10 years ago, the future was kickstarted with the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles in late 2013. These revolutionary machines introduced high-definition gaming to the masses and paved the way for cloud computing. Games like Forza Horizon and Titanfall were able to utilize remote computing for complex calculations, freeing up the processor for other tasks. These consoles also opened up the world of game streaming, allowing players to enjoy retro games through broadband connections. They also acknowledged the rising significance of sharing gameplay, offering features that made it simpler to record and broadcast gaming experiences on social media and Twitch.
The past was full of excitement, but upon reflection, many errors were committed. During its disappointing Xbox One debut event in Redmond, Microsoft promoted the console’s TV features and presented a future where an always-online system with digital-focused software would eliminate the possibility of sharing and reselling games. While Microsoft’s prediction of digital downloads becoming the norm and widespread availability of high-speed internet for gamers was accurate, it was too much to implement all at once.
Additionally, its strange attempt to popularize motion-sensing cameras by including the Kinect with every console greatly underestimated our willingness to be watched while playing poorly at sports games. It also seemed odd that both the Xbox One and PS4 utilized nearly identical AMD hardware, and that both had a similar appearance to early Betamax players – large, black plastic blocks. The era of drastically different industrial designs appeared to be coming to an end.
What did this era bring us? Is it just a coincidence that during the so-called “golden age” of long-form TV dramas, we were also introduced to the largest and most expansive narrative adventure games ever? While the PS3 and Xbox 360 had their own epic story games, such as Mass Effect and Uncharted, it wasn’t until 2013 that we saw the full potential of games align with the technological, network, and social advancements of the 2010s. Games like Bloodborne, No Man’s Sky, Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Metal Gear Solid V combined complex storytelling, stunning visuals, and immersive world-building into massive experiences. The first two generations of PS5 and Xbox Series X titles have heavily relied on the successes and conventions of this era – perhaps to a fault.
However, it is noteworthy that the most significant advancement during this time period was the transformation of shooter games from individual death matches to team-based battles and battle royale. Popular games like Fortnite and its followers introduced a new type of multiplayer experience on a large scale. They broadened the appeal of competitive gun battles to a broader audience and pushed for cross-platform compatibility. Additionally, they created virtual spaces that attracted pop culture icons and fashion brands, showcasing the potential of the metaverse.
Despite the impressive technical capabilities showcased in the top PS4 and Xbox One games, this era will also be marked by a lack of boldness. Publishers and developers shied away from tackling stories with significant commentary on the world. Political themes were downplayed or outright denied, with development teams insisting that their games about war, terrorism, greed, or rebellion had no connection to real-life events. They often claimed that their goal was simply to create a scenario for players to interpret on their own, in order to avoid any potential backlash from financial stakeholders.
During this time period, it was expected that mainstream video game storytelling would evolve thematically. Television was setting the precedent with shows like Fleabag, Atlanta, The Americans, Watchmen, Better Call Saul, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which explored complex moral themes and mature content. However, even though games on the PS4 and Xbox One touched on topics such as parenthood, honor, and gender (as seen in The Last of Us, The Witcher 3, Uncharted 4, Persona 5, and Life Is Strange), they often failed to fully tackle these issues, leaving their arguments unresolved.
However, these games also offered expansive realms to venture through, hidden treasures to uncover and exchange, and environments to immerse ourselves in. This marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of gaming. What were once just forms of entertainment transformed into virtual worlds to inhabit. Popular titles like Minecraft, No Man’s Sky, and Destiny surpassed the typical lifespan of a video game and became hobbies in their own regard. While there were still some unfulfilled desires with the advent of broadband internet and high-definition consoles, it laid the groundwork for what may be a groundbreaking future.
What to play
If you’re interested in experiencing a dystopian career simulation without actually living in one, you should check out CorpoNation: The Prologue. This game was released on Steam during the summer and offers a futuristic twist on the popular immigration simulation game, Papers, Please. In this game, you must test lab samples for a questionable megacorporation while facing distractions and moral dilemmas. This free teaser provides a sneak peek into the full game’s stylish and imaginative depiction of the darkly comedic horrors that await.
Available on: Windows
The estimated duration of the activity is two hours.
What to read
ReedPop, an events company, is currently looking for a purchaser for Gamer Network, a group of video game news websites such as Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Eurogamer. With major shifts in advertising and SEO practices, it has become increasingly challenging to generate revenue from online video game journalism.
It’s exciting to witness the revival of the ongoing discussion about the definition of an “indie game” in the world of interactive entertainment. This topic has resurfaced due to the nomination of the unconventional deep-sea adventure game, Dave the Diver, in the best independent game category at the Game awards. What adds to the confusion is that the game is published by a large South Korean company, Nexon, worth billions of dollars. An article on VGC summarizes the situation, but I choose not to take sides.
The creators of a recently published collection of video game literature have implied that this type of project has never been undertaken before. This sparked a significant amount of concern among the individuals involved in the numerous previous collections of video game writing from the past three decades. Gita Jackson has provided a thorough overview of the dispute and also delves into the origins of subjective video game analysis and critique.
What to click
Playing Tetris brings me a sense of calmness. I wish it had the same effect on my family.
Review of Jurassic Park Classic Games Collection – a fantastic opportunity to experience the forgotten gaming world once again.
“I indulged in video games with an insatiable hunger”: author Carmen Maria Machado on her lifelong passion for gaming.
This week, @Cuddy75 on Twitter asked a brief and straightforward question.
“Why do games not have expiration of copyright like books or music? This would allow for the possibility of remaking any game that is over X years old.”
I consulted Alex Tutty from the legal firm Sheridans, which has extensive experience in the video game industry, with my inquiry. According to him, video games do eventually fall out of copyright, similar to books and music. The crucial components of copyright for a game include its visual elements as an artistic work, such as images or photographs, and the source code which is safeguarded as a literary work, like a book. Essentially, a game is a compilation of images and text, just in the form of source code.
The duration of copyright protection for these works is usually the artist’s lifetime plus 70 years. This means that eventually, the games will no longer be under copyright. However, since the majority of developers are still alive and none have been deceased for 70 years, the games are still protected by copyright.
After 2050, older games may begin to lose their copyright protection. This makes it challenging to transfer them to new storage devices in a legal manner. As a result, many of these games may become impossible to access by 2050. However, there is a gray area of abandonware, where game code is available online for free because the developers and publishers are no longer in operation. Additionally, decades of software piracy and emulation have made thousands of classic game ROMs available online, if one knows where to find them.
If you desire a legally compliant version of Jet Set Willy that fixes the notorious game-breaking Attic bug, you will have to wait for a considerable amount of time.
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