The End of Another Generation: The 8th and I
I'm writing a series about the end of the 8th Generation (PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, Switch-ish, 3DS and Vita). It'll include a Top Twenty Countdown of my favourite games.
My eighth generation started in England, and it ended in Japan. A fair bit happened in-between.
We were living in the UK when the Nintendo 3DS came out in the spring of 2011. Newly married, my wife and I had left Japan just over a year earlier. While we were happy in England, and making the most of being near family, I missed our old life terribly. I wanted nothing more than to head back East, to resume our lives in a culture less-familiar.
So we started making arrangements, putting out feelers in Japan for employment and whatnot. That all ground to a halt one March morning, when we turned on the TV and saw the disaster unfolding in Tohoku. We sat there horrified. I remember feeling sick to my stomach.
That put a halt to our plans. We stayed in the UK, became more settled; more comfortable. A return to Japan became less of a priority. The memories of our last stay became more distant, friends moved on and the pull of our old lives lessened considerably. We stayed and we made the most of our opportunities, but deep down we knew it was a temporary commitment.
That's how my 8th Generation began.
Anyway, the 3DS! The successor to a handheld that I'd largely ignored, marred by a piss-poor launch and a less than inspired early selection of games, featuring a gimmick (3D) that I had zero interest in. Obviously, I bought one. I held off for all of nine months, which is when I grabbed the Zelda Ocarina of Time limited edition, because it was pretty and:
Me: It'll only increase in value. Consider it an investment. Why won't you consider it an investment?
My Wife: (fast asleep because it is 2:00 AM)
Me: I shall take your silence as a sign of complete agreement. Is it OK if I eat the last Mint Magnum?
I gained a lot of weight when we lived in the UK.
A pretty limited edition AND the forthcoming release of Resident Evil Revelations was all the motivation I needed. How daft did we look with our Circle Pad Pros?! Despite only playing around fifteen games on my 3DS, I somehow ended up with three of them. I upgraded to a plain XL when Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate came out, and then got a little carried away when Monster Hunter 4 arrived, buying the special edition XL.
The 3DS was my second favourite handheld of the last generation. The first was the Vita, of course. A wildly impressive little machine that Sony hated, almost from day one. I'd watch every Sony press conference until the very end, just in case they decided to announce something Vita related, only to be disappointed yet again. We were perpetually waiting for the third parties to jump in, like they did with the PSP. An exclusive Final Fantasy, Monster Hunter, Metal Gear Solid; a Call of Duty that would definitely be good.
The Vita was the first video game hardware I bought at launch. I even took the day off work, excitedly waiting by my front door for the Amazon man, like some demented Labrador. Lumines, Uncharted; other games - that was a lovely introduction to the NGP. The Vita provided limitless material for blog posts, bemoaning the lack of games before it became an indie darling. Until recently, it was my companion on all flights or long trips, despite it not having any games at all.
A 64 GB proprietary memory card full of no-games.
My first home console of the 8th Generation was the Wii U. I wasn't going to buy one, until I did in March 2013. It was already floundering, as was the retailer I bought it from, HMV. They were closing several stores, and rumour had it they had heavily discounted Wii U bundles hidden behind the counter, but you had to ask nicely. I gave my local branch a call, and they did indeed have half a dozen in stock. I wrestled with it the rest of the day, eventually deciding that I didn't need one. The next morning I changed my mind. I ran to the shop - it was an icy morning and I almost ended up on my arse several times - and claimed the penultimate box. I may or may not have pushed some children out of the way.
The Wii U was shite, but I don't regret buying one. It allowed my occasional-gamer wife and I to play Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate together - her on the big TV and me on my 3DS. Pre-parenthood, when daytime free-time was still a thing, we'd spend every Saturday afternoon hunting monsters. That was one of my few extended multiplayer experiences over the last generation. In general, gaming became a more solitary experience over the last decade. I gave up Call of Duty MP in the early 2010s, campaign-driven action games stopped tacking on MP modes for me to try, and I never took to any of the FTP shooters. When online MP sucked me in, it was almost always co-op with friends, as with Uncharted 4 and Monster Hunter World.
|Poppy guarding my just-delivered PS4|
As much as I loved my PS3, by 2013 I was ready for a new PlayStation. I put in my PS4 preorder as soon as they were available, following E3 that year. Remember when we could order new consoles almost six months in advance and didn't have to worry about lotteries, unannounced sales periods and jumping through hoops for the right to pay $500 for new hardware?
The PS4 would be my main squeeze for the next seven years. When we finally decided to move back to Japan in 2016, it was the first console hooked up in our new place. As with most of the major events in my life, I associate that move, that memory, with video games. I sold my UK launch model before the move, and then bought another within a few days of arriving back in Japan. Dark Souls III was the game that strode continents, as I played the first half in England and then picked it up again in Japan.
Our return to Japan was not a smooth one. Emotionally and practically, it was a messy experience. Saying goodbye to family, wrenching my daughter from her doting grandparents, and closing doors in the hopes of opening new ones. It took far longer than I had expected to secure stable employment, though it did all work out in the end. It was a turbulent first year or two, and games were my escape.
Now settled in Japan, I rounded out my console collection with an Xbox One in 2016, and a Switch in 2017. Much like the previous generation, I had the full set of consoles. However, unlike that halcyon era, I didn't have enough time to fully enjoy them. Work took up more of my time than ever before, as did countless other adult activities (the boring kind, not the sexy type). But more than anything, my free time was spent with my beautiful daughter. She was born in 2014, just as the 8th Generation was picking up. I half expected fatherhood to be the death knell of my favourite pastime, but it was nothing of the sort. Yes, daytime gaming was no longer an option, but contrary to popular belief, young children do sleep, and I was able to keep my 60-90 minutes of evening gaming.
Of course, playing games with my daughter is far more fun than playing them without her. In those first few months, I spent countless hours playing Fire Emblem Awakening with her asleep on my chest, and I have very clear memories of playing Destiny with her propped up on my lap. As she got older, she started to show some interest in daddy's toys, and would request/demand that I play certain titles, the more colourful and cartoony the better. Eventually she wanted a controller for herself, and Mario Odyssey was our first pass-the-pad experience. And now, Animal Crossing is all she wants to play, and she loves nothing more than showing us all the things she's made.
While I remain a bonafide computer game expert, my status may have slipped somewhat over the last few years. I'm certainly not as plugged-in as I used to be. I no longer frequent game websites and have lost the urge to be up-to-date with every little news development. When I pop to the shops - something we did pre-2020 - it's not uncommon for me to spot mid-tier games that I've never heard of. That would have been unthinkable during the PS3/360/Wii heyday. I have long since stopped trying to play and have an opinion on every big game under the sun. This has also been the first generation where I have felt very much left behind by some of the biggest trends, specifically FTP shooters, streaming and the "celebrities" it has produced. I continue to be perplexed by the appeal of watching other people play games, though I'd imagine many younger gamers are equally confounded by the prospect of reading words about them.
"What is a blog?" asks Simon, 19, from Daventry.
Fuck off, Simon. Fuck right off.
|Me doing some awkward pointing at TGS 2018|
As you can see, I'm still writing about games. I've been at this blog for over ten years now. If I'm honest, I've always written for myself. I wouldn't still be at it if that weren't the case. However, I still get a buzz when other people find my words, and will never tire of people saying kind things. Writing is a self-indulgence, and one that I have every intention of maintaining into the foreseeable future.
I greatly missed attending Tokyo Game Show last year. That's the one remnant of previous attempts to break into the industry that I'm dead-set on retaining. I still have my press pass, and hopefully there'll be something left of the show once this plague has pissed off. Going back to TGS in 2016-2019 was an absolute delight, and attending a hands-on, pre-release event for Rez Infinite is a personal highlight. I'd still love to work in the industry, though I don't pursue it with the zeal that I should. That's partly due to my acceptance of certain life realities, but it's also down to some defeatism on my part. I'm still waiting for (name of famous Japanese developer) to knock on my door and offer me a job because "your blog is well nice and I heard that you used to be good at Resogun".
"Also" he continues, "your Twitter is good".
If this meandering post proves one thing, it is that age has not dulled my enthusiasm for video games. While they may be a little less crucial to my being than they once were, a little less defining of who I am, I still adore them.
Video games are lovely, aren't they?