Escapism, Games, and Realism. Thoughts of the PS4 and more.

More and more I’ve been hankering to get into the conversations about technology, more specifically gaming in general. I’ve been doing what I can to learn about how game engines work and what exactly coding in C++ and Java entails (among other languages like python and more as well). In true stride with my “Defeating Ignorance” mantra I am trying to be more knowledgeable than the average consumer. Because (yes I’m starting a sentence with a conjunction :p ) let’s face it, most sound like angry rage filled teens upset with their parent’s for not getting them the newest toy for Christmas :/

The recent Sony press event that assured many gamers that yes indeed they had been working on the PS4 was in my opinion a success. Contrary to many others who were disappointed with that which was presented. One thing I can honestly say is that, if they had shown anything more than they did, they would have left themselves open to a full onslaught when it comes time for Microsoft  to unveil Project Durango to the masses. Much like a poker game Sony is playing it close to the chest yet, at the same time is letting the other players know they aren’t just all talk. That said to many it would seem that, that is all Sony is full of. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Let’s not forget E3 is pretty much THE place to show off your big guns.

Sony has had an extremely rough past few years. The PSN getting hacked and the difficulty developers had working with their cream of the crop cpu which ended up being more curdled milk than cream, among many others. That said, they had quite a few successes. Most recently the fact that they were able to lock down a company that was able to give them exclusives such as Journey which has garnered more than enough fans. Although skiddish they may be to stick with Sony, locking down games like those has shown the fans that somewhere in the corporate bureaucracy that makes up Sony there are a few bright lights behind their gaming division. That is what is important.

Enter the PS4 Press event, they started off showing that they were and are trying to innovate the way they are thinking about their system by hiring a name connected to some of the most beloved game franchises Mark Cerny. His name is pretty much synonymous, for me at least, with titles such as Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Jak and Daxter and Uncharted. I’m not saying the man is a god but if not the Midas touch he definitely could have a touch that turns all to ruthenium or iridium. Metals not as well known but as or more precious than gold. Ok chemistry talk aside, why do I think so highly of him being involved in this system’s development? He is a game developer, who knows how hard it is getting your game onto a console, and how difficult it is programming for a console with architecture as alien as the surface of the moon Titan. He came with a perspective very important to the survival of a game console, that is making something that developers will be comfortable with .

Sony has updated their controller which is a big stride in the right direction. It shows thought is going into all aspects of the new system which is always healthy. They have changed the architecture of the physical hardware showing that the developers were kept in mind which can never be a bad thing. Letting developers know your thinking about them when you design a piece of hardware lets the entire industry know you know what is important. In the end many times it is killer apps that sell systems and not the system itself. Allowing developers to make those killer apps easier can only be a step in the right direction.

With the atomic explosion of “sharing” and social gaming all over the internet, sometimes it’s the small things that are detrimental. In this case the share button that has been grafted into the Dualshock 4. Now does it work like they say, is it buggy, how clean is the software that that button interacts with? I honestly don’t know and they could have added a facebook button for all I care. The main point is it has to work as described. A few times during the event you saw the little menu pop up from pressing the share button bringing us to a UI that seemed rather intelligent. If it was scripted, nice cloak and dagger Sony :3 I c wut u did there 😉 But pessimism aside that is huge for the gaming culture as it stands today. With let’s plays and walkthroughs and strategy guides all over youtube and twitch.tv it shows something contrary to what many believed, “No thought was given to the end user.” In fact I’d say ALL OF THE THOUGHTS went to the entire game development and publishing process. From the computers the games are compiled and tested on to the users who essentially make or break them if you can pay attention to what was being said at key points in the Event, you’d see why I think it was a successful thing. Much like a girl you like, isn’t it better if she teases you a little bit? No… just me?… awkward……

Now enough of that, time to get into the whole, “What’s the point of making games prettier and more realistic?” and “I couldn’t give two shits or even half a shit, about how realistic games look.” For all those calling games an escape from everyday life and why do games have to look more and more real? I’d say it’s the same reason why we go on vacation to another city, or country side even though we already live in one. It’s offers a change of scenery, it lets your mind take in something familiar yet new and that is the real reason behind having to take a holiday. Yes games are supposed to be fun but they don’t have to all look like Super Metroid or Mario on NES. There is a path that we were set on I believe as soon as Pong was booted up for the first time. It’s the same mindset behind the Tron universe and anime’s such as .Hack//Sign and Sword Art Online. The closer we get to realistic games the closer we get to being able to enjoy truly different holidays. If games are an escape then  I see no problem with trying to make them more immersive and feel real. Albeit there are also fears of the Uncanny valley as already experienced recently with the whole 48 fps issue and the Hobbit.

But Getting just a little deep for a moment. As a race we are constantly looking outside of ourselves for something. No one knows what exactly but we’re always trying, striving to find experiences that will help us quantify our existence because, let’s face it, one reason why we surround ourselves with so much technology is because we’re trying to forget about how small we are on this planet. Yet at the same time as a society we are constantly spelunking into that mindset. With the help of Philosophers, Scientists and Religion all we’re doing is looking for a purpose. That is why we create such amazing things like the Pyramids, The Taj Mahal, and more and more recently realistic games. It is the natural want to create that has brought us this far.

Now that deep metaphysical stuff out of the way where am I going with this? Maybe something like this. Much like Gepetto who only wanted a son he created a puppet. Through that puppet, through that creation he was able to learn something about himself and his life in general. Through making games more and more realistic we as a society will come to understand the smaller things we overlook and just like with books and movies we will come to learn more about ourselves by being able to witness something that isn’t real but strangely familiar.

All of that said I’m excited but also reserved about the future of Sony, and the only thing left to say now is I’m curious about Microsoft’s rebuttal.

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