Best of 2013: Much Obliged

First Published: December 4, 2013
Voted For By: Markuz
Reason(s) for Vote:
Long story short: I felt exactly the same for quite some time, where I was only going to buy the Xbox One because I’d had an Xbox and Xbox 360, so felt like it was my duty as a ‘fan’ to do the same with the latest incarnation. Then, somewhere along the way, that attitude changed to the point where I put on my sensible head and decided that I’m NOT going to shell out close to £500 out of a sense of obligation, and that it should be about desire more than anything else. This article echoes my original thoughts perfectly.


Perhaps it’s an English thing; that depressing sense of carrying out one’s duty, going through certain motions for the sake of it, meeting some hazy non-responsibility because of an obligation – real or imagined – otherwise, people – real or imagined – might have Something To Say. And to be honest, that’s how this new generation of consoles has made me feel.

Like a parent who has to haul arse out of a comfy armchair and brave the cold to pick up an ungrateful, stranded teenager, this new gen has me feeling obliged. Like I have a duty to it, somehow. Of course I have to acknowledge it – like I do my neighbours – but that doesn’t mean I want them round for tea and fucking crumpets. I know the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are there, pushing, elbowing, and throwing cakes about at the gaming buffet table (the nasty little snot-nosed upstarts), but do I really have to have the bastards back to my place? Sadly, yes.

I’m a gamer. A somewhat lapsed one of late, but a gamer nonetheless. So I feel like I have to have a new console. Yes, I know, I’m primarily a PC gamer now – I always will be – but I’ve never not owned a console. It goes against every fibre of my being to change that now. It may be a ridiculous reason to drop a stupid amount of cash on an electronic box of tricks and baubles, but then when has such Englishness, such change-fearing, ever been reasonable. I suppose it is the conservative, stick-in-the-mud dullard brother of Obligation – Tradition – that demands it as much as anything. I own every console that I have ever bought or played, bar one (and Ebay will soon see me with a Mega Drive before the year crawls to a close). I created my own tradition, my own insidious frowning demon. And now I feel obliged.

Along with Obligation and Tradition comes their uncouth younger brother, Habit. And he’s a tough one to break. Just as I always track the same aisles to look at and, finances permitting, buy the same games mags, whether I read them or not, I always end up buying a console. Sometimes this may be late into a generation’s life (far too late, in some cases), others will be within a reasonable time of launch, but I’ve always bought at least one machine from each generation, not including handhelds. Whether or not I have used them is another matter, but it has become habit. I expect to buy one because that is what I always do. I can’t imagine not doing so. It’s an almost alien concept. As soon as there is something new out, I yawn, open one eye, tut at everyone banging on about it, fall asleep, and then maybe wake up with my face dribble-welded to a cushion in a year’s time (or three), thinking ‘fuck, I really need to get one before something new comes out’.

The fourth player in this conspiracy to buzz my cash, is the more lighter-spirited Hope. Hope that this gen will bring more wonders, that, somehow, it will rekindle my love for consoles; inspire the same passion as the golden middle-age of the Xbox 360. That they won’t bollock it up. Well, the Xbone stumbled before the new dynamic duo had even been led to the fucking starting gates, so Hope is looking a touch worse for wear. But she’s still there. They all are.

All these things have wrapped themselves up into a ball, which is thumping rhythmically against the walls of my mind, as though the Cooler King himself is sitting inside my head while I debate back and forth with myself. It strikes me that the one thing that is absent from my decision to plunge into this generation is passion. Desire. Love. And that is sad. Everything I have listed so far is dry, cold, dispassionate. Perhaps it speaks to my physical and emotional absence from games of late, or perhaps I have been beaten down by the ruination of the console I loved. Maybe it’s just that this new gen is far from inspiring. There is no passion yet stirred. And it worries me, because what if that never changes? Is it my fault? Has this dry sense of obligation stifled all emotion for the new generation?

I need to remember that this is a good eight years on. My life has changed considerably since those heady days of the previous gen’s debut. I’m a different person. Certainly older; hopefully wiser; definitely more weighed down and distracted, and, perhaps more tellingly, my eyes are fully open – albeit propped up with matchsticks of cynicism. Caution is king. Cash can go on so many more important things. Trust in the next gen to produce games and tech worthy of my precious time and attention is at rock-bottom. These reasons and more are what are battling against habit, tradition, and obligation. When I look at the shiny new consoles (okay, console - Xbone was never going to be a contender after MS stuffed up, which was summed up brilliantly some time ago by fellow GL writer Stu) I’m left in a quandary. And then I shake myself and, with a sigh, listen once more to the Gambler and take a chance.

So, you win, I’ll buy the damn thing. For Obligation and Tradition and Habit; with a touch of Hope, a hint of Whimsy, and a roll of the Gambler’s dice. Even these were met once more together, all who erst the fair and living Youth did know. All, except only Love. Love had died long ago.

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