Best of 2014 – PS Fourgasm: or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bread Bin

First Published: May 2, 2014
Voted For By: Lorna, and Tim
Reason(s) For Vote:
“Like many folk, Mark made the jump from Xbox to PlayStation this generation, and he explains his reasons in a personal way, without hate, rage, and storming off the internet and slamming the door. His reasons for switching and his experiences thereafter are honest and fair. It isn’t about fanboyism; it’s about the experience and what works for you.” – Lorna

“How times have changed. Through the darkest hours of the PS3 era, I loyally stood by Sony, reassuring myself and anyone who’d listen that one day it would be alright again. With the advent of PS4, I can’t help but feel a warm, fuzzy glow inside myself, with stories like this making me proud to have flown the PlayStation flag for all this time. PS4 is everything we wanted, and its success has been well earned by Sony. What can I say – I told you so.” – Tim

I’ve never believed in fanboyism. I know that it exists, and I fully understand the reasons behind it, but I can’t bring myself to the point where I agree with any of it. Those who like a certain thing should allow themselves to enjoy it without tainting it by wasting time pulling someone else down for their differing opinion. I’m a musician, and find myself much more immersed in prog than I do mainstream rock, primarily because that musician side of me wants to hear and enjoy all the intricate nuances of the music rather than bang my head in time to a regular 4/4 beat. As much as I adore prog, I’d never dream of tackling someone who loves Oasis and tell them that their choice in music is shit. Inferior, in terms of musicianship and perhaps also lyrically, but not shite. That’s an opinion being taken too far.

Why then do gamers resort to such a basic stance when it comes to opposing sides? Why even are there opposing sides? Why are we not just all ‘gamers’, living out a peaceful existence where we each understand the reason for the other to enjoy their choice of console, and never butting heads? I’ve never been a fanboy. I’d played the original PlayStation, tinkering around with Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo, but it never quite grabbed me and so I held off getting a console and stuck with my trusty Amiga and PC. It wasn’t until I saw Project Gotham Racing 2 showcasing the Xbox in the front window of Electronics Boutique that I had that inner tingling where what I was witnessing was enough to make me want this ugly black box, purely for the beautifully rendered graphics.

So, thanks to PGR 2, my first console was the original Xbox, but I came into it a little too late so most of the games were already out by the time I picked one up, and it was only a year later that I was given a shiny new Xbox 360 a month after release, along with the wonderfully immersive Oblivion. From that point on I almost stopped gaming on the PC entirely, dipping in and out now and again whenever I felt it was necessary for strategy games and other genres where the console just isn’t best suited. I was hooked. I had become an Xbox gamer, through and through.

Regardless, I was never a fanboy. It wasn’t even that I preferred the Xbox 360 to the PlayStation 3, because in order to have a preference you must first have a basis for comparison and, even though we owned a PlayStation 3, it was never actually used. It was there because we were gamers and, as such, it made sense to have both of the then-current generation consoles even though one was used daily while the other gathered dust. So enamoured were we with the Xbox 360, in fact, that we ended up with four of them. I had one in the lounge, as did Lorna, as well as one in the guest bedroom, and another in the dedicated gaming room upstairs. We were a multi-console family and rarely an evening passed where we weren’t glued to our respective screens.

When friends spoke of their love for the PlayStation 3, it fell upon deaf ears. To get a rise out of them, we’d often refer to our own PS3 as a “bread bin” or a “dust bunny” and even joked about opening it up and turning it into a toasted sandwich maker, which I believe someone eventually did, if memory serves. It wasn’t that we didn’t like the PS3 although, to be honest, I had to use one at E3 a few times and really didn’t like the feel of the controller – it was too light and… smooth. Far too smooth. But it was never hatred. I’ve never hated the thought of playing on any particular console… until now.

Somewhere along the way, Microsoft reached a demonic hand into my chest cavity, ripped out my heart, pissed on it, rolled it in shite, and shoved it back in upside down. Every single thing they announced about the Xbox One, and the way they regarded their loyal customers, was exactly the opposite of what I’d hoped for from them. It wasn’t about the aesthetics, as I absolutely loved my huge Marantz DVD player from the early ’90s, or the fact that they couldn’t really decide whether to go for a gloss or matt finish. Neither was it about the tech, as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One aren’t that much different in terms of what goes on under the hood. It was all about the attitude and reinforcing the way they’d started to go with the more recent dash updates where games were almost becoming secondary to sponsored content and entertainment. Even the marketing campaigns spoke of the Xbox One as a home entertainment system rather than a games console.

By the time the ‘next-gen’ had become ‘current-gen’, I had already sold both my Xbox 360s and had plunged feet-first into the vibrant waters of PC gaming once again, with all its ridiculously overpowered graphics architecture and more anisotropic filtering than you can shake a bump-map at. A mini gaming rig had been built for the lounge, taking permanent residence below Lorna’s lonely little Xbox 360, complete with a couple of sets of 3D glasses and a full license for TriDef 3D because, you know, sometimes you really want to experience being shot in the face by a Crimson Lance Guard as though you were really there. Suddenly, gaming had become exciting again, and the difference in quality and performance made me wonder why I ever stepped away from the PC in the first place.

Then something happened. With each new announcement from Sony, I became more drawn to their upcoming box of tricks to the point where we took a shot with the minuscule PlayStation 4 even though its predecessor still lay dormant and forgotten in… actually, I’m not even sure which room it’s in, or whether it’s still even plugged in. Either way, this was a risk, and for more than a few weeks it sat in its box on our lounge floor, being used by our two-year-old daughter as a stool, a step, and something to absorb the impact of high-velocity toys.

Its first outing as an actual games console came some time later, and it was Need For Speed: Most Franchised that ended up being the one to deflower it. It looked great, don’t get me wrong, and the weather effects added a little more immersion than previous incarnations, but there was nothing to reach out and grab you by the balls. Some months later, however, the PlayStation Plus membership has been used to build up the games collection, inFAMOUS: Second Son has taken over my life to the point where this weekend I will undoubtedly reach platinum status, and lounging on the sofa with the Vita streaming the remote gameplay put a smile on my face as large as I had that night when… well, never mind. In short, I fell in love with the PlayStation 4 in a big way.

Then, just when I thought I couldn’t possibly love it more, Sony released the 1.7 firmware upgrade. It was as though Jack Tretton had taken a cranial saw to me while I slept, rummaged around inside until he found the box marked “things I’d love a games console to do” and carried out each and every one of them. Just for me. No fucking around with external HD capture devices with cables trailing across the floor to a high-powered laptop, and no massive 10,000 rpm USB 3 hard drive ready to store all the video so it could be taken into Adobe Premiere and turned into the next Oscar-winning piece.

Instead, Sony somehow thought it would make sense to allow the gamer to capture their own video, edit it, add their own soundtrack, commentary, and even a picture-in-picture feature with the PlayStation camera. The cherry on this multi-tiered jizz cake was that all of this was being done by the PlayStation 4 itself and could then be exported to an external USB device with absolutely no fannying around.

And with that one upgrade, the angular box of tricks that I’d fallen in love with became the ultimate gaming machine for someone like me. It wasn’t all about Netflix, Spunkify, or however many sponsored ads could pollute the home screen… it was all about the most important person in this entire equation – the gamer. The person who sits down and enjoys playing games so much that when they do something remarkable, they want to share their joy with the world. They want to do it their way, in glorious 1080p, and they want to be able to transport it without uploading to some cloud somewhere. Of course, there’s much more to it than just this one upgrade but this is the first time in a long time where I’ve knowingly picked one camp over another.

There’s a Vita in my pocket and a PS4 under the TV, and I doubt that an Xbox One will ever find its way into my home. Not because I think the PlayStation 4 is a better machine, or that I still hate the way Microsoft went about everything with this generation, but because if the PS4 already does everything that I could possibly want it to do… why look elsewhere?

Last five articles by Mark R


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