Many gamers have fond childhood memories of Mario or Sonic. My youth, however, was filled with space marines on Mars and tech trees.
When I reached the tender age of 11, my parents decided to buy me a computer. This computer also came with copies of Civilization, Warcraft, Privateer, X-Com, TIE Fighter, and Doom, courtesy of my uncle. These were really the games that I grew up on — they formed the foundation of my hobby.
For the next six years, my PC was the only thing I played. I even became a competitive player in Team Fortress (the mod for Quake), Tribes, and Counter-Strike. No Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, or PS2 for me. Consequently, I have extremely biased tastes.
However, since my family views me as a gamer, I have ended up owning the main consoles for this generation anyway. I received an Xbox 360 as a gift, my wife received a Wii as a gift, and I bought her a DS because she’s a fan of the Nintendo classics and platformers. The only system we didn't have was a PS3. And I began to wonder what all the hubbub was about.
From my viewpoint, the 360 served as a Geometry Wars 2 and Forza machine. For everything else, it felt like an underperforming PC. The Wii was nothing more than a short distraction, and the DS was a Civilization Revolution machine. In total, I probably didn’t put more than 20 hours of gaming into the console world in the past five years.
I had often looked over the PS3 threads on various forums and blogs with bewilderment. How can so many people have so much fun playing games where all you do is hit the X button when asked or sit through hours of cut-scenes? In my mind, this medium is supposed to be about emergent narrative integrated with gameplay. I didn't see that.
However, a few PS3 titles stuck out to me as wildly interesting: Demon’s Souls, Valkyria Chronicles, Flower, Infamous, and the PixelJunk series. So last Christmas I decided I’d finally take the plunge — I bought a PS3 with the games named above and jumped in.
My first impression was probably the most important compliment that I can give a console: It was treating me like an adult. The system had a clean interface, no silly avatars, and no overly comical menu. I spent quite a bit of time diving deep into Demon’s Souls and Valkyria Chronicles. These two games felt so unique and immersive that I finally started to see what I had been missing out on. They didn't hold my hand, and they both had a very difficult learning curve, which is something I’ve always appreciated. Again, Sony's console treated me like a grown-up.
Flower and PixelJunk Eden were mind-opening experiences for me — I found myself enjoying them even though they are extremely linear games where it is nearly impossible to fail. The magic of these titles is that, although everyone paints the same picture in the game, how you paint that picture is entirely up to you. This led me to Katamari Forever, which I can't praise enough.
After 16 years of being almost exclusively a PC gamer, I now find myself dedicating a decent amount of time to a console. There really is nothing like these types of experiences on the PC — that's why I find myself constantly pulled back to the couch. In addition to that, they hit some of the same chords that a classic PC gamer appreciates: immersion, emergence, and integrated narrative.
For you PC gamers holding out or those who feel they haven't quite clicked with the Japanese game design aesthetic yet, the PS3 is definitely worth a shot. You might find yourself surprised. I know I did.