This is part of our ongoing series about games and trends of one of the most longest-lived eras in gaming’s history — the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 generation.
With the release of Microsoft’s Xbox One on Friday, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 generation officially ended. It was a long, eventful time, and the Internet community was always there to comment and break out the Impact font. You can basically tell the entire story of the late console generation with Internet memes … so that’s what we did. Here are some of the most significant gaming events of the past eight years presented through jokes the Internet told itself.
(Click the images for a slightly larger version.)
May 12: Why is it called the Xbox 360?
Microsoft showed off its second console for the first time during an MTV special that featured actor Elijah Wood and a musical performance by The Killers. This was the first time we’d heard the phrase “Xbox 360,” and the joke below grew out of people trying to understand the name. Or it’s just a trolling method, which I’m not ruling out.
May 16: The PlayStation 3’s design choices
Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3 at 2005’s Electronic Entertainment Expo trade show (E3), and the Internet immediately had a few questions about the controller, the shape and size of the console, and Sony’s choice in fonts. But other than that, people were cool with the thing because it would be another year before we’d hear about pricing.
April 27: It’s called … what?
It’s weird to think that a time once existed where we didn’t know what a Wii was. On April 27, 2006, Nintendo ushered in the modern, post-Wii era when it announced that its new hardware would not be called the Revolution, which was its awesome development codename, but rather the Wii, which made sense to nobody. And we’ve pretty much been making jokes about it ever since.
May 8: Sony makes it all happen
Sony’s press briefing at E3 2006 gave the Internet a lot to work with. At least four enduring jokes came out of it — two from the same presentation of action title Genji: Days of the Blade, in which producer Bill Ritch touted the game’s levels as being based on “famous battles which actually took place in feudal Japan” before immediately discussing the finer points of fighting giant enemy crabs.
Sony finally revealed pricing on the PlayStation 3 at the same show, and it fell to chief Kaz Hirai to deliver the news: The PS3 would cost $600 at launch. This would have been enough to spur a rash of nerd rage, but the meme-worthiness of the incident came from Hirai’s phrasing that the system’s price would be “five hundred and ninety-nine U.S. dollars.”
Finally, we have to pick on Kaz Hirai again as he fell victim to genuine but sadly uninfectious enthusiasm. While showing off the original-PlayStation emulation capabilities of the PlayStation Portable handheld system, Hirai tried to build suspense around which game he was using to demo the feature. When the title screen came up, he uttered the two words that would be on his tombstone if the Internet ran a funeral parlor.
November: That poor kid
EB Games/GameStop’s 2006 holiday gift guide included an ad for the Xbox 360 featuring an awkward picture of a red-headed kid with an even more awkward quotation next to him. The denizens of Internet bulletin board 4chan went to work and churned out hundreds of images based on the poor ginger and his goofy expression.
Nov. 19: Wii would like to destroy your TV
When Nintendo’s motion-controlled console came out, a lot of people were enthused about it. So enthused, in fact, that the Internet began filling up with stories of Wii Remotes flying just right the hell out of players’ hands and putting holes in their TV screens. This one isn’t a meme in the traditional sense of “a picture with text in Impact font,” but all the cool kids started putting up videos of their mishaps on YouTube, and you could spend an afternoon watching thousands of dollars’ worth of high-grade electronics become garbage if that’s your thing.
January: Unlock all the Achievements
When the Xbox 360 launched in November 2005, it introduced the love-or-hate-it Achievements feature which rewards gamers with points for completing in-game tasks. It took over a year, but in January 2007, the first widely used fake Achievement generator appeared on the blog Technology-Ninja. And then the flood was upon us.
July 5: The Red Ring of Death
OK, so the Red Ring of Death, which represented a fatal hardware error in early Xbox 360s, existed before July 5, 2007. But that’s the day that Microsoft announced that it was extending the existing warranty on the console to three years to deal with the problem. But the Internet had already been hard at work for at least a year.
July 11: Nintendo’s Reggie Fils-Aime provides a status report
Nintendo introduced the Wii Balance Board at its E3 2007 press briefing, and it fell upon Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime to demo it onstage. When told he was about to go through a “body check” in Wii Fit, Fils-Aime announced his preparedness with a slightly awkward “My body is ready.” Much like it did when he first said it, the line just kind of sat there for a while. But almost three years later, in June 2010, people apparently decided it was worth a few hundred pictures.
Oct. 1: Nintendo wants your Wii to be safe
After we lost all those TVs to Wii Fever — not to mention teeth, lamps, and friendships — Nintendo responded by offering a more durable wrist strap for its Wii controllers. But apparently, this wasn’t quite enough safety, so in October 2007, it rolled out the Wii Remote Jacket: a rubbery protective cover that would hopefully make any remotes with aspirations of flight bounce off of any expensive electronics or faces it might meet along its trajectory. But the Internet had an idea of what else that sounded like.
Oct. 9: The day that cast doubt upon dessert
When developer Valve released its Orange Box — a collection of five games running on its Source graphics engine — the title that generated the least interest before release was Portal. Try to remember what that was like: We lived in a world in which nobody was excited about Portal. As it turned out, however, the bite-sized puzzle game was probably the most popular thing in The Orange Box, and its villain, the evil A.I. GLaDOS, instilled in us a strange fascination with cake and the authenticity thereof.
PS3 has no games
The console war between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 included arguments about online functionality, controllers, graphics, and comparisons between each system’s library of exclusive games. Two years after the PlayStation 3’s release, 4chan decided that its catalog, which was smaller than the Xbox 360’s and the Wii’s, meant that the system had no games at all, and the idea spread from there because that’s how the Internet works.
Sept. 25: The Florida Supreme Court disbars Jack Thompson
You’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer who sympathizes with Jack Thompson. The Florida lawyer became the face of reactionary antigaming when he regularly spoke out against home consoles, which he called “murder simulators” and “dangerous physical appliances that teach a kid how to kill efficiently and to love it.” He was particularly not a fan of developer Rockstar Games and its publisher Take-Two Interactive; he filed suits to keep titles like Grand Theft Auto IV, Bully, and Manhunt 2 out of stores, specifically citing what he called Bully’s “gay sexual content” (main character Jimmy Hopkins can kiss boys in the game). On Sept. 25, 2008, after months of proceedings, the Florida Supreme Court approved Thompson’s disbarment based on complaints of harassment and making defamatory statements. The gaming community was not too sad to hear the news.
June 1: The mystery of the bottom of your Xbox 360 Avatar’s shoes
At E3 2009, Microsoft gave us our first look at the motion controller we came to know as Kinect (they called it “Project Natal” back then). To show off the versatility of the new hardware, creative director Kudo Tsunoda asked, “You ever wonder what the bottom of your Avatar’s shoes look like? Well, bam! There it is.” Except there it wasn’t, because Tsunoda’s Avatar suffered a glitch and adopted a pose that was as ridiculous as it was humanly impossible.
June 2: Nintendo is just checking to see if you’re still alive
At its E3 2009 press briefing, Nintendo showed a picture of its latest planned peripheral: the Wii Vitality Sensor. Nobody said anything about what it did or what kinds of games the hardware maker was planning for it, but the idea of a device that ran between your Wii Remote and index finger was enough for the Internet to work with.
June 2: Sony unveils its exciting, new-ish portable hardware and controller
Sony’s PSP Go handheld system was a little confusing. It cost more at launch ($249) than the existing PlayStation Portable ($199), and it only played downloaded games, so owners of PSPs had little reason to upgrade because they couldn’t play the physical games they’d already bought.
The same day, Sony showed off its prototype for the PlayStation Move, its answer to the Wii’s motion controls. It used different interface and was more precise than the Wii Remote, but that didn’t matter because it looked funny and was still kind of like the Wii.
Jan. 10: Pressing X becomes hilarious
This date marked the release of the first PS3 demo for Quantic Dreams’ interactive film-ish title, Heavy Rain. The demo included a now-infamous scene in which hero Ethan Mars searches for his son in a mall. While moving Mars around, players could also press the X button to call the boy’s name. This had no direct functional purpose in the game, but it did spin off a bunch of funny images, shirts, and a Flash game, so it wasn’t completely useless.
March 1: The PlayStation 3 Leap Day bug
On March 1, owners of older-model PS3s had difficulty signing into the PlayStation Network online service (PSN). It just wasn’t happening. And more mysteriously, their system clocks started reading Dec. 31, 1999. The problem turned out to be an issue in the hardware; the system thought that 2010 was a leap year, and in addition to the PSN issues, the bug also rendered consoles incapable of playing games. The issue sorted itself out once the nonexistent day passed, and the Internet managed to keep itself entertained while it was waiting for its systems to work again.
June 14: Taste the adorable rainbow
At 2010’s E3, Microsoft brought out several new titles for its Kinect motion controller. One of these games, Kinectimals, had a stage demo in which a cute little girl played with an in-game tiger named Skittles. This baffled the Internet community so much that it just started putting Skittles into every game it could think of.
April 20: Whoops
On April 20, PSN went down again. On April 23, Sony announced that it had shut it down because of an “external intrusion.” The hackers might have stolen 77 million users’ personal information, which included addresses, birthdays, online IDs, and maaaaybe, you know, credit card information.
June 14: The Duke Nukem Forever joke ends … well, the one about it never coming out, anyway
We first heard about Duke Nukem Forever in 1996. It came out in 2011, and everyone got so used to it being this thing that someone was constantly working on that we weren’t really prepared for it to actually come out. But it wasn’t very good, so it still provided some laughs even after its 15-year development.
Nov. 11: The most common career-ending injury in Tamriel
When Skyrim, the fifth installment in developer Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls epic role-playing series, came out on 11/11/11, players started to notice something about the game’s guards. It seemed like a lot of them had once been adventurers like us, but then tragedy struck like an arrow to the knee. Exactly like an arrow to the knee, in fact.
March 6: Everyone loves Mass Effect 3
The Mass Effect sci-fi action-role-playing series started in 2006 with one promise: The player’s choices will matter. In 2012, the third and final part of hero Commander Shepard’s quest to save the galaxy arrived, and absolutely everyone was satisfied with the ending. Oh, wait, no. They hated it.
May 15: Diablo III launches. Except the opposite of that
Action-role-playing game Diablo III was one of the most anticipated titles of 2012. And then it came out, and nobody could start it. The issue came from the game requiring everyone who played it to maintain an Internet connection at all times, and it turns out that that sort of thing will clog the servers right up. With Diablo III unavailable, the Internet decided to keep itself busy making silly pictures about Error 37, the problem’s official name.
March 5: It happens again
Almost a year after the small problem with Diablo III, developer Maxis and publisher EA released a new title in its SimCity urban-planning series. Like Diablo III, it required a constant Internet connection, even when playing the single-player mode. And also like Diablo III, its fans found themselves unable to play due to network outages and server issues.
April 12: Phil Fish vs. Minecraft
Developer Mojang’s creation game Minecraft is almost an entry in itself if for no other reason than the “___ rebuilt in Minecraft” posts that started showing up all over the place since the game came out in November 2011. But then one brave man stood up and said, “No more.” That man was Phil Fish, the maker of indie puzzle game Fez. He called for an end to the posts on Twitter. And then an hour later, this happened. And so a comment about a meme became a part of that meme, and the Internet opened up and swallowed itself like Pac-Man.
This list is obviously not comprehensive. If you have a favorite self-sustaining joke from this console generation, let us know in the comments.
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