Getting a Playstation 4 felt pretty frivolous at the time. As a PC gamer with a decent machine, there were very few games I didn’t have access to, and even fewer that I thought might hook me enough to retroactively warrant the purchase. In fact I had only identified three: The Last of Us Remastered (I’m not a huge fan of zombies, nor narrative-heavy adventure games), Bloodborne (I had already bounced off Dark Souls and Dark Souls II) and Destiny (I expected to lose interest rapidly in this shoot’n’loot, but was intrigued by the bizarrely mixed feedback it was getting). My purchase of a PS4 felt so non-essential, in fact, that I mostly just flirted with it. The furthest I got: buying a bundle on Amazon and canceling it five minutes later. “You don’t need this, Julian,” I told myself, “just be satisfied with your darn-good PC and stop acting like such a steaming pile of consumer privilege.” And so, for a few months, I just played footsy with the idea of owning a PS4. That seemed good enough. Maybe I would never own a sleek, disc-eating deathstar of my own, and maybe that was OK with me.
Enter Craigslist. Admittedly I had been trawling the site during work-hours, day-dreaming about the perfect unicorn: a cheap PS4 available near downtown Los Angeles. No such luck. 250 dollars. 300 dollars. Too much to take the plunge. My home remained a PC gamer’s abode, and I flitted like an ADHD hummingbird between Steam and GOG, with brief pauses to dip my beak into the complex floral deathtraps of Origin and Uplay. Then, one day, just when I had all but given up on becoming a console owner, it finally happened. A listing for the Playstation 4 appeared near me… and its price was set at 100 bucks. I messaged the guy immediately, praying that nobody had already done so, and by 10pm that night I was the proud owner of a PS4 with a scratched plastic surface (possibly due to cocaine usage) and a controller that felt a little cruddy. Other than that, it worked like a wonder, and within a few days I had bounced off Bloodborne, experienced quite a bit of fun with The Last of Us Remastered, bought a new controller, and met the flawed-but-infuriatingly-beautiful love of my life, Destiny.
What I did not expect, though, is how drawn I would be to console gaming, how much satisfaction I would derive from ownership, and how much less gaming action my PC would see in the coming months. I’ve tried to identify exactly what makes me fire up my PS4 and spend hours staring slack-jawed at its somewhat byzantine UI where I’m encouraged to purchase titles for a hefty 60 dollars and am subject to the petty tyrannies of PSN sales and *shudders violently* physical game discs. Here are some of the things I’ve come up with:
1. Limited choice and higher price-per-game. This makes me value each title more instead of buying a little of everything for an incredibly rebated price and then sitting in the middle of all my shiny new Lego, crying because I feel overwhelmed. Ownership also feels like a tangible thing on a console—my games are either in my digital library or in a little stack next to my PS4.
2. Playing games on their own terms. I don’t have to worry if there’s a better clone out there (E.G. Path of Exile instead of Diablo III), if someone is hacking the multiplayer experience (although the risk still exists), if I’m missing out on some amazing mods (judging by recent developments, this probably won’t last), or whether I have the correct version type… all of which cause paralysis, dissatisfaction, and even abandonment of the game altogether.
3. Sitting on my couch and using a controller. This is non-negligible as I experience significantly less back-pain and hand-wrist-elbow-pain as a result of my gaming sessions, plus a lot less eye-strain because I sit further from my television and don’t squint as much: the game UI’s are usually designed in accordance. Gaming becomes a more relaxing activity thanks to this.
4. Social features. Sure they exist on PC, but on PS4 I often find myself chatting to people through the streamlined PSN party system (even if we’re not playing the same game) or ‘meeting people’ in-game and adding them to my friends list. Whenever I turn on the PS4, in fact, I get a certain pleasure from just checking who’s online. It’s like I’m walking into a bar I know well. Sometimes old friends are there. Sometimes people I just know from work. Other times I spot a dude I once played a game of darts with. That dude wasn’t a bad dude. Nice to see him there playing whatever he’s playing at the moment. Seeing what other people are up to also turns me onto games I haven’t played yet. Play play play.
5. That’s it. What did you expect, a fucking ten-point listicle?
As I edge towards the end of this article, I realize many are going to read these words and feel like they should take sides. Please don’t. This is just the story of how a person who loves PC gaming also learned to love console gaming because of the specific experiences it can offer. There are plenty of elements of PC gaming that I find exciting, fascinating, or satisfying in their own special way. In fact I wrote this article not to galvanize each platform’s fangirls (and boys), but instead to celebrate the fact that console gaming surprised me by being so damn charming. I half-expected to feel alienated by its overall culture, out-of-touch with my fellow console gamers, and frustrated by the platforms’s limitations. Well I was wrong on all counts. Despite being relatively new to the console fiesta (I’m still learning stuff all the time about the PS4’s UI and functionalities!) picking up that controller feels a lot like coming home to a warm, familiar place. If you’re reading this, PC, I still love you. Also, how come you know how to read? Are you sentient? Please be a generous overlord to humanity. We’re dumb, I know, but we make great coffee.