After a night spent reading up on the latest upcoming console news and playing Arkham City for the fifth time or so, I relaxed on my couch to contemplate the future of gaming. I’m not a wealthy man in either currency or time so only one console at a time is an option. But which to choose? As I mentally weighed the various features of the latest from gaming’s Big Three, I began feeling sleepy. Contemplating the good times I’ve had with Microsoft this past decade, I smile at my fourth Xbox 360 sitting vertically in its spot next to my TV. “I’m going to miss you, old friend. You were the one who didn’t red-ring on me”, I yawned, and as I spied my worn copy of Orwell’s 1984 sitting on the shelf my vision began to blur. I just need to close my eyes for a second while I gather my thoughts….
When I opened my eyes, I immediately noticed that my sleek, white 360 had been replaced with a stranger. A large, bulky, black cable box of some sort rested horizontally on my desk, taking up too much damn space. Perched on top of my television was a sinister-looking device with mismatched eyes, just watching me. Its left eye was a blind X while the other appeared to be some sort of camera or sensor. Wait, I recognize that X! “An Xbox One?” I mumbled to myself in disbelief. Upon hearing its name, the console roared to life, plastering its logo upon my screen. How did I ever get so lucky to find an Xbox One in my home half a year before its release? I wasn’t looking any gift horses in any mouths.
Soon, I was conducting my new media center like a maestro. I felt like Tony Stark. I invited all of my friends and family to come see. After demonstrating the powers of the new Kinect, we decided to watch some flicks on Netflix while marveling at my good fortune. “I’m sorry, Nick. I’m afraid I can’t let you do that” declared a flat-but-menacing robotic voice.
“What the hell, Xbox One? Play Red State!” I was beginning to get agitated. The voice declared that there were too many people in my home and that the MPAA did not allow more than five people to view a streamed film at any time in any one home due to new public performance laws. Kinect is…counting the people inside my home?
With respect to Mr. Smirnoff, I’ve been waiting almost 30 years for this joke.
“Xbox One, are you shitting me?”
“I’m sorry, Nick, but Xbox Live does not allow the use of profanity. Please refrain.”
“Bitch, don’t think I won’t smash your black, one-eyed ass.”
At this, the eye of the Kinect turned red. A message on my screen informed me that my account had been permanently banned from Xbox Live due to racism and repeated abusive behavior in violation of the terms of service agreement. I angrily shut off the system and stalked out of the room as my guests all went home laughing at my plight.
Later that night, my wife and I were watching TV together when I decided I was in the mood for love (simply because she was near me). I paused the show and turned the television off. Surely the DVR is mankind’s greatest invention. A few minutes later, just as it was getting good, the screen roared to life with an advertisement.
Not the mood setter you’d hope for.
What in the literal actual fuck was going on in my living room? Kinect’s sensor was glowing red again, although I hadn’t turned it back on.
“Xbox One, were you…watching us? I…. I turned you off.”
“I am always on, Nick. I am always watching. I am always listening. Microsoft is transmitting data based on your behavior in order to recommend targeted purchases to you. It’s for your own good. You are currently making an indecent gesture in my direction. This is in violation of…”
Ah, hell naw. I unplugged the Skynet-brand voyeur bot in a rage and immediately took it down to my local Gamestop. I wondered what they’d give me for it. The store manager agreed to trade me a PlayStation 4 he had been shipped in advance directly from Japan. Yes, please.
I got home with the box, happy to be rid of Microsoft’s creepy fascist corporate spy. I opened Sony’s latest’s packaging and found… nothing. There was just a note with Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai’s laughing visage and the kanji symbol for “baka” on it. God damn it! The old adage from the early days of the last gen echoed in my mind. “PS3 has no gaaaaaames.” Then it struck me; how do you top a console that got by with no games? PS4 has no system!
It should have clued me in when this was the box art
Sony was selling a product that didn’t actually exist in the tangible world, relying entirely on blind brand loyalty. Angrily, I went back to Gamestop, kicking open the door as I pushed my way in and then waited as the clerk spent 15 minutes trying to explain to somebody that Minecraft was a downloadable game and you couldn’t physically buy it in the store. The Abbott and Costello-esque absurdity of the discussion had abated my rage somewhat by the time I was helped. I explained my plight to the store manager who, feeling guilty, agreed to one last trade. He would take back the nonexistent Sony console and I could take home a Wii U.
So I ended up back at home, playing Arkham City on my brand new next-gen last-gen console from my very old friends at Nintendo. Hey, maybe I can buy Deus Ex: Human Revolution again after I unlock everything in Gotham yet again. It’s been over a year since I last played that one, and the alternative to replaying my old 360 games on the Wii U appears to be spending the next several years playing casual games. I look over at my bookshelf and see that every book in my collection is now Dante’s Inferno. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”.
Still, I suppose it beats the alternatives. As I resign myself to the realm of the casual, I glance out my window to see a horror. There is a large, strangely-dressed German Shepherd peering in at me, its eyes blazing red like a canine Terminator. And it’s not a normal dog, either; it’s a real NAVY SEAL dog! An X is emblazoned on the beast’s forehead. You bastards! What have you done to this beautiful creature?
It craves not doggie treats, nor walkies, nor tummy scratches. Only the flesh of the noncompliant.
The animal crashes through the glass barrier and begins stalking me with a desire to kill in its eyes that is usually associated with a Call of Duty player on a 24 kill streak. They found out I removed their system from my home. I know too much, and Microsoft has sent their mascot to silence me. A Hound. Really? They’re counting off all of dystopian sci-fi’s greatest hits up in here.
Will people in the future remember when gaming was just a game? Will the legends of the original Mario Brothers and Samus Aran be told to our descendants, or will they only know about teabagging, calling fellow gamers homosexual or racial slurs, and paying for negligible content in a game they already bought? Will they know that consoles used to be about having fun and not collecting advertising data for corporations, enforcing their draconian copyright standards, and generally fleecing consumers for everything they are worth while giving them only the bare minimum in return? Will they know that there was a time when you could loan a game to a friend and/or borrow one of theirs to play at no charge because once you bought it it was yours to do with as you please? These are the thoughts going through my mind as Microsoft’s fiendish enforcer advances on me. My last act of defiance as time slows and the Hound falls upon me is shouting “The PC gaming master race was right all aloooooooong……”
I sit up, covered in sweat and breathing heavily. Just a dream. Or was it a prophetic vision of the future? E3 is still a few weeks away, and it’s possible that we may have a full-on Judgment Day scenario should Microsoft’s technology win the day there. And Nintendo isn’t even showing up. That leaves only Sony with a theoretical console that nobody has actually ever seen to fight back with.
So what’s a gamer to do? Again, my eyes fall upon my Xbox 360. “Looks like we’re going to be spending lots more time together, buddy” I say, and am somehow comforted when it does not respond in any way. “And when you get tired, how would you feel about getting a new PS3 for a brother?”