A 95 year old version of me lies on his deathbed recanting tales of my youth to future generations. The room is filled with hushed silence as they humour the last words of an old fool.
‘Before that time we were bound to objects like dogs on a leash; unable to relax in our chairs; to truly feel control as an extension of our body all the while fearful of pulling the plug in the heat of battle.’
So it was in a time before wireless controllers, for me the number one innovation of this generation of gaming. When Microsoft announced and released the Xbox 360 in May 2005, they announced a slew of ‘next generation’ ideas including achievements and improved networking with your friends via the upgraded Xbox Live infrastructure. While it is usually the upgrade in graphical prowess that many fervently await, with new hardware it is the other incidental announcements that are the legacy.
I am old enough to remember wired remote controls. We could enjoy home Betamax movies much like the cinema from the comfort of our own chairs. I thought the future had arrived then but the advancements in the next 20 years (give or take) would boggle the mind of the young man who thought that was the pinnacle of the home of modern entertainment. We finally got rid of the wire from the remote, microwaves became the saviour of the modern man (lazy and wanting fed in around 90 seconds) and the internet became a reality.
It is really a special thing to have lived in a time juxtaposed between the pre-internet and post-internet phase. It is special because we can appreciate what an incredible change happened in modern society. Almost overnight, the Encyclopaedia Britannica was made obsolete as all the information in the world was available at the click of a button. Yet, for all the demons that the internet possesses the primary human disposition is the need to ‘network’ and find people of similar nature. Sexual fiends, Playboy aficionados and sports fans would meet up every night and talk about everything but their interests. Life would never be the same again.
It wasn’t long before the real geeks took over. The social deviants known as gamers / nerds – in those days there was no discernible difference – had a means of playing together. The copper wires that joined houses across the world were their playground. Bulletin boards were used to replace play by mail and when baud and bit rates became more attuned to the consciousness, proper online gaming was inevitable.
Consoles were missing the online jewel for generations. Sure, the PlayStation 2 and Dreamcast had their version of network adapters but they were still restricted to the tech savvy and the hard-core. It wasn’t until the launch of the original Xbox that a company had set about installing a backbone that would support every user that they had. I can remember coming home from work every day to log on and play Rainbow Six Vegas with a group of American, Australian and European friends. There was a regular group of 12 people who met every single night and regaled tales of ineptitude in our online game of choice. Their gamertags still roll off the tongue, even though we haven’t played together for years; Fiveslasher, Spud and Audie L. Murphy. It wasn’t about getting better at the game or being the best. It was about camaraderie and meeting in the same place every night.
I recall one night Spud, an Aussie whose only tactic was to sit and try and detonate remote mines, exclaimed after his 2nd kill of the night - it just goes to show how effective the remote mine is – that he was away to try and go for it with the wife because he was on a hot streak. He promptly disconnected. Nobody could stop laughing for around half an hour. It spoke to how close we had become in a virtual space and the world of opportunity that Microsoft had created. I was in, wholeheartedly.
The 360 moved things on apace and I have been an avid supporter and picked up many more friends over the years, even if my family circumstances mean that I can no longer devote the kind of time that I once had. While I consider the tech to be end of last gen there is no doubt that the masses have adopted it en masse with this set of hardware.
Still, the old man’s hands were cupped in the shape of his old friend, thumbs poised to adjust to any oncoming enemy; trigger fingers ready to snap.
And with that, the old man breathed his last…