PlayStation 5 is almost upon us. We are close to the reveal event where we will, hopefully, see the level of product we’ll be experiencing for the next few years. I am excited. Sony has quite rightly delayed this event considering the current events happening in the USA. It’s important that we take note of this. I want to believe Sony have done this out of genuine understanding for the black community; to allow their voices to be heard at this time and that this isn’t just a capitalist stunt. There are loads of black and minority voices in gaming (and the wider world) that you should be reading work from; black streamers to follow, and hopefully friends you can play games with, even if it simply serves as downtime and escapism for them.
If you have five minutes to spare to read how PlayStation has been with me through my life please continue. Though I completely understand that there are others to be supporting at this time who you should seek out.
To understand my excitement for the PS5 I wanted to share my past experiences with PlayStation. I’ve never explored in writing why I like PlayStation. I could be accused of being a Sony Pony, a fanboy. I mean, I have been. I think I’m someone who enjoys a product and is invested in an ecosystem over another system. It’s not always better than those others, far from it, and I would never shout anyone down for their choice of console. All have a place, mine is with PlayStation.
I’ve owned various iterations of every PlayStation home console. Actually, that’s not true. I didn’t own a PlayStation (1994). We had one in the house, it just happened to belong to my brother who I shared a room with. If memory serves, it was a late Christmas present from our parents after what I assume was a good few months of work for my father. We got the PlayStation a few years after release, in early 1998 after a friend had let us borrow one for a weekend. I was 13 and my brother was 11. See how I said we got one: the entitlement of an older brother. It was a huge jump from the Mega Drive games we’d been playing prior to this. Games like FF7 and Metal Gear Solid really cemented that gaming was my chosen hobby over everything I was doing, had done, and was still to experience. The depth of experience from these games was new and felt permanent. I experienced story rather than stages, characters rather than animations. My brother and I had enjoyed the Mega Drive but had never lost hours to it. This changed with the PS1 and the huge games that it supported. We were older too; still kids but I was in my early teens dragging my brother up to experience games at a younger age than he otherwise may have. We’d get home from school and play and it remained a staple of the majority of my secondary school experience. It was a conversation starter for those of us whose parents could afford one and bonded me to friends I still have today. PlayStation was there through school, friendships and my parents’ divorce. Games had always been a nice distraction and for the latter, it was very welcome. Gaming had always been a form of escapism but it wasn’t until Final Fantasy 8 that I felt a familiarity I could relate to. It depicted angsty teens finding their place in the world whilst still being a fantasy story that was far enough removed from reality. It resonated at a time when I needed something more from games than simply a distraction to forget about a lost football match down the park. The relationships of these teenagers in an unfamiliar and fantastical world, thrust into a civilisation-saving situation was obviously different from my own experiences. Yet it allowed me time to reflect on situations outside of my own bubble and how family relationships could change.
For the PS1 and PS2 eras my brother and I played a lot of games together. We’d batter each other on Tekken or a SmackDown game and then take it in turns playing single-player Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater or Grand Theft Auto 3. My brother and I got the PS2 as a shared Christmas present the year of release (it was a pricey console, hence the joint gift with one control pad). We shared many a fun weekend staying up late at our dad’s house taking turns playing games. From blitzing through Final Fantasy X or experiencing the best Metal Gear in MGS3 Snake Eater we had plenty of games to keep us occupied and together. Even when I left school to attend college we still bonded over PlayStation. I had plenty of friends in college who had the original Xbox and those early Microsoft games like Halo, which I enjoyed with them. I had more free time in college and the ability to walk to a mate’s house and play Halo during a free period. Still, I’d always come back to the PS2 and my brother at the end of the day. These games also helped to expand our tastes and, combined with the influence of other media and friends, pushed my brother and me to become our own people. Whether it was a choice of a radio station in San Andreas or a style of car to drive in Gran Turismo 3, we started to diverge and enjoy different things.
By the time the PS3 came out, I had already moved away from home to go to university. My brother and I opted to have another shared Christmas present the year of its European release. My brother, who was also at uni (I went late after partying for a few years), elected to live in our home town and alternate between my parents’ places, so that’s where the PS3 lived. When I visited I played a good amount of games on weekends and during holidays. There were a lot of single-player games I hadn’t yet experienced to catch up on. Games like Heavenly Sword, which was purchased with the console, or Resistance Fall of Man were reasonable games to pass the control pad between us using the old life and/or level sharing system. Plus we had a shared desire to be better than each other at Call of Duty 4. We didn’t spend as much time gaming as we used to; drinking and late nights out took us away from that but we still shared a competitive game when we’d both get home. At my student house I had a slim PS2 that my brother bought me as a birthday gift. I caught up on a lot of party games with the friends I lived with. Games like Guitar Hero and San Andreas went hand in hand with drinking before nights out. We all got pretty good at Guitar Hero; even being able to play the plastic guitar behind our heads (we thought we were cool). Games at this point were deeper conversation starters. We’d discuss the state of society, music, the depiction of characters and their place in the world. These were conversations I’d already been thinking about, now I’d share them with others and expand my thinking from their experiences. This is where games became more than a hobby for me and much more of a passion; something I wanted to actively engage with and discuss.
My brother ended up buying a newer model of the PS3 and I got to take on the original 60GB fat boy. This was 2009 and towards the end of my 5-year stint at university. I think the first game I played once I had the PS3 at my place was Batman Arkham Asylum, which is still one of the best games on that console. This was swiftly followed by Uncharted 2. I had moved almost entirely into single-player experiences at this point. I was still studying whilst the friends I lived with had jobs. I’d play a lot of CoD Black Ops with my housemate in the evenings but on the days when I didn’t attend uni, I was alone in the house. A good story and fun gameplay saw me through some lonely days. They broke up the monotony of toiling at uni work and suffering a big creativity block, the latter being an issue when you study architecture and design. Gaming became a form of escapism again rather than the shared experience it had mostly been. This time it was escapism from the reality of finishing a degree and finding work during an economic recession, which was a case of getting any job available: mostly temp work. My days would consist of working on whatever I had been offered; searching for Architecture jobs, which were scarce, once I got home; and losing myself in gaming until the early hours of the morning. Games like Dead Space and Red Dead Redemption immersed me in their worlds in which I would spend hours. Others like InFamous and Assassin’s Creed 2 had me searching for items utilising the fun move sets they provided.
I’d met my future wife at this point: someone who’d played a little Street Fighter but not much else. She wasn’t one to play games with me and had plenty of other interests that we shared. When we moved in together and I stopped living with friends I only played when I had time to myself. This was more than I’d expected at that point to be fair. Mornings before work and a few evenings a week became my prime times to play. Not living with someone who gamed changed my habits a little too. Playing Battlefield 3 and 4 online allowed me to play with others and replaced the Call of Duty sessions I used to have with housemates. The most gratification I got though came from single-player games. Journey and The Last of Us are standout games for me from that generation. Both have fantastic narratives and atmosphere and produce a swell of emotions (especially Journey in its short playtime). It was for those reasons I think my wife became interested. She didn’t play either of those two games but she did watch my playthrough; she got to experience the story and the emotion that came with it. She really enjoyed The Last of Us (and is looking forward to watching Part II when I play it) though she would often leave the room during the combat with the infected. She’s not into horror so didn’t quite have the same experience as me, missing the more tense feeling of playing. We have that shared experience and I’m glad I saw the PS3 out with that game. The Last of Us did have me shell out for a new model PS3 though. The original fat boy just couldn’t keep up with it and the game would crash after the title screen and then fail to load. Cleaning and renewing the thermal paste made no difference so I traded it in for that light, slide top model which I hated. At least I got to play a game that became one of my favourites and have those bonding moments with my now wife over my passion.
All this brings me up to the current generation and the PS4. I didn’t get one straight away, waiting almost a year after its release. I filled that time with plenty of PS Plus games that I had accumulated over the years: Bioshock Infinite, The Puppeteer and Borderlands 2 became the stand out games from that pile. A friend I’d met at university had moved and lived a few streets over from us. He had picked up a PS4 before I did. I’d jog down to his house for a game of FIFA or CoD Ghosts a couple of times a week. It gave me a little of what I’d missed from several years ago: that shared experience of playing together (or against in FIFAs case). When I got my PS4 I didn’t have a huge amount of games for it. I started with Shadow of Mordor, which I was a lukewarm on and InFamous Second Son, which was fun but didn’t hold me for long. Both of these games showcased the huge playgrounds and the quality the system could achieve in those early years, giving a taste of much bigger and better experiences to come. Before my daughter was born I was able to invest more time into epics such as The Witcher 3, which is one of my favourite games. The Witcher 3 really showcases what the PS4 can do: its fluid motion, depth of story and breadth of world-building make it a masterpiece and that wasn’t even built solely for the console. Experiences like God of War and Death Stranding have blown me away. Red Dead Redemption 2 (albeit not an exclusive) and, again, Death Stranding had me weeping. Spider-Man was fun and a joy to play.
Several months after my daughter was born we discovered she had a milk intolerance which had been an issue for months without us understanding why. Her reflux was so bad that my wife and I had to take it in turns to sit up all night with her on us, upright, simply so she could sleep. Guess who my best friend was during that time? You’re right: the PS4. I played plenty of Battlefield 1 with a bunch of friends. I experienced larger expansive games and smaller games that I may have missed otherwise such as Furi. I spent a lot of time in No Man’s Sky which was amazingly relaxing. There was something about exploring a galaxy alone whilst I had my daughter asleep on me. It was peaceful, serene. During that time I also had a home break-in. Whilst we were asleep upstairs someone came in and took the PlayStation 4 and my prized, exclusive, gold and black-backed DS4. To say I was shaken about the break-in, let alone being robbed of a device that was keeping me sane in some rough months, would be an understatement. To top that off I’d bought Uncharted Lost Legacy that day and had it in the machine. It also had P.T. loaded onto it; this was after it was no longer available to download. ‘Absolutely gutted’ may just convey how I felt; a mix of pure anger and loss would probably be closer. I wrangled with home insurance (we also had a laptop and a few other things stolen for which we had to find receipts) and moved to my PC to play games for some downtime. This wasn’t the same: my setup wasn’t comfortable and it was primarily a work PC. I waited around 8 weeks until a Black Friday sale to finally purchase a new PS4. Order was restored but I don’t think I’ll ever get over having my beautiful angular PS4 taken. The only good thing to take from that experience was that we were all upstairs out of the way during the break-in; no one was hurt.
The PS4 is tied to my wife and daughter as much as the early PlayStations were tied to my brother. When I think of PlayStation 4 I think of the experiences I’ve shared with my family, from The Last of Us with my wife to smaller games with my, now, 3-year-old who has loved Sonic Forces, Hidden Through Time and Donut County. My daughter is becoming more involved, wanting to play games and often asking if I’ve anything new for her to try. I’m discovering games that are more appropriate for her age that I otherwise would have missed. This will absolutely continue with the PS5 and I cannot wait to help my daughter find experiences she’ll remember sharing with me.