Thoughts on Console Wars

The war of “which console is better” has always been good for starting a flame war.  As such, it’s always with a certain trepidation that writers tackle the issue.  That’s no less true with me.  I’d sat on this musing for a while—but the time has come for me to put my own thoughts down on the matter.

Some gamers I’ve talked with think the Console Wars started with the era of the X-Box and PS2.  The truth is that it started much earlier than that, with Sega and Nintendo.  While the history of video games is a long and multi-faceted one, there wasn’t really as much of a “ours is better” concept in marketing (yes, it got started with marketing, not the gamers) until Sega and Nintendo got into a tiff.

At first, both consoles ran commercials playing to their strengths—the game play.  Eventually, however, Sega began focusing more on what Nintendo supposedly couldn’t do.  For starters, Sega commercials played up the Genesis’ “blast processing”, which means next to nothing.  Then they came out with commercials like this, which was about as brash as you could get without using expletives.

Genesis does…
Sixteen-bit arcade graphics.
You can’t do this on Nintendo!

Set to the finest cheesy beat the ‘Eighties had to offer.  There were a lot of those commercials, too.

What started initially as a marketing tool soon became embraced by gamers, and it’s still prevalent to this day.  You’ll still easily find people who stick to their “one-twenty-eight-bit systems”, even in the face of pointing out why such a thing is irrelevant.

To hopefully not derail this too much, all the “bits” in the term “<whatever>-bit system” means is word-length.  Processors work with words, specifically the length of words, but it’s not limited to using one word.  For a good though lengthy discussion that tries to keep it all in “plain English”, look here.

Console wars are pretty irrelevant, as a whole.  The best way to decide what console to get is to see what games are available for it.  That’s common sense, really—if you like more games that are on a Sony console, get a Sony console.  If you like more games on a Microsoft console, get a Microsoft console.  Same for Nintendo.

It’s common sense, but it doesn’t seem to actually be very common.  I think this is another of those things that affects younger gamers more than older gamers.  That’s not to disparage them, of course, or say they’re somehow mentally deficient or anything.  At worst, it’s really just ignorance on the part of gamers who don’t know any better.  As I’ve said before, sometimes the worst division in gamers as a community is the ignorance of other gamers.

That’s what makes the “console wars” more annoying, especially to those of us who deal more with varying kinds of gamers.  Even if we’re the sort who is happy to quietly enjoy our X-Box because we’re into titles like Halo, when we play multi-player there’s a decent chance we’ll hear tirades against other consoles and their gamers, which actually also affect the ones who like the same console as the ones giving the tirades.

Or we’ll be going into our local game store looking for new Wii titles, only to hear other customers snicker about the Wii being “for kids”.  It goes on and on and on.

The best—perhaps the only, really—good reaction to have is tolerance.  Like with any other issue that may be a result of a difference between older and younger gamers, the best reaction is to accept that we weren’t so different at that age.  Heck, for my generation’s youth, some school ground fights were caused not by consoles, but comic books.  To this day, “Marvel versus D.C.” still is cause for contention among a few of my generation.

We should remember that, and how silly it is.  It’s just as silly to bicker over console choices.  We should be only concerned with buying the games we like, on the consoles that give us more of what we want.

This is true even for the “computer versus console” war, for nearly the exact same list of reasons.  Certain games play better on a computer than on a console, and vice-versa.  That doesn’t make either way to play superior, just better for that gamer.

This, too, is a common sense issue—get what you like, don’t worry about things you don’t like.  The problem is that it’s not common—but it can be.  Plenty of web sites out there extol the virtues of patience and tolerance.  Whether they’re big-name sites like I.G.N. and GameSpot or small-name blogs like Retro-ish Gaming Critic—everyone’s saying the same thing—don’t worry about the side of the fence you aren’t on.


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