Where Last-Gen Gaming Went Wrong

I don't know about the rest of you, but I care so little about the next generation of gaming that I made a point of collecting a bunch of retro games - as a last hoorah of game buying if you will. I'd be inclined to say, "I'm just at that age - I'm growing out of the hobby." But I don't think that's it at all. The next generation looks like a bleak and undesirable place, and I'm confident it's something I won't be contributing my money to.

Indeed - when I was 17, as I rode in the back seat of my mom's car with my new PS3 80GB Motorstorm bundle, I made a point of saying that would be my last generation of gaming. Fast forward 6 years - although I didn't truthfully expect it, my words then were true. Before I bought the PS3, I was extremely concerned about the direction of gaming - even in 2007, I noted that quality, Japanese games were disappearing and largely being replaced with western (and westernized) games. I was extremely concerned that physical games were being phased out, and that dense, single-player campaigns would largely be replaced with invasive online components and half-assed single player modes. It's scary, honestly, how right I was.

As I look ahead to the PS4 and the XBone, I see something even darker - a gaming industry were the greys and browns have been refined to more and more hues of grey and brown, an industry where artistic merit, entrepreneurial spirit and creative ambition have been largely replaced by focus testing and lowest common denominator appeal... And it's not something that appeals to me at all.

Interestingly, as much as I once bemoaned the death of no-strings-attached physical content, I've found a sort of home away from home with Steam. I've always been a huge fan of Greenlight, but the sort of things produced from that system are continuing to amaze me. Much like the SNES/Genesis generation (a generation that, to me, was more or less a handful of game designers making whatever they wanted and hoping it'd sell), Steam seems to be the world's new hub for passionate (i.e., "I'm not just doing this for the money") game design.

So what happened to the console space? It also has a slew of low-cost indie titles... But I have no interest in playing them. Why? Well, the price. There's a sort of ignorance behind the console market - this bizarre belief that digital content can stay the same price forever, without going on sale. This is something Steam gets right, but I'm not here to give Steam a pat on the back - instead, I'll laud the Club Nintendo program.

When people were first starting to talk about the "importance" of trophies and chee-vos, the dialogue went something like this:
Me: "Man, that's a great idea! Accomplish cool things in your games and get points to trade for other games?"
Internet: "No, you have to spend real money on those games."
Me: "Why would I spend real money on something I don't actually own? What are those points for?"
Internet: "They're to increase the size of your e-peen."
Me: "..."

I think that was the turning point for me. That was the sticking point that told me the game industry was no longer about finding ways to give me enjoyment. Now, it was about fleecing me for money any way it could. Both Sony and Microsoft missed a fantastic opportunity to keep someone like me on board and playing/buying their games. Instead, they gave me the shaft. Nowadays, I only turn my PS3 on for the Netflix. I sold my 360 last year (and the only game I miss was Raiden Fighters Aces). I continue to buy GREAT games on Steam, I scour eBay for retro games I missed out on. I have not bought a game a launch since Metro: Last Light (on PC). I may buy Pokemon X/Y (for my 3DS). I don't know how to say it, console manufacturers... I've lost interest. You did nothing to keep me. You've lost me, and I'm not coming back.

Everything you own in a box to the left.