The Hollow Generation

Man, I feel like I’ve done this sort of thing before. Getting into a new generation the complaining about the games there being less different than I expected. Maybe it’s because I’m too closed-minded. Maybe it’s because new games early in a console’s life are generally much more modest than what we’ll see later. And maybe it’s because an update in hardware is making less and less of a difference as the gaming medium progresses and matures and the natural course of diminishing returns sets in.

That can be left for the experts. Even though those last two are totally true. Either way, what we’re left with is a now familiar feeling of me stepping into a new generation of video games, and me wondering why they even bothered with the hardware separation.

Of course, this year, it’s a little different than it’s been in the past. Previous generation changeovers, it’s always been a game that lured me through. I picked up an N64 because of Super Mario and Mario Kartt 64ses. ‘Twas Smash Bros that lured me through to getting a Gamecube. Then the whole spat of releases for the Wii, followed by Dead Rising showing me the worth of an Xbox 360. And finally, Fallout 4 and Breath of the Wild brought me to the previous generation of consoles.

This time, though, it was simply the trials of time. Consoles tend to be hardy, but computers not so much. Since it released, I’ve been waiting for my opportunity to pick up a PS5, but that never came. Been sitting on enough credit card rewards to essentially get one for free at MSRP, but an opportunity to buy the console at MSRP is quite rare. Supply shortages, plus the shakeups to the market on both the supply and demand side due to the pandemic, ensures that only a lucky, privileged few who can wait for supplies to drop and be on top of them when they do are able to pick one up. For the rest of us, we have to wait. And so I did, until my hand was forced. My previous PC started showing wear and tear and indications that it wasn’t going to last much longer. So I needed a new one. And while I was doing that, I figured I’d pick up one capable of playing modern games.

So I did. And now I’m looking at the modern spate of games, and I’m not really interested in many of them that I couldn’t have gotten on my PS4 or my old PC already. Invested in a highly powered gaming laptop with all sorts of features and settings I don’t even understand to ensure it can get the best resolution and framerate possible, and most of my time spent on it so far has been in a ported PS1 game and a sprite based indie game that released like 5 years ago. And it’s not because new games aren’t new. I’ll definitely be getting to them eventually. But they don’t take full advantage of the new hardware. They don’t give me any new experiences. So many new hardware generations really expanded on what a game could do. Until last gen, where the updates were mostly graphical. And then comes this new one, where again, the only real update people are pointing to is that graphics are slightly better, loading somewhat smoother. Heck, most games I’m actually looking into next generation for, such as Lost Judgment, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the Final Fantasy VII Remake, and on, are still available on my Playstation 4 for basically no material difference from the PS5 versions.

Which does make me wonder what’s the point to the new hardware. I’m sure the fact that most new releases for modern consoles are also available on last gen’s machine owes something to the aforementioned inability for mass markets to equip themselves with the most modern gear, but even so. If I can get a game brand new game for my last gen consoles that’s almost exactly the same as those on the current gen, what’s the point? Maybe we moved on to a new hardware generation too quickly.

I’m sure eventually, a PS5 will wind it’s way onto my shelf. And I’m viewing my new laptop as an investment, enabling me to keep up with the new releases when inevitably they do move on from last gen’s hardware. But for now, we’re already a year into the next hardware generation, and as far as I can tell, it may as well have not happened at all.

6 responses to “The Hollow Generation

  1. From the way I personally see it, I’ve reached the point where I can’t even imagine what improvements there are that we truly need, and that also define a new generation. It was quite easy to see with older generations like the shift from NES to SNES (more bits) and N64 (2D > 3D), and I felt that way up till the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era. But after that, games just… looked prettier and have gotten more technically advanced. It’s a good thing sure, but at this point, the PlayStation 6 is also just going to be prettier graphics. And most developers don’t really strive for the most pretty graphics anyway, so I’ve basically lost interest altogether and just stick to my PC right now.

    • Yeah, definitely agree with everything there. I suppose it’s natural because of how far games have come in such short of a time, true innovations would naturally have become rarer, but I still remember how long it took before after the Xbox 360 and PS3s came out before we got to the next generation, and the differences there seemed pretty slight. Now, the turnover was a lot quicker, but we really don’t get much advancement at all. With everything coming out pretty much exactly the same on last gen’s hardware, this one really feels more like a quality of life update with the hardware, like Nintendo’s historically done with their handhelds mid-generation, rather than a true new generation. Makes me feel like the move was premature.

  2. I feel exactly the same. Improvements keep getting more marginal and less meaningful, at least as far as I can tell. It’s the same with cell phones — I’m about to get a new one just because my current one is six years old and about to completely die, and despite that gap I don’t see any great difference in functionality. None of the new consoles excite me either. I’ll probably go for the gaming PC myself once I can afford it and avoid consoles from now on for practical purposes, since almost every game I’m interested in now gets a Steam release at some point.

    • I think this is kind of inevitable as technology progresses, absent some new revolution. Film, as well, have been constantly coming with new and better resolutions and cameras etc., things getting constantly updated, but it only really has an impact over the course of time, rather than over any individual update. Gaming technology is in its own boat of course, as are phones, but we’re seeing the same principle apply here. Can’t rise too quickly when all the relatively easy work is already done.

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