In all the excitement and hubbub over the next generation of gaming consoles, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future. Specifically, technology, gaming or otherwise, and how it relates to our perceived mental states. I should probably note here that everything to come after this is my own personal experience. I have no backing articles or scientific studies, just my own musings. I might do a follow up with some genuine research later on down the line.
So let’s get on with it then!
When I was a kid growing up in the nineties, I found video games to be captivating. I remember playing this old aircraft fighter that you had to punch in a special code for in the boot up screen on my grandma’s old computer, and playing Chip’s Challenge, Pac Man and early dungeon crawler’s on my parent’s Amiga; I grew up watching my brother’s play games on their Playstation. I can recall my brother Josh playing Final Fantasy VII, and it was absolutely amazing to me that a game could tell me a story like that. Now, as a bit of a spring chickadee, you have to understand that when FFVII came out, I was four years old. That is really young for something to hold my attention for hours at a time. And it had me in raptures. I cried my tiny heart out at a particular moment, which is now infamous among gamer’s everywhere. And it was the first glimpse I had that games could be something more. Not just a tool for learning to focus and problem solve, or have fun, but a vehicle for storytelling, and learning to empathize, and delving into adventures with very real consequences of which I got to feel a part of.
Games were also the thing that fed my fascination with horror as a genre. When I was little, I watched my brother’s play Silent Hill, and my cousin play Resident Evil 3. They scared the hellish snickerdoodles out of me, but to this day, I can’t seem to get enough of them. Again, I think it has to do with the storytelling. The intensity of the environments, with questions of what it means to be human, and really, what is right and wrong? Can you define it on a page, black versus white? Can you make up an excuse good enough that what might be considered wrong suddenly doesn’t seem so bad? It’s probably worth noting that the adrenaline rush playing these games gives you is also great. No better way to heighten your emotions than to scare yourself silly.
All this is to say, that games have been with me a very long time, and have shaped a large part of the way I’ve grown and learned to think and feel. And along with the games I grew up with, came the consoles. Discounting computers, the very first console I ever used was a Playstation. It Was video games to me. I couldn’t fathom a need for anything else. It could play games and CD’s. What else could I possibly need in life? Then came the Playstation 2 in 2000, and the Xbox and Gamecube in 2001.. The leap in graphics, and the ability, at least on the PS2, to play DVD’s and to have a smooth, easy to interact with interface was awesome. Games had never looked better. And I was happy with that.
Now, things get a little more interesting for me from here. Because the next big console launches to start affecting me were the Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. All great, innovative systems in their own rights. And the leaps in what they could do still seem kind of mind boggling, compared to their predecessors. There became a greater emphasis on gimmicks like motion controls, and having your system be an all in one platform that could do everything. Do away with your superfluous technology, we’ve got your games, internet, store, streaming services, and messaging covered. At least to a degree, anyway.
I spent some time with the Wii and the 360 when they first launched, finding both had things I enjoyed, but ultimately deciding motion controls were definitely not for me, and the PlayStation 3 had started to accumulate a more interesting library of exclusives than the 360. So in 2010, I bought myself a PlayStation 3. Now this was a big deal for me, being the first console I ever bought for myself. And I loved everything about it. The games, the ability to check the internet, digital downloads, everything. But the more technology I amass, and the more I find things easily at my fingertips, the more I’ve started to notice… Something not right. In myself. See, I’ve grown up with fairly severe ADD. And I work very, very hard to keep it under control. Sometimes with drugs, sometimes without. And for years growing up, I managed. Not without bumps in the road, but I managed. But the more access I have to things, the more I’ve noticed my brain has stopped shutting itself down. With the press of a button, I have movies, tv shows, video games, youtube, and an online store at my fingertips. When I got an iPhone, I noticed it got even worse. I have always hated it when people can’t seem to stay in a conversation without checking their cellphone. I think it’s detrimental to ones ability to learn to read body language and facial expressions, and to really invest in the people around you. Now? I find myself doing it constantly, impulsively, like my hands can’t stay still. I’ve started keeping an elastic on my wrist, to keep my hands busy and to help calm me down. And I still have to mentally keep myself in check. There’s a lot of mental scolding in my life as of late.
With my phone, I have constant access to flash games, texting, phone calls, facebook, and the void that is The Internet wherever I go. And at home, I have the exact same distractions in my gaming console. And sometimes, it becomes way too much. Too many TV shows to catch up on, too many games to play, too many friends to connect with.
Just… An overwhelming amount of too much.
And it’s actually damaging my mental state, to the point where I don’t know how to cut back. I don’t sleep well at night, because my body is always wanting me to move on to the next thing. I should mention that this was a problem before, but has worsened exponentially in the last two years. I sometimes struggle to converse with those around me, because my brain is elsewhere, or I’m habitually checking my phone, thinking I can multitask just fine.
Your friends and family deserve your undivided attention. For the most part, multitasking is bullshit, and go hump a pineapple if you think otherwise. If the people in your life aren’t important enough to put everything aside for them for a couple hours while you have coffee, or eat dinner, you’re living your life wrong.
I sure as hell know I am.
Bringing it back to consoles specifically, the latest generation of systems is what has brought about a large part of my most recent wave of self reflection.
The PlayStation 4 and XBox One.
At first, I was excited about the console launches. New games, new graphics, new capabilities. But the more I hear about them, the more I’ve started to wonder if I’ll even bother. The PS4 seems like a decent upgrade, though I don’t know that I want or need the new social aspects of the console, such as the share button and the ability to have more friends. I’m likely in the minority here, however, not being an online social gamer. And the Xbox One? It makes every fiber of my being uncomfortable.
Let me note as well, that I thought the 360 was awesome. While I’ve always been more of a PlayStation fan, it was a great console, and I have no particular dislike of it, outside of maybe having to have Xbox Gold to watch Netflix. Fuck you, Xbox, I already pay a subscription fee for that shit!
Other than that, however, my console choice had more to do with game selection and the look of the hardware than any particular loyalty. The Xbox One though? I will never own one.
Everything about it, from the botched announcement that the system would have to be permanently online, to the idea of the Kinect camera potentially being used to sell me specific ads grosses me out. It’s bad enough with my cellphone, I don’t need an invasive camera in my house. And the idea behind voice controls, no matter how well they’re implemented, seems silly to me. How lazy do I have to be that I can’t pick up a controller to navigate the menu? What are you doing with your controllers that losing them is a concern? I lose everything and still my controllers aren’t a problem for me.
A lot has been made of the Xbox’s ability to multitask as well. Play your video game and watch football! Skype your friends while playing Call of Duty! Watch TV while sailing the high seas in Assasin’s Creed 4!
And it all has me wondering:
Why do I need this? Sure I have a short attention span. I get it. I want to do eighty things at once because there’s so much to see and do and experience. But do I need to do that? Is it healthy for my mental state? I’m an extremely impulsive person, and it’s often very detrimental. I spend money on things I don’t need instead of budgeting, I promise to do things that I don’t actually have time for, I start impulsively playing Bejeweled on my phone when I’m mid conversation, and sleeping has become this thing my brain is convinced is a waste of time.
And I hate it. The future of technology is calling and telling me that it’s not enough. My time is never spent well enough; I’m always missing out on the next best thing. And there’s no time to just experience what I’m doing in the moment. You gotta move on quickly, there’s no time there’s no time there’s no time.
There’s never enough time.
Being ADD, the more distractions I’m given, the more anxious I become. I become less productive, and I never finish anything because everything, and let me really stress this, everything feels like it’s at my fingertips. And my impulsive brain wants it all, to the point where it’s stressed because a book now takes too long.
I love reading! That’s ridiculous! But my brain says “no, that will take you hours. Go watch Parks and Rec and throw in a session of XCOM Enemy Unknown. Same amount of time, less work.”
When I look at the Xbox One, and even the PS4 to a degree, it makes me sad. We’re so desperate to create and see the next best thing, that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. We just want to consume everything, and my brain, at least, can’t seem to keep up. It’s not meant to focus on football and play Call of Duty at the same time. I end up splitting my brain and doing two things poorly, instead of one thing well.
There will never be enough time for everything, and I just wish society would slow the fuck down for a change.
We don’t need everything.
I just wish I could get my brain to be quiet and accept that.
I love video games. This is not a complaint about games themselves, in any way; I still get excited about the future of what games themselves can be. But consoles, and technology in general, just seem to be leaving me feeling weary.
If you’re reading this, I’d be curious to know if anyone else notices any of this stuff about themselves, ADHD or otherwise. If the rest of the world isn’t having a problem, that’s great. Colour me impressed and surprised.
Prove me wrong.
Help me feel comfortable with the future.