We skipped Weird Video Wednesday this week. No reason for it – I simply forgot what day it was. My apologies; it will be back next week. Regardless, I wanted to give a short update on my introduction to the PS3 thus far, and in the process offer a few thoughts about the direction console gaming has taken in recent years. Hence this post. I’ve long been familiar with the Wii’s “channel” set up, which prepared me in a small way for PS3 with its occasional updates, online shop, and what have you. Still I wasn’t quite ready for the PC-like machinations of the PS3. Installing games, downloading patches, “activating” PSPs (whatever the hell that means – it worked just fine before, thanks), creating virtual memory cards for digital PS1 and PS2 games… my goodness.
On the Wii, before Nintendo introduced the SD card menu (a life-saver for people like me who indulged in Virtual Console games) there was a phrase the company’s PR used – something to the effect of “cleaning out the fridge” – to describe having to micro-manage the Wii harddrive, making space for a new game by deleting an old one. Now that’s not quite the same thing on the PS3, since fortunately there’s plenty of hard drive space. But between all of the busy-work, installs, updates, and so on, that phrase “cleaning out the fridge” keeps popping into my mind. Partly because all of this PS3 stuff goes way beyond the time and effort it took to clean out the Wii’s metaphorical “fridge”!
GTA V is a case in point. It’s completely unlike any console game I’ve ever played. First time you boot it up, it starts installing. No way to play without an 8GB install. (I’m not sure but I’m guessing that’s the whole game.) Nothing to do ‘cept wait. So wait I did, for a good half an hour, until it froze and another half hour later no progress, plus the ambient music’s cut out. OK, fine. Got the PS3 online, started the game again, only to be faced with 2GB worth of updates to download and install. No problem. Failed downloading first time but second time did the trick. Then went into the actual install again, and had the same problem as the last time. The install would freeze at some point, usually about half way through. Several attempts and same thing again and again ad nauseum. Checked online for advice, nothing really helpful. The disc was in pristine condition so can’t see why there’d be a problem there. OK then!
Now, bear in mind I wasn’t getting angry or even frustrated during this experience. Shit happens, and I had other games to busy myself with. What I felt was closer to culture shock, specifically at how closely the PS3 is to a PC, albeit with a glorified interface.
In short, console gaming has changed. Whether that’s a good thing or not is in the eye of the beholder. We’ve gone over the years from the consoles of the 8 and 16-bit generations which completely lacked any sort of operating system, to early OSes in the original Playstation and Saturn that let you play CDs and manage memory cards, to DVD player functionality on PS2 and the original Xbox (only if you bought the remote though!), to the more recent “Cross Media Bar”, “Wii Menu”, “Xbox 360 Dashboard”, and finally now the current generation of consoles, which presumably push the OS envelope even farther than their predecessors.
I definitely think there’s a argument to be made that modern console OSes are practically games unto themselves. Rotating bargains in online stores motivate regular visits. Downloading a console update, especially if it adds extra functionality, is like leveling up your console. The downside can be when one console is neglected for a long time you might need to grind before you can get to the REAL game you switched on for.
Let me end though with a quick rant on the technical side I’m shoehorning it in here because no one wants to read an entire post about this stuff. In short: the PS3 was simply not built for an SD TV like mine. I’ve run into several issues with specific games and the console itself as a result of owning a CRT and living in Europe. I don’t want to get too technical here but something like Katamari Forever runs significantly worse than it should and Disgaea 3 doesn’t display correctly, as well as other smaller issues. Given Sony are a big TV manufacturer, I suppose it’s no surprise that their console would encourage people to upgrade to an HDTV.
But in some respects the support for older TVs is breathtakingly poor: how exactly does one justify the fact that when connected via RGB SCART, the PS3 does not display DVDs or Blu-Rays in colour? For those who don’t know, RGB SCART is the best connection possible on a standard European CRT TV (as opposed to other places like the U.S. where component is prevalent). To watch DVDs/Blu-Rays in colour on the PS3 – as opposed to a green and black mess – I have to downgrade the picture quality to composite, a significant drop in quality. Games on the other hand display perfectly fine with RGB SCART. So what’s up with that? Well, get this. According to folks online, the lack of colour was an artificial restriction introduced on the PS2’s DVD player to try and curb DVD piracy… and yet Sony never bothered to remove it on the PS3, even though it’s completely and utterly redundant with the rise of internet piracy.