The Superficial (And Dumb) Features I Loved About These Game Consoles
Significant features, ranging from a having four controller ports, to built-in WiFi, to touchscreen technology, have been huge selling points for game consoles over the years. For me, though, it's the little things that can seal the deal. I mean, the VERY little things - the stupidly little things. I have a hilariously terrible tendency to be allured by a console's most trivial characteristics and it's played a role in more than one purchasing decision. Let's take a look at a few examples of my console pettiness.
Sega Game Gear
First, here's a fun anecdote. Though I can't recall the exact details, I actually managed to score a Game Gear off a classmate in 2nd or 3rd grade by trading him either a toy or game of undeniably less value. My mom almost made me return it when she found out until I convinced her that the kid truly wanted to part ways with it (true) and that he was moving to a new city the next day so it was already too late (not true). Yeah, I was a smart kid.
Anyway, the Game Gear's then-revolutionary back light impressed me for sure, but what really blew my mind was the sheer size of this thing. It's huge! Sure, the handheld's considerable girth drew criticism from many, but, back then, I equated size to power and holding that lead block with a screen attached to it made me feel as though I were wielding the might of the gaming gods. I couldn't have cared less about how much backpack space (or batteries for that matter) the Game Gear stole when I lugged it to school to engage in lengthy bragging sessions.
In the mid-90s, I, like thousands of kids at the time, was faced with the ultimate decision: N64 or Playstation. Despite loving my NES and SNES, my commitment to Nintendo was shattered over the most frivolous of reasons. While the N64 would continue to utilize cartridges, Playstation games incorporated the increasingly popular CD-ROM.
At the time, CDs were one of the coolest and most futuristic things in the universe to me. I remember begging my mother for the Sega CD attachment to no avail (and in hindsight, thank goodness). In elementary school, I was in awe of those gigantic laser disc that teachers occasionally used to play movies. Playstation's use of CD-ROM technology, and not the games, convinced me that it was a must-own dream machine that heralded the future of gaming and while I was ultimately correct, it was still a pretty dumb.
Saturn is my favorite planet so the name alone garnered about 90% of my overall interest. Seriously, that's the only reason I ever wanted one.
Never mind it being the follow-up to one of my all-time favorite consoles. Never mind the sleek design, boss black paint job, and the slick PS2 logo on top. All of those things kicked ass, but you know what really sold me on the PS2? The retractable disc tray.
Believe it or not, a sliding disc tray felt like the most modern feature ever seen on a game console and I couldn't believe we, both as gamers and as an industry, had survived this far without it (probably because I didn't grow up with a home computer. Most likely because I'm dumb). Pushing that eject button legitimately made me feel like Mr. Fancy Pants and I shudder to think what the s**t eating grin plastered on my face looked like. Sadly enough, the novelty didn't wane for years.
The giant, X-Men-style "X" earns cool points alone, but what really fascinated me was the green circle embedded in the Xbox's center. The reason? I thought it was a button.
I never owned the original Xbox and during it's infancy, I couldn't deduce how to make the disc tray open. The Xbox lacked any (in my mind) noticeable eject buttons, so the shiny, attractive circle had to be the button I was looking for. Maybe it even glowed when pressed! I absolutely had to find out.
On one fateful day, I was at a friend's place who owned an Xbox. He asked if I was down for some Halo. Now we had already indulged in countless deathmatches in the past, but the game had always been inside the console, so I'd never witnessed him inserting or removing the game. presence. However, that wasn't the case this time as he asked me to put the disc in. I didn't hesitate. My finger came down on that button so hard that I'm surprised I didn't impale the motherboard or something. A wounded finger and a more damaged ego all but killed my infatuation with that stupidly alluring centerpiece.
You know where I'm going with this. The handle. That silly, useless handle. No one has ever seriously traveled outside holding their Gamecube, exposed to the elements, by that handle. No one. It's the most ridiculous thing and yet I relished every opportunity to pick the Gamecube up by the handle and swing it around simply because it felt joyously idiotic and it amused me that Nintendo actually believed that people would use this on a regular basis.
The PSP was the first gaming device I ever pre-ordered as I couldn't believe there was a handheld capable of near-PS2 quality graphics and gameplay. I picked it up on release day with a handful of launch games but I also got a free UMD movie of Spider-Man 2 as some sort of early adoption bonus. This changed everything.
Spider-Man 2 is my favorite Spidey film of all time and, in my opinion, among the top 3 superhero films ever made. I already owned the movie on DVD but the idea that I could watch one of my favorite films on a portable device (and in great quality) made my head explode. And so began a month-long marathon of Spider-Man 2 on PSP.
At home? Spider-Man 2. In the car? Spider-Man 2. During a flight? Spider-Man 2. On the toilet? You get the idea. I watched that movie about 20 times that month and my PSP became less valued as a handheld game machine and more so as a "Portable Spider-Man 2 Viewing Device". I would champion the PSP to annoyed friends with a campaign along the lines of "But what's really great about the PSP outside of games like Twisted Metal and Lumines is that YOU CAN WATCH SPIDER-MAN 2 IN YOUR HANDS!!" and then proceed to fire up the UMD. A bit more understanding than the other reasons on this list, but still rather silly.
Speaking of Spider-Man, am I the only one who thought the font for the original PS3 logo looked badass?
I don't know about you guys, but the pulsating blue light inside the Wii's disc tray is just flat-out cool. Especially in the darkness, when the light is pulsating due to a notification that won't ever be read because doing so would halt the free light show in my living room. Now that I think about it, the Wii would make a pretty sweet nightlight. Maybe if Nintendo had carried this feature over to the Wii U, it would have sold another 5 million or so units.
The PS4 is great for two reasons. First, it's shape - it's a parallelogram! Second, that blue light strip that across the top that, like the Wii's light, just looks slick in the dark. My favorite part about activating the console (other than, you know, playing a game) is seeing that light race back and forth, changing from an ocean blue to a luminous white. I am, however, less enthusiastic about the orange hue the light takes when the PS4 is in stand-by mode - it gives the impression that the console is under the malevolent influence of the MCP from Tron.