Someone asked me recently what I thought was the most important games console of all time ever. I thought it was a good question, because it was hard to answer and I've been told that good questions are always the hardest to answer. Like "What do the ghosts turn into when Pac-Man eats them?" and "If Lakitu is the camera dude, then whose filming Lakitu?"
In fact, I found the question so hard to answer, I didn't answer it at all. Instead, I came up with an alternative answer. An alternative answer to an alternative question that instead asked: "What are the six most important game consoles of all time ever and can you list them in a non-specific order besides the order in which they were released, oldest to newest?" Now there's a question I could answer. Here it is:
The name makes it sound like something NASA would spend 300 Gazillion Dollars on before launching it into space to deep-probe Uranus. In reality, it's as primitive as consoles get. There's more technology in the square button of a PlayStation controller. But, released in the olden times of 1972, that's to be expected.
Why's it on the list? For the same reason that 'Adam' would be on any self-respecting Bible-basher's list of '6 most important men of all time ever'. That is, because it's the first. The first home games console ever.
What a machine. Wood veneer. Cartridge games. Paddle controllers. Popularised playing games at home. Important. I poured a lot of hours into the Atari 2600. Most of the games were retrospectively piss poor, but at the time it didn't matter. It was like being at the arcade, but at home. That's the fun and happy arcades of the early 80s. Not today's stinking gambling pits of human misery where old people and drug addicts go to die.
My mate got an Atari 2600 before me and I practically moved into his place. His dad used to smoke a lot of cigarettes and I think all that passive-smoking started my nicotine dependency. It’s a habit I still haven't kicked nearly 30 years later. But when I think back to all the good times I had playing Asteroids, it was definitely worth it.
The machine that firmly established Nintendo as a world super power. At least in the super power world of gaming. It also introduced home-based gamers to the likes of Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and a bunch of other games that are *still* kicking around today.
The NES also helped make things good again after the disastrous video game crash of 1983, which was mostly caused by the overwhelming amount of piss poor games being released for the Atari 2600. Which, you may remember, was the previous entry on this list.
PlayStation turned the industry on its head, kicked it up the ass and then stole all the cake. If you're looking for a console that helped gaming get its foot in the mass market door, then PlayStation is it. I worked in a game shop during the PlayStation heyday and 90% of shelf space was occupied by games for Sony's machine. It was a busy console with *lots* of games feeding a huge audience.
In comparison, we used to occasionally move the same old N64 games around a bit just to make it look like something was happening. Sometimes we'd put 'Out of stock' stickers on the many boxes of Glover just for laughs. It was pretty crazy. We only visited the Sega Saturn section when it needed dusting.
Yep - Xbox 360 is on the list thanks to Xbox Live. I'm talking about the whole of Xbox Live here, not just the gaming online bit. So don't bother whining to me about how Dreamcast did it in 1999 with a bloody dial-up modem.
I miss the simplicity of a game console being just a game console, but progress is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped no matter how many kittens you throw in front of it. So now we must have machines that play games and do a whole bunch of other useful stuff besides. And Xbox 360 has set the benchmark by doing it the best.
It hurts me to put this on the list, but I can't deny that Wii is one of the six most important consoles of all time ever. I still despise the sickeningly contrived rebirth of Nintendo, but the company's new approach to gaming (which is now over three years old) is undoubtedly having a major influence on the games of the future. That is, Microsoft's Natal and Sony's Move. The prospect of more idiotic arm-waving does not fill me with joy, but it is important nonetheless.
And while I think Wii's casual games should be rated 'R' for Remedial, any console that can appeal to almost any living thing on the planet - from embryonic egg sac to musty-smelling pensioner - has to be recognised as being kind of a big deal. And I must admit that I really am rather enjoying playing Sin & Punishment: Successor of the Skies at the moment. So Wii's not all bad. The name's still complete wank though.
So that's the consoles I'd rate as the six most important of all time ever. Agree? Disagree? Have your own 'opinions'? Let them out. Please do. And if you're wondering why the GameBoy isn't here, it's because I made the decision that this list would be proper home consoles, not handhelds.
May 7, 2010