Playing PSP for the first time | March 2005
What's this? Sony *underplaying* the power of one of its hardware launches? Yep, back in 2003 when Sony first announced it was developing a handheld we were told to expect 'PSone plus a bit more'.
In actuality, the widescreen backlit screen pumped out visuals more akin to the contemporary PS2, only more diddy and vibrant. When we first got hold of Ridge Racer and set about it on an import PSP we couldn't believe what we were seeing - it was like videogame alchemy.
Above: This looked pretty amazing at the time
In retrospect, this was before the democratisation of the HDTV and when Plasma screens were still only for millionaires, so seeing decent graphics on a bright LCD screen was a bit of a novelty. Now, of course, we have 1080p, 100 inch TV sets and PSP seems a bit, umm, last decade. It's worth remembering there was once a time when PSP was seriously hot property. As they say: every dog has its day.
Hot Coffee | June 2005
Mercilessly mow down an OAP with a quad bike and no one blinks an eye. Bludgeon a man to death with a double-ended sex toy and people say ‘huh, what?’ But accidentally show a loving couple engaged in an act of love-making (the girl putting out after a game of pool and a Cluckin’ Bell totally counts as love, right?) and people want Rockstar employees burnt at the stake for crimes against humanity.
Above: Er, sexy time?
When a Dutch hacker called Patrick Wildenborg found the mini-game hidden under mountains of obscure code and then released a patch for the PC version, it led to widespread scandal, with California assemblyman Leland Yee launching a stinging tirade against the ESRB over mature games. It also saw San Andreas slapped with an Adults Only rating. It means Carl Johnson’s state-hopping criminal caper is the only AO rated game ever to receive mass release.
Nintendo unveiling its revolution | September 2005
Try for a moment to forget that we now talk about the Wii in hushed tones of shame and embarrassment, like the crazy inbred cousin that gaming keeps locked in the attic. In 2005, Nintendo’s machine was going to be the best thing to ever happen to video games. We’d been teased. We’d been told to expect something completely new. We’d been told a revolution was coming. Many a long-suffering Nintendo fanboy felt the sweet breeze of vindication on his face. Truly, this was finally their time.
And sweet baby Jeesee, for a while, it really was. When the Revolution/Wii’s controller was revealed, the following internet hype-wave drenched gaming with a kind of excitement we’ve rarely ever seen. There were a few dissenting voices (mostly Sony and Microsoft fanboys), but by and large, gamers of every persuasion were as enthralled by Nintendo’s incandescent gaming future as they had been when they first picked up a NES controller as a kid. It’s impossible to ignore how badly things went wrong, but at the time, the Wii really typified why this generation was going to be so damn exciting. If only. If only…
Big plastic peripherals | November 2005 to present
Clickety clackety clack. That's one of *the* sounds of the Noughties. The sound of cheap plastic on cheap plastic fervently hammered out by pseudo-musos stood in front of a hypnotic railroad of coloured blobs.
In a decade when the big technological development was controller-free gameplay, game publisher's (one in particular) didn't do half bad selling us expensive new controllers we didn't know we needed. Guitars, drums, microphones, record decks, even skateboards...
Whether you subscribe to holding a fake plastic thing and pretending to play the fake plastic thing like it's a real thing - or you think it makes you look like a toss bag, it's impossible to ignore the influence of big plastic peripherals on the World Of Games.
Like the Wii, they made gaming even more socially acceptable in the public space - something you'd be happy to bust out at a party. Plus, for some, it made you feel like a ROCK GOD. Even if - technically - you were just playing a musical version of Simon Says.
Above: Congrats! You really are good at the fake drums
More seriously - and more commendably - games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero gave musicians a new revenue stream in the face of declining physical music sales and popularised a bunch of old crooners (like the Beatles) with audiences who otherwise may have never come into contact with their music.
The rise and rise of the Red Ring of Death | November 2005 to present
Microsoft's Xbox 360 is just too hot. And not in a good way. Due to a design fault (allegedly due to extra hardware being added after the case design was final), the console shipped with a flaw. The motherboard warps when it overheats, causing the CPU to become detached when it cools. The result? The most infamous error message ever seen. Yes, even more than 'SYNTAX ERROR'. The infamous three red lights – AKA the Red Ring of Death.
It must be over-use, we thought. Surely all these hardware failures must just be people playing for 10 hours straight every day. But then it happened to us too. An odd crash. A few screen freezes. Then the artifacts. Then the sadness. Painfully, the machine's death is often protracted, kind-of-working for a week before the inevitable. And then we were sad.
Of course the wonderful internet is there to help. The towel trick, the penny trick, the ice bath trick (stay away from that one – it was a hoax)… fixing said machine for about… 30 minutes. Great.
In an unprecedented move, Microsoft offset $3 billion to cover the cost of returns, which is pretty much an admission that the whole thing was borked. Here's hoping it doesn't happen next time…
Sony's E3 2006 Press Conference | May 2006
After revealing the PlayStation 3 at its 2005 E3 press conference, all eyes were on Sony to make good on the early promise of all that delicious looking and highly controversial 'target footage' (ie Killzone 2) that bedazzled gamers 12 months before. But it failed. Miserably. From start to finish, the whole presentation was a shambles, gifting cynics with more than enough ammunition to launch an all-out assault on Sony's next generation console.
Kaz Hirai bumbled his way through the debacle, trying his hardest to justify PS3's hefty price tag, but never sounded convincing. Similarly, the repeated promise of innovative games seemed to amount to little more than corporate horse shit, as several decidedly unremarkable titles were demoed and received with yawns, bewilderment and internet mockery. And, in what seemed to be a blatant jump on the Wii's waggle waving bandwagon, Sixaxis was revealed. Everyone thought it was a stupid idea.
We're sure this is one E3 conference that Sony would rather forget. But, thanks to YouTube, that's just never going to happen...
Good God, it *still* makes us cringe.