And just like that, I’m 8 years old again.
I retired my Xbox 360 and PS3 last week, leaving me with only one game console connected to my TV. When I was a kid, this was the norm, but nowadays, having multiple consoles is almost required if you want to experience the best of what modern games have to offer. Life, however, doesn’t always agree with this philosophy, and after years of trying to keep up with everything, I’ve finally accepted the brutal truth: My parents were right. I don’t need more than one.
My first game console was the Atari 2600 Jr. It was this glorious box of joy that introduced me to the wonderful world of video games, and I was instantly in love. At the time, I was unaware of the Intellivision or Colecovision, but it didn’t really matter. I had my Atari, and I was content. It wasn’t long after that the flow of new Atari games slowed to a halt, and it was time to get a new game console. The NES was where I landed after having played it at a friend’s house, and my new love instantly became an obsession. But, while I had my shiny new NES, my neighbor down the street had a Sega Master System. I asked my parents if I could get one of those too, and they smartly declined. I had an NES, and I didn’t need a Master System. That’s just how it went back then. You had the system your parents bought you, and that was the end of it. Only the luckiest of kids had everything. You had a Super NES, your friend had a Genesis, and that weird kid down the block had a Turbo Grafx 16. This is where the feverish brand loyalty came from. You were stuck with your system, so you backed your team no matter what. As such, I was planted firmly in the Nintendo camp.
Sure, the Master System had some really cool games, but my devotion to the big N was second to none. This opinion stuck with me for years. When the option to upgrade came my way, I ignored the 1989 release of the Sega Genesis (no matter how much I liked Altered Beast) because I knew the Super NES was on the way. Sure, the Playstation looked cool with its futuristic CD’s, and Panzer Dragoon for Saturn looked amazing, but the Nintendo 64 had Mario. Heck, I even bought a Virtual Boy on day one. At a certain point though, I grew up. I had a job, and was no longer subject to my parents rules of one console at a time, but my Nintendo fandom prevented me from even sniffing the competition. It wasn’t until the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on PlayStation that my tune changed.
This was the first instance of a game hitting another platform that I absolutely had to have. I went to the local Electronics Boutique, got myself a PlayStation, and the whole world opened up. I soon got a Saturn, Genesis, TG16, and many more consoles. I immediately started playing all the games I was missing because of my single console lifestyle. It was a gaming renaissance for me, and I felt like a fool for not jumping on the multi console bandwagon sooner.
I bought every major game console and handheld since. I enjoyed them a lot, too, but as I got older, a combination of things happened. I found myself with considerably less time to play, and games were getting exponentially more complicated. I kept buying the big titles, and I’d make an effort to play them, but my heart always kept me coming back to Nintendo. The Wii Virtual Console got more of my dollars than the regular Wii library, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 combined. I’m a retro gamer, and while I can look at something like Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed and appreciate with the upmost respect that they are incredibly crafted experiences, I was slowly coming to terms with the fact that most modern games just aren’t for me.
My son recently turned 1, and we were making preparations for his first birthday party. This was going to be a gathering with several babies crawling around the house, and I was having a hard enough time keeping my PS3 and 360 out of my own kid’s hands, let alone an entire group. After several failed attempts at child-proofing, I decided the path of least resistance was to simply pack them away. It wasn’t until after I did it that I realized what I had done. Then I looked at my shelf and saw my still shrink-wrapped copies of God of War III and Final Fantasy XIII, next to games I started but never finished like Red Dead Redemption, Alan Wake, and even Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. I’ll never catch up, and to be honest, the thought of doing so is exhausting to me. Even potentially amazing games on the way like Destiny, Rise of the Tomb Raider, or Dragon Age: Inquisition look great, but if I’m being completely honest with myself, I’m not going to play them, even if I go out and buy them. I will, however, keep playing Mario Kart 8 with my wife. I’ll download virtual console games and indie titles like Might No. 9. I’ll play Smash Bros. and Splatoon with my friends, and I’ll slowly chip away at Bayonetta 2 and Hyrule Warriors. It sounds crazy, but if I really think about it, Wii U is the only console I actually need.
10 years ago, I would have viewed this idea as sacrilege. Yet, here I am, and I’m surprisingly unfazed. After years of trying to play as broad a range of games as possible, I’ve found myself in a position where I only have the time to play the games I really, really like. Do I intend to eventually own an Xbox One and a PS4? Absolutely. For now though, just like when I was 8 years old, I’m a single console gamer, and I’m okay with that.