A lot has changed about video games since I started playing them in the '80s, but one thing remains the same: When confronted with a dissenting opinion about their favorite console, fans will procure switchblades and fight to the death.
I suppose the drive to gather under a system's shadow and protect it stems from tribal instinct. Sports teams are an excellent example: fans divide themselves according to the teams they root for, then split up again according to favorite players, and so on and so forth. The same happens with everything from music genres to movie franchises.
But even though I understand our biological need to exclude others from our peer groups, the ferocity of today's console wars confuses me. A jaunt through Twitter is all it takes to notice that the impending dawn of the new console generation has whipped Xbox and PlayStation fans into a frenzy, and neither side is afraid to use its teeth against the other. Howling explicatives against "XBOTS!" are rampant, as are venomous suggestions that "Sony Ponies" should "STFU and die."
It's all very strange to me, because to my old eyes, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are practically buddies. It's a big change from the '90s, when the console war between Nintendo and Sega was splashed all over television via edgy commercials, and even went to court.
I don't doubt social media has exacerbated the noise and anger propelling the "fight" between Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. As much as I enjoy posting silly Final Fantasy 14 memes on Twitter, I'm not going to pretend the medium's done any favors for the general quality of human interaction. It makes me wonder how bad the 16-bit console wars would've been if Twitter existed in the '90s. The playground fights between fans of Sonic the Hedgehog/Sega Genesis and Super Mario/Super Nintendo were ferocious, and Sega and Nintendo (especially Sega) spurred us on with commercials that openly mocked fans of the other side. Imagine hormone-addled gamers taking that fight to Twitter. Everything would end in flames.
These days, the sickest burns console manufacturers inflict upon each other include "Ohhh sike, the Xbox Series X doesn't need a stand, bro!…Oh gosh, I'm sorry man, let me delete that." Granted, Sony's "This is how you share your games" PlayStation 4 video, which mocked Xbox One's (quickly rescinded) hostile attitude towards used games, was pretty spicy. It was arguably Sony's strongest swipe at a rival since the infamous "$299" at E3 1995 that helped sink the Sega Saturn before it got a foothold in the west.
But these little jabs are small potatoes compared to the time Nintendo sided against Sega in court in 1993. When the United States government started taking a hard look at adult content in video games thanks to the rising popularity of "graphic" games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, Nintendo pointed at the darker, more violent games on the Sega Genesis as examples of filth. Former Chairman of Nintendo Howard Lincoln reminded Congress that it adhered to a strict content code, and would never, ever let a game like Night Trap sully one of their systems.
Nintendo of America had to know the accusations against Night Trap were nonsense. Politicians claimed the lame-O FMV Sega CD game contained scenes of women being brutalized in the shower, of having hooks drilled into their necks. The "violence" in Night Trap wouldn't even pass in a cheesy haunted house, but Nintendo sang along with Congress just for the opportunity to dig at Sega.
Nowadays, console manufacturers generally make nice on Twitter instead of pointing fingers at each other in court. They congratulate each other on successful launches, and Microsoft cheerfully piles its best exclusives on the Switch. The fiery Nintendo/Sega rivalry is certainly long, long gone. Now Sonic and Mario compete on friendly terms through Olympic games and some good old-fashioned brawling.
But despite all this goodwill, the console fans still fight. They still scream, claw, and bite at each other on Twitch and Twitter, like the wrathful damned souls in Dante's fifth ring of hell. It seems like such a waste of energy—and now's a good time to remind everyone reading this that corporations aren't your friends. They want your loyalty simply because they want your money. Nobody from Sony will show up at your door and knight you with a PlayStation Move controller because you bit back at an "Xbot" on Twitter.
I'm not going to pretend I'm above these vengeful souls, however. I was there during the 16-bit console wars, and I expended disturbing amounts of energy defending Nintendo. If you don't mind me saying so, I was there when console wars were real. Harrumph.
But I don't participate in console wars anymore because I'm an adult who can buy what she needs with her paycheck. I no longer need to scrounge up my allowance for a year and back a single horse for the entirety of a console generation. That's what I tell myself, anyway. Maybe I bowed out of the wars because I'm a tired old veteran who just wants to sit on her porch and watch the digital sun sink below the horizon of whatever JRPG land she's currently traveling through.
Major Game Releases: October 19 to October 23
Here are the major releases for the week of October 19 to October 23. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Amnesia: Rebirth [October 20 for PlayStation 4, PC]: 2010's Amnesia: Dark Descent is one of the most critically-acclaimed horror games in recent memory, meaning Frictional Games has a frighteningly tough act to follow with Rebirth. Thankfully, it seems like the team really got to the bleeding heart of what makes Amnesia such a chilling horror series. In our review for the game, contributor Khee Hoon Chan says: "Rebirth has reinvigorated its brand of horror with a haunting narrative that’s as moving as it is refreshing." Give it a try…if you dare! Mwahaha, and all that.
- Pokemon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra [October 22 for Switch]: The second part of Pokemon Sword and Shield's DLC is set to arrive this week. Color us interested: last summer's Isle of Armor DLC was quite good and is based around an open world that's livelier and more varied than the Wild Area in Sword and Shield. If Game Freak is indeed getting the hang of putting Pokemon into open areas, Crown Tundra might be the richest Pokemon Sword and Shield experience yet. I'm also looking forward to catching Cassowary Zapdos.
- Transformers: Battlegrounds [October 23 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC]: "Autobots, Transform!...into a tactics game." Transformers: Battlegrounds admittedly isn't the best-looking game of the generation. Its slower tactics-based gameplay might also be a disappointment for fans of PlatinumGames' 2015 action-fest, Devastation. I suppose I shouldn't judge before playing the game. Optimus Prime wouldn't make a snap judgement. (Or would he? I guess it depends on the canon.)
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- The PlayStation 5 has a very big, very important cooling fan that's getting a lot of attention. Apparently, Sony will "optimize the fan control within the PS5 based on data, according to the Accelerated Processing Unit's behavior in each game." I don't know about you, but I'm in love with all this fan discourse. Hey—no functional fan means no PlayStation 5. We already know what happens when consoles aren't properly ventilated. Hint: It starts with "Red Ring" and ends with "of Death."
- NBA 2K21 has unskippable ads during loading times. Of course it does. After all, we're in hell. Did you really think hell would have skippable advertisements? Click [here] to put in an order for your mandatory red pyjamas and pitchfork. Major thanks to our sponsors at Raid Shadow Legends.
- Some of the industry's finest adventure games are coming to Game Pass. Earlier today, DoubleFine announced the imminent arrival of its Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango remasters to Xbox's game subscription service. All three projects are the work of master adventure game tailor Tim Schafer. We had a good talk with Schaefer at PAX West 2020. Did you know part of Psychonauts was inspired by the beloved cult RPG Skies of Arcadia?
- Microsoft bringing more games to Switch would mean the whole entire ecosystem coming over, too. That's not surprising. This week's Starting Screen is all about how developers are more willing than ever to play well together, and Microsoft exudes that good will more than any other console manufacturer. Granted, that "good will" mostly amounts to being affable in hopes Nintendo will open its doors to Game Pass someday. Either way, Xbox head Phil Spencer doesn't think Microsoft's current habit of putting Xbox exclusives on Switch one-by-one is "sustainable."
- Developers love making roadmaps for triple-A games, but half the time they dissolve into broken dreams. Reviews editor Mike Williams looks back on the problem with roadmaps in the context of promised updates for Marvel's Avengers by Square Enix. "The roadmap alone doesn't mean anything; it's a plan, a hope, a prayer," he writes. Developers need to sink the time and resources necessary for those maps to come to life. Writing words on a screen is the easy part.
Axe of the Blood God for October 19, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
Kat and Nadia take a break from the grind of the RPG release schedule to talk about how some of today's most popular genres can be combined with the wonders of role-playing, including battle royale, Among Us, and more. Plus, we talk about Phil Spencer's recent comments concerning Bethesda, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and more! Listen here.