If you’re noticing a spring in my step, and a more zesty attitude to life, you might be forgiven for thinking I’ve won the lottery or had sex. But no, my new vim and vigour has come about due to last Christmas’s family Christmas present: A Sony Playstation 4.
Anybody who says that material things – especially sparkly digital shriekboxes – are ephemera we could all do without is talking absolute bollocks. Having a Playstation 4 really has made my life completely better.
I should explain why I’m so giddy about this. You see, I’ve never had a cutting-edge games console before (I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems and all that). I am not what you might call an early adopter of technology. I do not own an MP3 player. I haven’t got a sat-nav in my car. I sneer at Apple things, and baulk at their prices. My smart phone is cheap, low-cost, and only used for text messages and phone calls, and that’s it. Good tech is wasted on me.
I’ve been conditioned to be like this. Growing up in the 1980s, my father was afflicted by that strange delusion that middle-aged men with young families had back then, and bought a home computer on the basis that it would help my brother and I do better homework than anyone else, and that he could control the family finances in a much more comprehensive way. Of course, that was bullshit, and we used it as a home arcade-game machine. I don’t think I ever saw him use it for compiling a spreadsheet, and I certainly never did homework on it.
It was a BBC Model B Microcomputer, with a 5″ floppy disk drive and 32kb of memory, and it was brilliant. He managed to get a few games for it, and that was enough, end of story. At the same time, the games console market was taking off, but he figured that a computer with games on it was enough for us, end of story, no argument.
Typically of our family (we also had a Betamax video recorder) The BBC Model B was not a machine my contemporaries had (most of my peers had a ZX Spectrum 48k), so games were hard to come by (apart from the original Elite, which was fucking brill, and I now play the new updated online version, Elite: Deadly Turbo Zone). Over subsequent years, we’d get various underpowered PCs, thanks to my Dad’s insistence on computers over consoles, and to his complete lack of knowledge about computers.
This parsimonious attitude rubbed off on me. As a student in the 1990s, when my chums were all blowing grants and student loans on the original Playstation, I thought I was being sensible by not getting one. Fool. I therefore missed out on staying up until 5am with a spliff in my hand, playing Tomb Raider. This was an essential experiential part of the cultural zeitgeist in the 1990s, and I missed out on it, and as a result my life has never really recovered.
A few years ago, I caved in and bought a Wii, some years after everyone else had bought one. It’s OK, but games were hardly being churned out for it, even in 2010. We now use it for the fitness thing, except it can be quite judgmental. But this Christmas, both Sarah and I agreed to get a new console.
We reasoned that as Alice was getting older, that she should have some sort of Super Megathing 3000. For one thing, most of her friends have got tablets, Nintendo DS’s, Xboxes and so on, and we didn’t want her to feel left out. For another, we wanted her to have something that had a current supply of decent games coming out every so often. And finally, and most importantly, Sarah and I wanted all of those things for ourselves.
Sarah, ever the clever budgeter, thought we could get a PS3 second-hand, and that would do the job. For once, I didn’t agree. I felt that Alice would be better served by having new games. It’s not that I wanted her to have better, flashier stuff than her chums (nor do I want to rub it into the faces of our fellow parents), but that she could have something she could be proud of, and that she could have something where the games were relevant and current. I said all this, knowing full well that, deep down, my real reason for wanting a PS4 over a PS3 was that I wanted something spanking new for once, dammit!
After 30 years of console culture, I finally wanted to have something where, if a new game came out, I didn’t watch the adverts, wistfully hoping that I could one day have something as snazzy. I wanted to have a game and a console that all the other kids in the neighbourhood had. I wanted the shiny bullshit for once, and I wanted to have the bestest graphics, and the dopest games, yo. I wanted to play games when they came out. I wanted to play violent games online, and get my own back on teenagers from Ohio who call me a “faggot” and a “n00b” by blasting them repeatedly in the face (in the game, of course. Duh).
Besides, I’m an adult now, and what’s the point of actually working for a living if I can’t buy whatever the fuck I want?
I also reasoned with Sarah that Alice could have child-friendly games of her own, and that Sarah could play her beloved Minecraft in glorious, plasma-screen HD (up until now played on a creaking laptop). I reasoned that the PS4 would be current for a good few years yet, and it would be fine for a few years after any successor came out.
And lo, my wheedling paid off. The PS4 is now the newest member of the family. Fuck, it’s great. OK, so I can’t stay up until 5am with a spliff in my hand, sitting on a beanbag making Lara Croft jiggle around with guns – the time in my life where I could do that has now passed. Instead, Sarah and I can sit together and chat while we play our games. It’s quality husband/wife time together. Alice has also enjoyed playing various Lego games and Minecraft herself. And it has brought a new disciplinary tool to the family dynamic: The old “If-you-don’t-do-your-homework-now-you-won’t-play-the-PS4-this-weekend” thing, which works a treat. The threat of which means that Alice will quickly do whatever she’s asked to do with minimum fuss. The threat of having her Lego Avengers game withdrawn is too much for her to bear. I mean, what else will she do without the PS4 to sustain her? Actually play with real Lego?? HA!
OK, so all I’ve done is bought a racing game, Twatty Car Vroomfest, and a shooty game in the form of Star Wars Battlegasm, and they’re all very shiny and lovely. I haven’t played Call of Duty Black Ops II online yet. In fact, I haven’t played any online games yet (and thus my waste of good tech continues), but I do feel like I’ve been a provider. I’ve finally become a good modern father after all my self-absorbed, liberal, non-bling, non-acquisitional pontificating and posturing, right? I’ve provided for my family. I haven’t denied my child some gaudy thing just because I didn’t have it as a lad, or out of being miserly. I’ve bought something aspirational and current, and it didn’t hurt. In fact, I feel better for it. I’m having fun, and so is my family! They’re downstairs right now playing on Minecraft as I type this. We’re all happy! You know, I think I may be becoming shallow and materially obsessed as everyone else. Hooray!