Money is always a pressing concern. Liquidity is the socio-economic construct that prevents most of us from enjoying life to its fullest. Mortgages, utilities, taxes and any number of unexpected bills that you are obligated to subsidize, all contribute to this burden. But with the added pressure of rising energy bills, as well as a nation wide rationing of cucumbers and tomatoes, purchasing anything as extravagant as PlayStation’s sophomore VR effort is a difficult justification to make. Admittedly when you’re interest is in a hobby as premium, as well as questionably regulated as gaming *cough* micro transactions *cough* live service *cough*, you shouldn’t be surprised by the exorbitant price of admission. So you’re forced to rely on your rather dubious instincts to inform your judgement. To be perceptive and decisive in your purchases, ensuring that you make the most educated decision possible. But of course there is no one less reliable to make smart decisions than yourself.
There’s a compelling dichotomy that provokes these determinations. The critical, sensible, pragmatic side of your brain is so responsive in evaluating all of the logistical variables of an expensive purchase, and determining the best course of action with methodical acuity. Then there’s the conflicting side that ignores all of that and just says “Why the hell not!”. This is the duality afflicting my decision making process in regards to the PS VR2. On the surface the decision is easy: it’s too expensive, lacking in software and frankly an unnecessary expenditure at this moment in time. When the cost and availability of a pack of tomatoes exceeds that of a unicorn horn, you have no business even contemplating the purchase of a lavish gaming accessory that costs more than the machine capable of running it! Then there’s the issue of explaining to your less than effusive partner why we have this device, instead of the new washing machine the money could conceivably have gone too.
But these capricious urges continue to deafen your prudence with its cacophonous seduction. You deliberate a compromise, like saving or selling a child. And it can be difficult to placate these impulses, without it crippling your thoughts. You start to conceive legitimate justifications for owning one. The streamline experience. The new haptic sensitive controller. Exclusive content. Yeah it’s hard to advocate the price as anything approximating reasonable, with many concessions and caveats that prohibit it’s acquisition. But in comparative to other high end VR headset’s on the market, it’s a fraction of the cost. But you just can’t disregard the price. Particularly as this is a peripheral with limited, novelty appeal. I think my desire for savings, trump’s my urge for the PS VR2. And ultimately a selfish, self serving purchase. But then….
With a New Year emerges new, usually domestic challenges. Increases in tax. National insurance. Rent. Utility bills. Inflation. Unemployment. All while wages stagnate, the economy fluctuates and the government flaunts its privilege while extorting the poor to fund next year’s extravagant New Year’s Eve party. I’ve often considered the possibility of deserting the congestion of residential monotony and living life off the proverbial grid. To seek refuge in the sanctity of a cabin, furnished with a kettle, decent WIFI connectivity and an accessible delivery route, if it meant avoiding all social interactions or humanity in its entirety. I believe that such nurtured abstinence would leave me a very contented mammal. And this inherent desire for social forfeit has only been further epitomised by the festive break.
Much of my gaming is economised by trivial domestic responsibilities, a province that afflicts many burgeoning diversions. And though Christmas permits much needed respite from the rigidity imposed by work, your patriarchal duty is satisfying your family’s demands. Now this is certainly my preferred environment, with food, booze and all of the festive hospitality you’d expect from a Christmas gathering. But the excesses of this socially repressive period affords little time to indulge in your own coveted seclusion. As someone as introverted as myself, thrust into awkward conversations with peripheral members of my family or indeed those inherited through my partner, can be a stifling. And even the obligatory moment of synergetic narcolepsy that afflicts every family unit post Christmas feast, provided scarce refuge to indulge in my gaming proclivities. Even with my transported Steam Deck for comfort.
The aforementioned Steam Deck enables a versatility impeded by the conventional console systems. Sure it’s not the most subtle device, one that evidently attracts the attention of even your cataract afflicted grandmother, and is considered a major social faux pas, but a necessary reprieve from the “invigorating” family congregations. But what suddenly occurs to me during this bustle of congenial levity, is that gaming really is as intimate as reading a book. I lack the requisite discipline to suppress the ambient revelry around me, that in turn disrupts my capacity to engage with the words on the page with any comprehension. It could be the noise from a television or a simple conversation, I just can’t concentrate. And the same applies for gaming. There is just too much activity encompassing you to fully immerse yourself in a game, and zone out for a few hours. Which has always been a prime incentive. Despite the versatility and portability of a device like the Steam Deck, it’s just not the same unless you can play it alone.
Sadly, unless I inherit a small fortune from a wealthy Uncle I “accidentally” murdered, I’m probably going to have to stop being so selfish.
I’m a PlayStation gamer, and have been since I received a PlayStation 1 for my twelfth Birthday. Now this wasn’t a decision based on sophomoric loyalty or biased aversion to the competition. This was purely a consumerist preference. The original PlayStation was the prevailing console on the market, with the PS2 further solidifying its popularity in the wider gaming firmament. There were the dedicated outliers of Xbox supporters, the snobbish contrairians of the playground who would ridicule the lambs suckling at the corporate teat of Sony. But for the most part we simply enjoyed the flourishing creativity provided by these machines that could render realistic 3D environments for us to explore. We weren’t really concerned with how we played games, or even the device we used. We were just captivated by their ingenuity and fun.
Sadly the industry has changed, emboldened by the financial potential afforded by gaming’s lucrative appeal. Perhaps the gaming industry has always been this covetous and we have willfully ignored the blatant capitalism that is now so prevalent. But I can’t help feeling that the things have gotten significantly worse since the more rapacious elements in the trade are promoted to positions of authority, in companies they neither understand nor evoke any genuine affinity for. Those that profit from this entity by attaching itself to it, like a parasitical barnacle of the hull of a ship. More concerned with analytics, market data and consumer trends, than crafting something distinct. And no one epitomises this passionless ideology more than Sony’s chief of charisma, Jim “Vanilla” Ryan.
Being the human equivalent of a baked potato, in both appearance and personality, Jim Ryan seems like the type of guy in school that would remind the teacher to assign them homework. Yet here he is, promoted to a position of authority, to oversee one of the industries leading gaming publishers, with all the magnetic fervour of a Postal strike. Nothing this man imbues, inspires confidence nor the inclination that he has the slightest notion of the company he is representing. This is the same guy that referred to PS1 and PS2 games as “ancient”, without a hint of irony and little comprehension as to why anyone would want to play them, over a modern equivalent. Then there is his hypocritical opposition to Xbox acquisition of Activision, or more accurately the ownership of the “Call of Duty” publisher. And a direct slight against the industry’s critical darling and literal embodiment of smug, Phil Spencer. This is when you’d insert the meme of the doppelganger Spider Man pointing at one another.
I understand that this is a business. Profit margins. Turnover. Revenue. Market share. Money! It is important that a company continues to generate consistent revenue to survive and thrive. Keep the cogs of industry lubricated. But don’t let someone as earnest as a tax rebate, who would probably get nostalgic over a tax return, be the figure head for your corporate enterprise. This would be like Weyland Yutani promoting a chestburster as their head of public relations. Though I’m confident that Jim Ryan wouldn’t dream of laying an embryo in the chests of it’s consumers, I’m also confident that he would have no idea what that would be in reference too. God, I hate the industry.
Skyrim really is the gaming equivalent of crack. Not the good, refined stuff though. More the kind of crack that has been diluted with a mix of concrete and dandruff, siphoned from the head of a teenager that believes that regimented hygiene intel’s turning your underpants inside out after a couple of days of wear. Yet despite its ageing allure, it’s pervasive revisions and my own enduring familiarity with this decade old game, I can’t help but be beguiled by its beguiling opulence. A world replete with expansive autonomy. A sovereignty that affords a unique opportunity to fulfil your vocation of becoming Skyrim’s most revered former convict, who has ascended to being an administrator of the college of Winterhold, commander of the Companions, head of the thieves guild, chief stabber of the Dark Brotherhood and pacifier of civil wars. Husband. Father (adopted). Vampire. Werewolf. And owner of an extensive collection of daedric artefacts. That at some point during our journey, will revert back to being a stealthy archer.
When the conquest of slaying an inter-dimensional dragon, becomes a secondary consideration to property development, it’s a small wonder why we keep coming back to the frost covered mountains of Skyrim. To engage in its auspicious vastness in pursuit of achieving any of these numerous vocations, that on the surface would appear contradictory. Yet despite the games semblance of depth, this facade is somewhat skewed by the superficial depiction of morality and the conflicting principles of being a practising necromancer managing the Thieves guild, College of Winterhold, Dark Brotherhood and the Companions? Or perhaps it just speaks to our ability to diversify and expand our reputation in different factions. A freedom endowed by an environment that is specifically catered to our role as an almost omnipotent being, with the soul of a dragon.
Despite its ageing senility. The repetitious monotony of a place I recognise better than my own town, and no matter how many years have passed between engagements, I just cannot quit Skyrim! With this latest compulsion the result of a Sixth different purchase. A sixth separate variation that includes my original PS3 iteration, PS4 Special Edition, PSVR, PS5 Upgrade Special Edition, Switch and now a Steam variant. Spanning five separate platforms! There’s an almost nostalgic quality to playing Skyrim again. Like going back and to your childhood bedroom during a visit to your parents over the Christmas period to see if it’s how you remember it. And, continuing with this festive analogy, coming back to Skyrim is much like abstaining from Forrero Rochers because that’s all any one would buy you, only to eat one year’s later and recall with sudden recognition, just how much you like Forrero Rochers.
It’s been a very long and arduous journey. A journey fraught with uncertainty, delays and vague speculative assumptions. In the intervening period between reserving my Steam Deck and actually receiving the device, Frodo Baggins was able to trek across Middle Earth, through corpse ridden marshes, treacherous mountain peaks, the clutches of men and their tenacious obsession with power. All while being pursued by ring wraiths, paralysed by an 8-foot arachnid and endured the insufferable burden of the rings virulent malignancy. All without even wearing a stitch on his bulbous feet. In short, Frodo has no idea what real suffering is! With the interminable component shortage, a perpetuating consequence of COVID, one that resulted in a revised release and an adjusted time frame that is still very oblique. The Steam decks gradual release has been a fatiguing experience for a company renowned for its software.
But today that all changes. A day that will mark a pivotal moment in my life. A life that will be forever partitioned into a period of “before” and “after” the Steam deck. Appropriately abbreviated to “S.T.D” in the Gregorian calendar. There’s a sense of relief, like a year long bowel movement that has finally been shifted. But also a burgeoning sense of anxiety. An interminable reluctance elicited by such a prolonged yearning. A need that its release can’t possibly satisfy, with a daunting accumilation of aspirations you’ve conjured in your subconscious. The kind of self inflicted sabotage that occurs when you’ve invested a significant amount of not so disposable income on an extravagant device, that has been festering in my account for almost a year!
There’s an expectation that has gestated into this great irrepressible entity. Its tormenting binds finally splintered into a cacophony of euphoric liberation. Possessing the Steam deck is a lot like bringing home a new pet. And with any new addition to the household, it’s compulsory to accessorise. In this instance its natural to manifest this same effusive sense of pride by purchasing software. A vigorous process that only further expedites the flourishing relationship between man and device. If such a bond can exist between a living organism and inanimate object. But judging by my experience with the Steam deck so far, I think it could become my most cherished possession. One that I can also take for walks.
Do you own a Steam deck? If so what do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.