A Carol of Consoles, Or What if Charles Dickens Reviewed the New Gaming Systems?

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Narrated by Rob Tannen, with apologies to Charles Dickens
Illustration by Cheng Wan

Have you been wondering which of the new gaming consoles is right for you?

And have you ever wondered what Charles Dickens would have thought of them?

No?

Well we did.

Jake’s Ghost

Console gaming was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that, with the rise of mobile and tablet game apps, consoles were as dead as a door-nail.

Or were they? I was awakened amidst a cold December night by a frightful apparition. It was Jake, my long-deceased gaming buddy. Jake floated in the air above me, his swollen thumbs weighed down, each wrapped in a tangle of wires and cables, with various boxes hanging off. As he drew closer I could see these anchors were old gaming consoles…an NES, Intellivision, Colecovision, an Atari 2600 and more.

The spirit of Jake spoke aloud: “I wear the games I forged in life. I made them level-by-level, and cartridge-by-cartridge; I girded them on of my own free will, and of my own free will I played them. Is its pattern strange to you?”

I cried out to Jake “Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?”

But Jake had come to warn me—“You will be visited by three consoles” he admonished. And thus was the genesis of my odyssey.

The First of the Three Consoles

The first of the three came to me the following evening. It was a vaporous spirit that took no clear form and it hissed when it spoke: “I am the ghost of gaming past, you may call my Steam”. Steam, I pondered—what could be more familiar to a man of Victorian times?

And indeed this console was a ghost of the past—based on a Linux gaming platform and backward compatible with its huge library of PC games.

Steam whisked me away to revisit my childhood of electronic gaming—behold the Atari Pong of my youth. It brought a joyful tear to my eye.

“You recollect the game?” inquired the Spirit.

“Remember it!” I cried with fervour; “I could play it blindfold.”

And yet this Steam spirit was quite up to date—with a completely new type of controller that replaced joysticks with precision trackpads. Perhaps looking at the past can lead one forward after all.

The Second of the Three Consoles

The following night I was visited again. This spirit was glorious to see, and bore a glowing torch emitting blue rays of warm light.

“I am the console of gaming PSent,” said the Spirit. “Look upon me!”

“You have never played the like of me before!” exclaimed the Spirit.

“Never,” I made answer to it.

“Have never gamed on my elder brothers?” pursued the Phantom.

“I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?”

“Three,” said the Ghost.

Indeed this spirit, who I came to know as PS4, is clearly a console of the present for it does not allow play of its antecedent’s games. It also emphasizes the social camaraderie of our age with a dedicated “share” button for uploading screenshots to social networks and broadcasting gaming sessions online.

But for a spirit of the present, PS4 does not currently offer many games to choose from, depriving poor children of their holiday fun. I thought of all the forlorn game boys and girls who would not be consoled.

“Have they no refuge or resource?” I cried.

“Are there no launch titles?” said the Spirit, mockingly. “Are there no demos?”

Indeed, the spirit made me realize that the present is less about having, than about wanting.

The Third Visitor

Lastly the third spirit visited me; it was shrouded in a deep black case, and was simply known as the One.

“Ghost of the Future!” I exclaimed, “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. Will you not speak to me?”

But the spirit did not consistently reply to my voice commands.  It remained silent and only gestured to me.

It whisked me to a future where consoles would take over all of the entertaining endeavors of my living parlour. With HDMI input, an integrated TV guide and a growing library of apps, the console of the future is about much more than gaming. Perhaps gaming-only consoles were as dead as a door-nail, but entertainment consoles would live on.

But alas, the ghost of the future asked me to pay the dearest price of all, more so than either of its brethren spirits—$499.99! “Bah! Humbug!” I exclaimed, “A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!”

Scrooge

The End of It

Following my last encounter, I awakened in my bed, realizing that the season was indeed bright “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” I exclaimed, “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”

I scurried down to the parlour where I found each of the consoles arranged for play. I was so delighted that I did not know which one to use first. But it did not matter for all of the start buttons seemed to call out to me in unison—“Go Press Us, Every One!”

About the Author

Image of Rob Tannen