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Wassamata Console?

August 5th, 2006 @ 7:17 am
by Dr. Zaiss

Check it. I got this joke texted to me on my mobile phone today. What do a Foreman Grill, an Apple Computer, and a tiny white box have in common? Give up? Well, they’ve all been inspirations for next generation consoles! Hahaha.

So that wasn’t actually a joke that was texted to me (does anyone actually subscribe to those things?). In fact, it’s an analogy taken from What’s Wrong With Console Design? – an article by Eric-Jon Rossel-Waugh that I read today. A number of interesting and thought-provoking points in this article. Despite my growing interest in the design of things, I don’t really pay much attention to the design of consoles – once I’ve purchased the item, it goes in my media center and I only look at it long enough to put games in and take them out.

EJRW (do you think he minds if I call him that?) protests the recent trend of console designs, calling the Xbox 360 a copy, the PS3 just generally f’ed up, and the Wii closest to “the mark” but generally leaving one with that feeling of “…quoi?”

Which leaves me to wonder… what exactly is the aesthetic that game companies should be striving for? EJRW pines for the days of old, where Sega systems would proudly display their video game function from down the hall and never apologize for it. But, hmmm, Sega isn’t making a next gen system are they? Why might that be. Truthfully, I’m a Sega fan – who’s played all of three games total on two Sega systems, but that’s beside the point. I think the sales figures indicate that the general populace wanted something different out of a game console – if not in the actual physical design, then in the function, the progression of games, or something that Sega hadn’t been offering.

Really, what I think ERJW is trying to get across is a feeling of frustration at exactly that progression. Sony, a company that wasn’t interested in gaming per sé, has been such a driving force for the game industry, driving the evolution of game development as a whole. With it goes the console design, in a direction that is questionable at best.

Questionable, that is, to the hardcore gamers in the audience. But as even ERJW acknowledges, there’s value in trying to cater to the fringe group of gamers who might not want a system that screams “I PLAY VIDEO GAMES DAMN YOU,” and a sleek, modern aesthetic might be what pushes some of the fringe to buy in. Especially since (1) hardcore console gamers will buy it anyway, and (2) trying to blend into the family media center aesthetic is a tried and usually-true strategy – both points that ERJW makes.

So yeah, maybe the new consoles look funky, or even a bit weird. Frankly, I’m still caught up on the naming issue of the Wii. If you really can’t stand the new console design, here’s what I’d do. Go buy a Sega Dreamcast, and your next-gen system of choice. Send them both to our friend Jason. During college, reinstalled his Nintendo into a portable carrying device with an LCD screen, so I can only assume he can transfer your new system into the Dreamcast shell and give you the feel-good form to go with that new-age function. Or keep both of them for himself. One of the two.

Alternatively, you could paint your new system with obnoxious video game colors. Or, you could just suck it up. For my part, despite reading ERJW’s article and writing this post, I’m still not going to pay attention to the actual form of the video game console. As long as it fits in my media center and plays fun games, its fine with me.

3 Responses to “Wassamata Console?”

  1. Eric Says:

    It would be nice if Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all got together and at least made their consoles stackable so that they fit more nicely together in an entertainment center. Perhaps they could form some sort of Megazord when combined that exceeded their individual powers.

  2. gnome Says:

    Design will get eventually more important as more consoles enter average/mainstream/dull homes. Look at TVs & Hi-Fi’s. Design actually sells stuff…

  3. Vince Twelve Says:

    I’m completely with Eric on this. A game console needs to fit in among all the other things underneath my TV. Other game consoles, a DVD/VHS player, my digital cable box… Everything is a different size, shape, and color. They really need to standardize that shit.

    Personally, I like the look of the Wii. A small white box about the size of two DVD cases next to each other. Horizontally oriented devices don’t fit well underneath TVs because you usually can’t fit two side-by-side, and you can only fit so many in a stack. Imagine if everything under your TV conformed to the DVD case footprint, but with variable widths. Everything would line up really well, TV shelves would be easier to design and buy, and it would just look cool.

    I don’t think the look of a system is too important. I’m more concerned with where I’m going to fit the thing in my entertainment center.