My four and a half year old son, Finn, loves video games. He loves watching me play, he loves (trying) to play them, and he loves watching videos about video games.
It’s a really excellent bonding experience between us that I cherish and look forward to. I had stopped playing games for the longest time and having children has given me reason to partake in a lot of that fun all over again.
I remember how excited I would be to pick up a new game for my SNES some 20+ years ago. I remember saving up allowance for games like Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gaia. I would spend so much time turning the box around in my hands before opening it and then spending ages reading through the instruction manual, admiring the art and reading the story and details for every aspect of the game.
Finally shoving the game into the console and sliding the power button was magical. It was the culmination of so much excitement and anticipation. Those moments with my sister, friends, and cousins still rank high as some of my fondest memories growing up.
Finn has vague notions of what currency is and basic ideas about what things cost and how long it might take to save up for a game or toy. It’s not something that happens too often so we’ll sit together and look over a list of games and figure out which one we want to get. We’ll look at videos, screenshots, and reviews to make sure this is something he’s confident he should spend his (my) money on.
Finally, after all the saving, preparation, and planning, we head to Toys ‘R’ Us (or whatever) to finally purchase the game. After a quick romp through the store and the eventual transfer of goods, we’re back on our way home. We could open the game in the car so Finn has a chance to pore over the instruction manual except there is no instruction manual. There is only one sheet of printed paper in the box. One side is an advertisement for an extremely shitty movie’s release on blu-ray, the other side is an advertisement for a, hopefully far less shitty, comic book.
Once home, we eagerly pop the game into the console only to be met with an installation message. Don’t worry, it only takes about 30-60 minutes to install, so we wait.
Then we install a 9 gigabyte update for the game.
For those who haven’t played around with this generation of video game consoles, you may have assumed “gigabyte” was a mistake on my part. It wasn’t. A 9 gb update on the Xbox One isn’t even the largest I’ve seen.
And that’s it. Finally we get to play the game but at this point there is no “new game experience” anymore. What remains is a fetid puddle of lukewarm shit.