I have something to admit. It will sound strange in this day and age, but I still get a bit weirded out playing games on optical media.
It really makes no sense, considering just how long I have been popping discs into trays to get my game on. My reasons are a combination of upbringing and perception, and if you’re bored or curious, I’d like to share them with you.
Reason One – Music
Very early on, when CD’s were becoming mainstream, I was young enough to make the false assumption that they were like cassettes and vinyl before them, intended only for playing music. Of course, young Christian had never played with a computer using a tape drive, so I was wrong on two accounts. In any case, thinking of a CD as a storage medium rather than as a vessel for music took a little while, but I came around eventually.
Reason Two – I’m a computer guy
The one place that I have never felt weird about using CD’s for non musical purposes was the PC. I think this was due to the fact that I have been hugely interested in computing since my family’s old Commodore 64. Even back then I had a loose grasp of the idea of software as something that was written and executed. When CD’s started being used for software, I finally wrapped my mind around the storage idea. Yes they could hold music, but they could also act like really big floppy discs. When I installed a game on the PC, it was just copying files onto the hard drive. Of course, this is a gross simplification of how things work in a computer, and I never took much stock in the fact that the CD still had to stay in the drive for reading things like video clips, but at the time this is how I saw it.
I couldn’t do the same for classic gaming consoles. They had no hard drive, their CD drives were slow, their CPUs weak (though still better than my 486). How in the world could they just read and process all that data on the fly? I had a hard time buying it, and it took actual learning for me to accept CD based consoles.
Reason Three – Multimedia
Remember “Multimedia”? Of course you do, unless you are in the age range of 12 – 15, in which you are just about as old as multimedia. For everyone else, surely you have memories of this ridiculous movement brought on by the compact disc. It brought us encyclopedias that were more worried about showing us low grade video clips and half assed games than they were actual text. So much junk software throughout the 90′s. And of course it permeated into game consoles.
Unfortunately the Sega CD did a lot of damage in this regard. I know there are some legitimately good games on the platform, but its junk made me wonder if CDs meant an era of predominantly bad FMV games where the interaction was anything but. Then there was the 3D0, which took the multimedia angle even further with educational and non game software. Myst proved that people wanted pretty pictures as much or more as traditional gaming goodness, and I feared that the CD would usher in a terrible new era. Nevermind the fact that I never considered that Myst only spawned a genre of knockoffs, while PC gaming trudged on its normal path unscathed. For some reason I was still afraid of the fate of the consoles.
Reason Four – Sony
Since the beginning of their console history, I have always felt that Sony brought a cold, utilitarian feel to gaming. Time was when I could turn on a console and the game started up immediately. Eventually I would be treated to the welcoming feel of the Dreamcast bootup and the fairly nice bootup of the Xbox 360. They make me feel comfortable and excited to play some games.
Now go boot up a Playstation. What do you see? “Sony Computer Entertainment” with a logo that looks like it belongs on a VHS box. What do you hear? A blaring jingle that makes you feel like the text should instead read “this film is THX certified”. Why does the PS2 look like a space heater or an old piece of 80′s hi-fi equipment? Until the arrival of the “sexy” PSP, everything about the Playstation experience evoked the feeling of generic electronics. It made the game console a tool, rather than a toy, and as great as that sounds for kids desperately trying to prove their maturity, it never clicked with me. Since the Playstation helped to legitimize CD based consoles, I have always associated CD based gaming with Sony’s cold, hard image.
Of course, if you want something tangible, you need only look at the discs. Notice how every Playstation game features the Compact Disc logo on the label. Notice how some PS1 games look like early CD’s – all silver with black text. PS2 games continued that tradition with the DVD-Rom label. I thought that was some sort of requirement to put these logos somewhere on the disc, but I have discovered that this is not the case. A few Saturn and Sega CD games have the Compact Disc logo on the disc or the case, but thanks to perusing Jay’s mighty game library, I discovered that many of them didn’t. They had colorful labels and logos. They looked something like an actual game. Wii and Xbox games are a on DVDs, and the DVD logo never appears. Again, to me they look like games. Only Sony finds it necessary to make its products feel like just another entertainment commodity.
And that is why I still feel weird playing disc based games.
Ultimately none of this matters. My PS2 library dwarfs all other consoles. Carts don’t instantly make a game better. The “warm fuzzy feeling” coming from old Nintendo and Sega games is all in my head. But dammit, I don’t buy modern music and I only pick up choice DVDs. Games are my hobby, my comfort food. I like that warm and fuzzy feeling, a feeling that only books can give me more of. Even in this crazy modern industry that I so often complain about, that feeling of fun and happiness makes it all worthwhile.
Please, don’t take it away from me.