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The idea that it is bad to have an abundance of choices seems counter-intuitive. The more things you have to choose from, the more likely you are to get exactly what you want, right? Or can having too many options overwhelm you, driving you into indecision or simply cause you to ultimately question the value of your selection compared to those you left behind? We are constantly bombarded by options, choices, alternatives for everything from loaves of bread to toothpaste, from shampoo to non-dairy creamers, if you are presented with at least a dozen nearly identical options something is wrong. Is more always merrier or would limited choices provide us with peace of mind? If there is no alternative to what we are buying, we must be getting the best and our selections would be that much easier to make. Before we start getting too hyperbolic, let me clarify that I am not supporting a monarchy, monopolies are bad m’kay and we can all (or at least we all should) agree that competition is great for the consumer and drives innovation.

When it comes to video games there have always been many choices, but it does seem (at least to me) that there are more choices now than ever before. Is this just perception – am I simply more aware of the choices that are out there now because of the “always on” internet connection we live with nowadays streaming non-stop news feeds directly to my phone and home computer or do we really have more choices now than ever before when it comes to video gaming? Perhaps there are more platforms for gaming now than ever before. It’s not simply console versus PC versus Mac anymore. Phones now more than ever are being used for gaming and their gaming ability is just scratching the surface of what their capabilities will be in the next few years. Browser based have grown in complexity and popularity over the past few years in part due to the Facebook effect but soon HTML5 will allow even more powerful games to be experienced directly through your web browser.

One would think that having all of these varied gaming platform options with hundreds, sometimes even thousands of games available in their respective libraries would mean gamers are more content than they have ever been. However, the Paradox of Choice (Barry Schwartz, 2004) describes a conundrum facing modern Americans in which our massive quantity of choices actually deteriorates our sense of satisfaction and happiness. Barry’s TED talk is excellent, even if you don’t agree with it, it should at least cause you to stop and think about the choices you make on a daily basis and how they impact you.

But do we really have more choices now than ever before? Let’s take a look at the library sizes of the current game consoles and those of generations past:

(Quantity of games in library according to wikipedia not limited to any specific geographic area)

NES Games: 799
Master System: 318
Game Boy: 705

Genesis / Mega Drive: 915
SNES: 784 games

Sony Playstation: 8,008
Sega Saturn: 540
N64: 387
Game Boy Advance: 994

Playstation 2: 2,015
Dreamcast: 720
GameCube: 640
Xbox: 966
Nintendo DS: Over 600
PSP: 685

Xbox 360: 796
Playstation 3: No games
Wii: 968
WiiWare: 523
Wii Virtual Console: 376
Nintendo DSiWare: 248
XBLA: 363
PSN Store: 576
iPhone Games: ? Lots
Android Games: ? Lots

As you can see, the quantity of games on each console hasn’t grown in a linear fashion, in fact the Playstation’s library is outrageously large in comparison to today’s consoles. The number of platforms on which to play games has continued to grow with time though as well as the availability of games. This is pretty important I think. As technology advances, more powerful games can fit in the palm of your hand and be taken with you for consumption anywhere, anytime. You no longer need to be at home, in front of a PC or console to enjoy a rewarding gaming experience.

How does this impact gaming culture? Are gamers’ attention spans shrinking as the availability and selection of gaming options increases? Are we more likely to give up on a good game when we encounter a difficult section because there are so many alternatives available with the press of a button or the wave of a finger? This amount of instant gratification is an impressive amount of power that many may be wielding recklessly.

As a young boy in the pre-internet world, video game knowledge was passed around in the lunchroom by those fortunate enough to have Nintendo Power subscriptions. Waiting until you got home to try out the tips and tricks you discussed over lunch with your friends was serious business. More often than not, video game secrets were found by dumb luck, trial and error or through relentlessly playing the games you had because new games were few and far between. Living out the majority of my childhood in the 8-bit and 16-bit generations, my years much like Ralphie’s revolved around Christmas. New games would generally only came along on birthdays and Christmas, and if (like me) your birthday happened to fall 6 days from Christmas, you would be left pining for new experiences throughout the entire year. It was a hard knock life, but I managed to survive and I think I am stronger for it.

As a lifetime gamer, and a father of someone who will someday become a gamer, I hope that the vast selection of platforms and gaming options that barrage our young ones will not make them jaded gamers. That they will have the patience to give games an honest chance, play through some difficult or mundane parts of great games to complete their experience with it but most of all appreciate how lucky they are and how far games have come in such a short amount of time.

Video game console life cycles move pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss some great games.

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  1. avatar Home Heating says:

    How lucky I am its been so amazing being on this site and its all thanks to you guys so thank you so much 🙂 lots of love from … Me 🙂

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