By MMMman 3 Comments
I used to love my PS3. She was the apple of my eye when I took her and a copy of what proved to be the weakest Call of Duty game, namely three, home the week of release. I had told myself she was unattainable, a charming and sophisticated being whom I lusted after yet knew deep down I was not ready to handle. I was steadfast in my resolve, though everything changed, as they do, after a chance meeting. We were introduced by a mutual friend. I was shy and awkward, she was full of brazen confidence, the perfect extrovert. I was captivated completely; she somehow showed me the world in a different light, more beautiful than I had ever seen before. The mundane was transformed; cars, clouds, trees, rolling hills, stranger’s faces, even sport, the drudgery and boredom that ‘the sport’ had once instilled in me was gone, replaced by the raptures of joyful innocence, everything was beautiful. Of course the world hadn’t changed, the same rules and laws applied, she just made everything prettier and I was fine with that. After all I liked the way the world worked, cars drove, hills rolled, guns shot things at people and the sport would inevitably be played, as it always would, that was good, I liked it that way. We were the perfect couple; she allowed me to continue on with my life in much the same way as I always had, and I was a little bit happier because everything looked nicer and ran a bit smoother. It was perfect.
We shared a lovely few years together and saw some momentous occasions. Assassins Creed getting good, my sixth proper Grand Theft Auto game, buying my first truly good DLC, buying my first truly good downloadable game, trophies, one redundancy, one sacking, two long-term girlfriends, three years of a degree and four houses. And one Wii. Lots of things happened yet we stuck together.
In time temptations began to get the better of me though, the grass began to look increasingly more dazzling on Microsoft’s side of the stream. What were these treasures? Mass Effect, Shadow Complex, Fable, Too Human, all shining examples of why my darling Playstation could not sate my appetite and moreover why platform exclusives are a devious yet completely reliable way to tempt betrothed souls down the path of infidelity. Before I had time to think I found myself spending long, deceitful nights away from my love, enraptured by my new desire; the other woman. My neglect was sustained and hurtful. All the Playstations fell ill for a time and I carelessly used this as an excuse to further distance myself, to break our once strong bonds to the point of insignificance. We were never the same after that, she was back at home but we were altogether different. I feel the shame now but at the time I simply couldn’t see how heartless I was being with the months and months of cavorting with the Xbox right in front of her. It nearly destroyed us.
Luckily for my PS3 this generation has continued as long as it has or it might be boxed up completely by now. You see I quickly became entrenched in the ‘Xbox ecosystem’, to coin a populist turn of phrase, and soon forgot about the once loved black monolith on my desk. It sat alone for over a year until Journey was released, Flower being one of my all-time favourite games I couldn’t not play it, and then fell quiet again. I was coaxed back this week by the new addition of free games on demand to Playstation Plus. The deal seemed perfect for me; access to decent quality PS3 games I’ve missed out on during my absence for what is ostensibly a modest one-off payment, those platform exclusives tempting me back in from the cold. What struck me when it came to redeeming these complimentary games, however, is just how archaic the XMB and the entire infrastructure of the PS3 now feel. I say this independently of my extensive use of the Xbox, which has its own foibles, and instead want to address some of the issues associated with an ageing user interface.
After the requisite updates, something the PS3 has always seemed to have a glut of, I took it upon myself to clear up my now tiny 60GB hard drive and make some room for the newcomers. I was disappointed to see that the PS3 still has no centralised list of items stored on the hard drive, instead making me trawl through downloaded PS3 games, installed PS3 games, PS minis, PS classics and miscellaneous games all separately. This was massively time consuming as I scrambled through folders trying to delete old data for games long since shelved. I see the logic behind the system originally when times were simpler and there was only ever a need to install and possibly download a handful of titles from the store but the digital marketplace has grown vastly since 2007. What is more baffling is that Sony was pushing from the very beginning for the Playstation Store to be a significant and heavily integrated part of the experience. Surely sticking rigidly with a UI which treats installs of different formats as completely separate entities undermines this concept of a united physical/digital platform? This lack of clear information of where data was being stored and for what purpose continued into the night, swallowing me in a whirlpool of questions and bafflement. Why did I install all these video apps? What is their purpose? Playstation Home? FOUR gigabytes? Aah, that makes sense.
The cull was deep and painful, titles like Go!Puzzle, Gripshift and Mortal Kombat which had been sat there peacefully for half a decade were cruelly ripped from their comfortable existence and cast out, regardless of their small size. The fever dream of wanton deletion had been brought on by utter confusion and the casualties were piling up, I was indiscriminate, unable to easily find the large games throttling my instant pleasure dome I turned on all of the inhabitants. Except Stacking. And Journey. And Flower. I couldn’t do that to Flower.
Rage subsiding the next logical thing, I thought, was to tidy up the list of my beloved survivors. Flower then Journey then Stacking. Lovely. No? Listing games in alphabetical order with a PS3 is apparently pointless and completely unnecessary. Chronological order, you bet, but not an order which is either useful or makes sense for cataloguing. When I was younger I ordered my CDs chronologically until I had more than ten, then it became a cumbersome way of keeping them and I went with alphabetical. Yet another example of how outdated the PS3 experience outside of games is. Sony provides a storefront and aim to maximise earnings through digital sales yet doesn’t support this with a viable way to catalogue purchases. Before the cull my 60GB machine looked terrible, with five times the clutter I can’t imagine wading through all those colourful thumbnails to find my content.
I could continue but most of my problems with the PS3 ecosystem boil down to a lack of foresight and poor organization. Trophies were slow to sync at their inception, how would time and increased load affect them? The store is cluttered with too much need for backtracking, adding more of everything will streamline it, no? Most aspects of the UI are clearly designed for quieter times; when our consoles were used for disc-based content and lightly supplemented by the digital kind. As this balance has shifted the XMB ought to have been fundamentally updated to deal with this increased load. At its heart lays a beautiful and streamlined way to present a giant amount of information and the basic structure of it is still a solid design. All it needs are some minor organisational tweaks, increased catagorisation options and the ability to condense vital information such as installed game content into a single location.
I doubt any of this will happen now though thanks to the same reason I still use the PS3 at all; her age. In sticking around this long she’s gained a new lease of life with me, even though it looks as if she’ll be left to age disgracefully, stumbling from party to party losing her keys and forgetting her purse. I loved her when she was young and sprightly and she hasn’t changed much since, for better or worse. How could I give up on her now?