Tomorrow the Xbox Series X comes out and the 9th generation officially starts. It's a weird time for a new generation, with the world literally and metaphorically on fire, but life goes on I guess.
I've been thinking about the 8th generation recently. It was a very strange generation. It started later than was probably intended, after the economic collapse in 2008, and it had those half-step upgrade consoles in the middle. Nintendo has been totally off synch with generations and one could argue that the Switch was really the start of the 9th gen, but the Switch is more on par with the 7th gen machines and is really a handheld more than it is a home console.
Personally I think that there are two main ways to think about the 8th generation. In terms of advancing game design and even graphics...it's arguably the worst ever. 7th and 8th gen games tend to be very similar, and game design advances seem to have slowed to a crawl. Maybe this is in part because of the slow CPUs in the 8th gen boxes, maybe it's just inevitable as the medium matures and games get more and more expensive and less experimental, but the difference between late 7th generation games and late 8th generation games is mostly aesthetic and even there not very great.
On the other hand the average game coming out these days tends to be pretty good and well polished. There are of course games that come out broken or just flat out suck, but most shovelware is obviously cheap indie stuff at this point and developers generally have a sense of how to make a pretty fun game most of the time. There are fewer big releases than there used to be, but the indie market is thriving and maturing and there's never a lack of stuff to play. Games are in a pretty good place overall, and the 8th generation is home to some of my favorite games of all time, like God of War PS4 and Forza Horizon 3.
The 8th gen also saw VR reach the mainstream, and while it didn't take off to the degree a lot of people hoped it seems to have a permanent foothold and is here to stay. I'm excited about that emerging market and it seems clear that it's the place where game design really has room to grow and mature in new ways. I won't be buying an Oculus because of Facebook, but the next great headset that's not tied to that nightmare I will invest in if I have the cash. Of course PSVR is the shallowest end of that pool, and the fact that Sony doesn't intend to make a sequel is a bit concerning, but the 9th gen boxes are perfectly capable of driving VR experiences so we may see those headsets come in time.
Overall I think the 8th gen really shows the degree to which gaming has matured. I expect the 9th gen to be much more of a continuation than a radical departure, and I'm okay with that. Gaming has never been more about the games and less about the hardware, and that's how it should be. There's exciting new stuff like the Dualsense controller and the SSDs cutting down so far on loading times, so experiences will continue to improve.
Game on brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings. Game on.