HARVARD HERO MOMENT #29: My PlayStation – 25 years of whirring hopes and dreams

Joe McNamara

29 Apr 2020

The PlayStation burst onto the European and North American gaming scenes a quarter of a century ago in 1995, unless you were living in Japan during 1994, of course. 25 years later, the fourth iteration of Sony’s legendary games console has sold over 100 million units. It was a special sense of excitement when you hooked up that aesthetically unimpressive grey box to the ancient Bush portable TV which you had to assault to stir it into any kind of audio-visual activity. The hours wasted flaming gnorcs with Spyro, catching Wumpa fruit with Crash and performing spinning heel kicks on Tekken. Were they really wasted? I suppose it depends who you ask.

Time to grow up

When the PlayStation came of age is debatable, but a decent case can be made for the year 2000. Launched at the turn of the new millennium, the PS2 still holds the record for most units sold: over 155 million. Take that Xbox fans. While the PS versus Xbox war would rage long into the future, with competition has come innovation in gaming hardware and software. It’s incredible to think how we’ve gone from being impressed by semi-coherent 3D graphics to playing FIFA or Call of Duty online against anyone in the world. Fittingly, 25 years on from the PS1 going global, Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles are due to launch later this year. Cue a tantalising six months of being drip-fed details through incremental announcements and tactical leaks. We can be fairly confident that at some point in their shelf life both the PS5 and Xbox Series X will support virtual reality gaming of some sort. The PS5 is confirmed to be accompanied by a second generation of PSVR including a new virtual reality (VR) headset on launch according to T3. Meanwhile the team at Microsoft is taking a more cautious approach to VR. They purport that nobody is asking for VR and are busy creating a beast of a console that outguns the PS5 on CPU clock speeds, graphics card teraflops and storage capacity. In typical fashion as the ‘gamer’s choice’, however, the PS5 has an ace up its sleeve. As reported by The Verge, despite having a smaller SSD on paper (that’s solid-state drive to the uninitiated), its custom-made 825GB SSD will provide 5.5GB/s of performance, compared to the 2.4GB/s offered by the X’s 1TB NVMe SSD. Nice.

With us or against us

Microsoft’s multithreading CPU (a method of expanding the computing resource of a central processing unit) and mass of raw storage are music to game developers’ ears. Simply put, it means the possibilities are deeper and more endless when it comes to making a game for the X. On the other hand, the PS5 is focusing on the gaming experience by gearing up for VR and destroying load speeds. Despite my particular brand of Sony tribalism, the Xbox – as always – looks like the superior console from an entertainment hub and content distribution perspective. It is also the better option if backward compatibility (the ability to play old games on a new console) is important to you. It’s funny how we can be so passionate about a plastic box full of transistors and drives. The thing about games consoles is that they represent so much more than that. It’s about the memories, the nostalgia, the wondering if you’ll ever find out what was behind that door you couldn’t open. I can safely say that my PS4 has been a noble companion throughout the coronavirus lockdown. Despite the impressive specs boasted by the Xbox X, my loyalty to Sony is strong for another generation. Perhaps that will be my last. Somehow, I highly doubt it.