Category Archives: Gaming

I’ve finally bought a games console

I’ve never been what you might call a “hard core gamer” (and that’s not someone who plays video games in their underwear), however for some strange reason, at the ripe old age of (nearly) 47, I’ve decided to buy my first top of the range dedicated console. Why?

When I first owned a computer in the mid-1980’s (a Sinclair ZX-81), the only thing that interested me about games was how they were written. I remember a silent, black and white three dimensional maze inside which a large collection of black pixels in the vague shape of a T-Rex would come after you. I was amazed by this first person aspect to a game and while not being all that interested in playing it, I was desperate to know how to code it.

It was things like that that got me interested in programming and here I am more than 30 years later and it’s my job. I don’t write games, but I do write code.

Because I’ve always been interested in writing code and not all that good at games, my exposure to gaming has always been quite limited. On the Commodore 64 and then the Amiga 500 I hardly ever played any. However, when I bought my first PC in the mid 1990’s I started attempting to play a few titles. Usually with no success whatsoever.

For the next few years I played Toonstruck, Total War, Frontier, Black and White and others but most of my money went on various versions of FIFA. I was blown away by the “virtual stadium” in FIFA 96. I can remember standing in GAME open mouthed at the demo as the camera flew down through the clouds into the stadium. Awesome!

I was rubbish at FIFA 96. And FIFA 98, 2000 and 2001. I think the last copy I bought was FIFA 2002 and not long after I switched to the Mac.

The wilderness years
At that point my gaming pretty much stopped for a few years. I didn’t even worry too much about games on the iPhone and later the iPad. The odd puzzle game perhaps, but nothing too time consuming. I bought a console when I turned 40 which, embarrassingly, was a Nintendo Wii.

My reason for choosing the Wii was so that I could play games without having to learn complex button combinations (always a problem for me) and also so that my wife could join in. She’s a total technophobe so would only play games where either I can “drive” (like Toonstruck on the PC) or that she can control by throwing her arms about (as on the Wii).

Even by the time I purchased my Wii, it was already a little of out of date. By then I had an HDMI 1080p TV set and the Wii’s 480p connecting by composite video was clearly not ideal. However, the games were fun and it still sits by my TV set, despite not having been switched on for about 3 years.

Deciding to have a mid-life crisis and buy a proper console
With hindsight, I think that the main reason I’ve never been all that successful at games is because when I was really trying to play them, I had a PC with a kind of low- to middle-of-the-range graphics card. PC games at the time also suffered from users having different controllers so most games were best operated via the keyboard. This led to a poor quality experience for many games. I probably should’ve invested in a console back then, but it was easier to just give up and not bother.

At some expense, I purchased a licence for Elite Dangerous on my Mac Pro. With my 2013 “trash can” Mac Pro the graphics are pretty good, however it has the same problem that I had back on the PC 20 years ago – you will never have the optimal gaming experience unless you have the best possible hardware to play it on. And I don’t. I even tried buying an extra Windows licence and installing the game under Bootcamp just so that I could use Crossfire for the Mac Pro’s graphics cards (and also run the latest version of Elite as Frontier stopped supporting the Mac in the latest releases, annoyingly). While being mildly distracting, I still feel like I’m not having quite as much fun as I would if I had the best possible hardware and didn’t have to spend ages trying to get the best looking view on my 4K monitor.

Fast forward to Autumn 2016 and I’d been thinking about buying a console for a while to help with much needed relaxation. I’ve had no holiday this year and it’s all work, work, work. Much as I enjoy my work (and I do, I’m a geek, I can’t help it) it would still be nice to unwind at times. Much of my unwinding is achieved by walking the dogs, drinking real ale and playing my saxophone. Not all at the same time, although that’s an interesting thought…

With my re-kindled interested in gaming gaining momentum, I read that Playstation were bringing out the Playstation 4 Pro. That was good timing as I was wondering about holding fire completely and waiting for the Playstation 5 (which might be another 2 or 3 years away) or Microsoft’s updated X-Box One code named “Project Scorpio” due out in late 2017.

In the accompanying video (above) I go into more detail about why I chose the PS 4 Pro over the X-Box One S (the current incarnation of the X-Box One that will be replaced next year). The specs of the PS 4 Pro look great and so I decided to pre-order it for delivery on the day of release.

The second video (below) shows the PS 4 Pro arriving!

At the time of writing I’ve had the PS 4 Pro for nearly 2 weeks and for all of this time it’s been sitting in a box in my dining room. I won’t open it until my birthday in December, as it’s my gift to myself (via my wife).

I’ve bought 2 games. FIFA 17 and Project Cars. I’m also planning to use it to stream content from Amazon Prime and Netflix (although the latter is available on several of my set top boxes so I don’t need to use the PS 4 for that).

Hoping I do better
It’s my sincere hope that I will do better with gaming this time around. From spending my entire gaming life using less than adequate hardware, I now own the highest spec console on the market… at least until Project Scorpio, but that’s a good 12 months away.

I know people with custom PC’s will say that they have the best hardware – and they do, however for me an expensive top-of-the-range PC build was out of the question. I just wouldn’t use it enough. My hope is that once the PS 4 Pro is set up and the novelty wears off I’ll still find that I want to use it. And not having to think about settings and configs and knowing that what I’m playing has been optimised specifically for the platform will help a great deal, I’m sure.

Now, the next thing will be a 4K HDR TV to plug it in to…