Gaming. A hobby that's religiously adored by millions around the world. An aid to depression, a legitimate escape from the struggles of everyday life, social alienation and even life-threatening illness. A global behemoth of an industry that's worth billions and billions of dollars, and makes more money per annum than the music and movie machines combined. A cultural cauldron of bubbling communities, passionate devotees, and dedicated, talented developers. The cast iron key to thousands of beautifully realised worlds, characters and stories – each one more memorable and wonderful than the last.
But enough of the saccharine, simpering, sycophantic shite – I need to get a few things off my chest. Here are the ten things that I hate the most about gaming in 2015.
I opened up my copy of Bloodborne the other day, and I wasn't expecting much, granted. But is this the best they could do? Really? A flimsy, floppy little insert with a controller map on it? And it's not just Hidetaka Miyazaki's latest that's at fault, as video game manuals are virtually non-existent in 2015. Today, they're just cringing, insipid little buy-our-DLC inserts or download-your-free-new-shit-character-skin-today flyers, limply slotted into the game box and demanding about as much welcome attention as the update from the local Tory MP does when it lands on your doorstep.
I remember when game manuals were written and crafted, when publishers took the time to make them feel part of the experience, and when I'd sit up reading the ones that came with my old Mega Drive games over and over again, to fully immerse myself in the world before slotting the cartridge into the console for the first time. What the fuck happened, video games? Take some pride in your manuals. And while I'm at it, sort your box art out, too.
"Wait until I tell dad you collect toy figures now," my charming younger brother threatened the other weekend. At the ripe old age of thirty, I couldn't give a beaker of monkey's tit milk what my either of my parents think about my extra-curricular activities, but his words ricocheted around the inside of my head for hours afterwards nonetheless.
He had a fucking point. What am I doing collecting these twee, superfluous, infantile little toys? What business do I have spending my ever-dwindling wage packets on small pieces of plastic, just so they can sit staring at me from the lounge shelf with mocking indifference? Will I ever stop? Ness, Charizard and Pac-Man are coming out this month. I must get those pre-orders. I must have Meta Knight, Little Mac and Rosalina. I must have all the Fire Emblem characters. I must have them all. I'll go to Japan if I have to. And then I can sit down with a cup of tea and work out exactly where it all went wrong. (Oh god, and now there's yarn Yoshis? Will it never stop?)
Oh, and dad, if you're reading: as if being shit at sport and having long hair wasn't bad enough, for the last few months I have been systematically researching and purchasing a series of five-inch figurines based on Nintendo characters. I'll expect the adoption certificate in the post soon.
The other day I got stuck, so I fired up a gameplay broadcast for Resident Evil Revelations 2 on the Xbox One. A chirpy little dickhead bobbed around in the corner of the screen, asking people to like and subscribe to his videos every two minutes. At least.
Now, call me a miser, but I just cannot see the appeal of watching these pricks play games on camera. Sorry.
Let's be honest: Resident Evil's been remade far too many times. The Last of Us was insultingly repackaged with a smoother frame rate last summer. For some, the lacklustre HD remake of Shadow of the Colossus tarnished the game's memory. Even the magnificent Dark Souls II is now being resold to you in a different box, with dragons in bits that didn't previously have dragons in. And even though you already suffered through a hundred hours of death and misery with it last March, you'll probably buy it again, won't you. I know I inevitably will. God, just end me.
Oh, and while I'm here ruining everyone's fun, God of War III doesn't need to be remade either. It looked and performed perfectly fine the first time round, and it wasn't even that great anyway. We don't need another nine hours of Kratos shouting, remastered or otherwise. Next.
The PS4's DualShock 4 is the Hummer of video game console controllers. It has a massive fucking multi-coloured light on the front, vibrates harder than an embittered middle-aged divorcee's Rampant Rabbit, and features a crackly and largely pointless speaker system whose only purpose is to make the phone in GTA V feel a bit more like real-life calls. As a result, the battery is often drained long before I've made it to the bottom of my bowl of bland supermarket stodge, and I have to sit with my arse pressed right up against the edge of the sofa while it charges via a USB cable which extends to the handy length of three inches.
Recently, the controller died on me during a heart-stopping Bloodborne fight with Father Gascoigne (pictured, above) and I had my arse handed to me on a paper plate even quicker than I would have done normally. Sure, there are tweaks that can be made to extend the battery life. And yes, I could just buy a really, really long USB cord. But it's the principle of the thing.
SPLIT-SCREEN GRAPHICS COMPARISONS
Every ten minutes you spend watching a super-serious split-screen graphics comparison video is ten minutes you will never get back.
Oh look, that water looks a bit less shit than that water. Oh look, those thistles are quivering in the breeze a little bit more convincingly than those thistles quivering in the breeze. Oh look, the left-hand side of this video has more particles floating around than the right-hand side does. Oh look, another fucking split-screen graphics comparison video for idiots.
THE INEVITABLE ARRIVAL OF SUMMER
On Saturday mornings I like to set my blood simmering by reading people's "weekend tweets" in bed for an hour or so, then I'll stagger to the kitchen in my pants, pour myself a cup of shit coffee, and slap a limply buttered bit of toast onto a chipped plate. Then, I'll retire to the lounge in said pants, beep on the PS4 and play the video game du jour without interruption until I'm met with the jarring horror of my "ducks" alarm going off on Monday morning. This Saturday morning, however, I had to draw the curtains.
It was then that I realised. Fucking hell. Summer's coming. Men who wear sandals and shorts even though it's still pretty much cold. Twee gastropubs filled with aging women in quilted jackets sipping white wine and showing off their Yorkshire terriers to strangers. Waspy parks and gaggles of braying twats playing Frisbee. It's all in the post. The window of time in which one can play video games non-stop in pants guilt-free is narrowing, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.
NOWHERE TO HIDE
Picture the scene. I'm sitting there playing Rebirth and dropping M&Ms down the gaps in the sofa. A notification pops up. Generic_twat_1874 wants you to play Battlefield 4. Nah, mate. Time passes. Then, a follow-up WhatsApp message. It's Generic_twat_1874 again. "Join are squad and stop playing shit indie games," he writes. He knows what you're playing and he knows you're ignoring his invites. He even knows you're not that massively into Battlefield. And he doesn't care.
Sony, I love you. Your PS4's alright on the whole, too. But please, for the love of fuck, please include an "appear offline" function with the next firmware update.
THE DEATH OF 'SILENT HILLS'
A few weeks back I wrote a rambling piece about how P.T. – Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro's ballbag-shrinking foray into the world of videogame horror – went on to become my favourite gaming experience of 2014.
So when I realised that Kojima's departure from Konami would likely consign Silent Hills to development hell, despite the absolutely chilling conceptual trailer released at TGS 2014, I was pretty disappointed to say the least.
Konami, please don't let Silent Hills fall into the hands of people who don't understand that horror is about the uncanny, the sad, the surreal and the hellish. Please don't let it fall into the hands of people who see Norman Reedus and think, "Right we'll take this and make a quick and filthy buck." Please just let Kojima and del Toro do more of whatever it is they were doing last summer. And in doing so, please finally give me another reason to shit my jeans at the weekend.
HD SPACE, LACK THEREOF
Sorry, I must have missed the memo about all new games requiring ten fucking terabytes of memory just to install. So now I'm trawling Amazon looking for compatible hard drives, the best of which cost nearly a hundred pounds which could easily be spent on more rare Amiibos or games I'll play for an hour then put back on the shelf or yet another crappy HD remaster and my PS4 has a sticky R1 button and Bloodborne's too hard and Five Nights at Freddy's is shit and Zelda's been delayed and why do they keep making zombie games and why do digital games cost more than physical ones and why do Telltale Games take so long to release episodes and yeah, it's probably best to call it a day there, really.