I don't live with my mother, I don't dwell in a basement, I've never worn an adult diaper to eliminate trips to the bathroom. I have, however, experienced one of the most innovative and exciting narrative mediums known to humankind, and I've done it a lot. I've traveled to Mars and deep below the sea—I've solved puzzles inside mysterious caves, tracked long-dead pirates across the globe, ridden dragons, investigated androids and become Batman, Spider-Man and any number of others. I've made real-life friends, learned the history of ancient and not-so-ancient civilizations; I've expanded my understanding of the world and, frankly, killed time and surrendered to escapism (not such a bad thing), all from the comfort of my own home.
With the COVID-19 quarantine in effect for many, one thing I've heard from numerous people is how unprepared they are for the doldrums. This is going to be boring at times, and you can only passively watch so many movies or TV shows in a row. Books are fantastic, obviously, but if you've ever found yourself stress reading and repeating the same paragraph with little comprehension, books don't always come to the rescue. Now's as good a time as any to get into video games.
Let us first set aside the idea of gaming as time killer. We'll also sidestep the aged and incorrect idea of the game dork. Instead, let's look to a 2014 study from Oxford that found gaming had a positive effect on dyslexic children. According to study by Vanessa Harrar published the study in Current Biology, the rapid response time needed to play video games, as well as the visual stimuli, reinforced dyslexic users' ability to absorb and translate information. Whereas we tend to focus on the phonetics and logic of reading for treating dyslexia, video games' visual relating of information was more easily consumed and came with a marked improvement.
So now that you know these things can be good for you (and in more ways than that one just mentioned), the second argument is in narrative value. Yes, we're all aware of the disastrous 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie with Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper, but as the medium has evolved and tools have grown more sophisticated, so, too, have storytellers' abilities to weave their craft. 2013's The Last of Us, for example—the story of a gruff smuggler who'd lost his daughter just as the world descended into viral chaos and his ultimate road to imperfect redemption—is currently being adapted into an HBO series with creator and original writer Neil Druckman along for the ride.
Look as well to games like Assassin's Creed, What Remains of Edith Finch (which, your Meow Wolf buddies will tell you, majorly inspired their installation), The Walking Dead or even developer Josef Fares' fantastic Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and we've only scratched the surface of narrative possibility. Gone are the days of only brick-breaking and turtle-stomping (though you can still do so), alongside them; instead, a fledgling and blank canvas limited only by the speed of technology and imagination.
But if you're going to do this, you'll want to do it right. Consoles, which come with arguably the lowest bar of entry and are much less complicated for users than building a PC, aren't exactly cheap, and each serves a slightly different purpose. To help, find here a breakdown of the big three—who they'd be appropriate for and why you might want one. Remember that if/once the world goes back to normal, we're due for a new console generation this fall. Fingers crossed.
Xbox One S and Xbox One X
Think of Microsoft's machines as a half step below PC in terms of what they can do and to whom the company is catering. Many bemoan the lack of exclusive titles (Xbox is home to Halo and Gears of War) and, despite a robust library of indies, how the S and X models are aimed more at adults than families. Still, with many games going cross-platform (across multiple consoles), it comes down to power. The X model is more expensive, but is easily the most powerful console available—though without a television capable of true 4K and HDR (fancy hi-def terms) the S will more than suit your needs. Xbox also has a great marketplace, and the Gamepass program offers hundreds of downloadable titles for a monthly fee; same goes for Xbox Live, the company's online subscription service for accessing multiplayer games.
PS4 and PS4Pro
The Pro model of Sony's Playstation comes with more muscle and a higher pricetag, but casual gamers or newcomers could find a deal on a refurbished unit. PS4 often has the best exclusives, particularly by developers like From Software (Bloodborne), Naughty Dog (The Last of Us, Uncharted) and Insomniac (Ratchet and Clank, Spider-Man). For my money, even the Pro runs a tad slow, and its cumbersome UI makes things tricky for n00bs. Still, as escapism and game libraries go, this is pound for pound a complete beast. Oh, and check out Horizon Zero Dawn.
Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite
The console that put Nintendo back on the map, the Switch can phase from TV console to mobile console. In other words, you can start a game at home then switch (ha!) to the included 6.2 inch 1080p screen and take that bad boy anywhere. These days, that might mean around your house, but it's still handy when someone wants the big TV. Nintendo flourishes in family fun, so with games like Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey or Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, everyone can rally together. Switch is also home to countless indie titles, bite-sized experiences, some of the biggest games out today (albeit with lesser graphics than its bigger, stronger cousins) and so many old-school NES and SNES games that it becomes an amazing value to older gamers. The Lite version is handheld only, though, so be aware if you're placing an order and, sadly, accessories ain't cheap. Regardless, this one's for you if you want your love affair to remain casual.