You put in a disc or launch a game from the hard drive. The title screen glows in front of you, beckoning. Time to press the start button, like you’ve done thousands of times before. Not anymore though. Start’s gone, shown the door by both the PS4 and Xbox One.
Next-gen console hardware always brings changes. Some of them, like upgraded user interfaces or new peripherals, are expected. But it’s a bit of a surprise that the button in the centre of both the Xbox One and PS4 controllers doesn’t have the word “start” underneath it anymore.
Start goes back to the arcade era, back to when your money was already accepted and all you needed to do was press a button to begin a grand adventure. And adventure is key here because the word “start” can be used as a verb. Video games are all about verbs: run, jump, shoot, dodge. Pushing start inserted you into a new skin and a new world. There’s alchemy in “start.”
But, now, the title screen for Xbox One exclusive Killer Instinct says ‘Press Menu.’ Menu? Accurate though it may be, that’s not getting anybody hyped.
And on PS4’s DualShock 4 controller, “start” has been replaced by ‘Options’.
“Press Any Button” is becoming more and more common now, too.
The change in terminology also reflects on how things have shifted with regard to the making and selling of video games. You’re not the one starting things anymore. They’ve already been started for you and they run in the background without you. You’re not a hero; you’re a browser, an end user. Both Options and Menu evoke a list of tasks. The same games lie behind each word but without “start”, they seem less exciting.
R.I.P. Start button.