It's one of those truly golden ideas. A 'why the hell didn't I think of that' idea. And today, six months after the console's launch, it's still my favourite thing about the PlayStation 4.
I'm talking, of course, about the ability to plug my headset directly into the brand new PlayStation 4 controller. It make so much bloody sense. To the point where I literally can't believe the PlayStation 4 is the first console to let players do this*. Why are we only making this happen now?
For PC gamers, used to playing three feet away from a smaller screen, three feet away from their motherboard, this is nothing new. Most people who play PC games, in my experience, use headsets exclusively. But playing on consoles, particularly in the last decade, has become a large screen affair. Nowadays the optimum console experience involves being buttcheeks deep in a comfortable sofa, six feet away from some gargantuan screen, drowning in pixels and extreme contrast ratios. If, for whatever reason, you are not able to have sound blaring from 6.1 speakers, this can make things a little difficult in the sound department.
Personally, I've been having this problem for the better part of the last decade. Whether it's in-laws complaining about the sound from my speakers, or my wife asking me to turn it down so she can hear an episode of The Block, compromising on sound quality is something I've had to live with during console gaming sessions.
Until now the headset solution has been clunky at best. Wired headsets, for the most part, have wires that are simply way too short. I remember one moment, playing Metroid Prime on my Nintendo Wii, my poor eyeballs two feet away from a 46 inch plasma. It was far from ideal, but with my child struggling to sleep in the periphery it was, at that point, my only option.
Last night was a case in point. My wife, desperate to play catch up on her favourite show. Me, desperate to squeeze in a few last hours with the Destiny Alpha. My poor, long suffering son, trying to catch some sleep in the next room.
Normally this scenario could have played out a couple of different ways: a bullshit compromise with both of us playing/watching with the sounds at unsatisfactorily low levels, a brutal mish-mash of sounds; a shitty audio experience for both of us. It could have been me playing in complete silence, with subtitles on, unable to hear a single goddamn thing. Now, with the PS4 controller, it's me playing with a glorious set of headphones on my earholes while my wife streams House Rules to hearts content. My son sleeps in silence and everyone is in paradise.
Now, I'm sure there are other solutions. Wireless headphones spring to mind, but I've never been a fan. My wife could plug headphones into her laptop I suppose, but she likes to do other things whilst watching TV shows, as is her wont. The wonderful thing about the PlayStation 4 and it's controller/headphone jack contraption is the sheer simplicity of it. The convenience. The genius of it. Now I don't have to think about the problem — at all — because the solution is a simple, commonplace thing I can now afford to take for granted.
And it's something that's saved my arse on many an occasion. Late night, can't sleep, want to play video games, don't want to wake everyone up? Plug the headphones in. Wife has a team of friends over on a Saturday night, I'm not involved, bored out of my brains? Plug the headset in. This simple little doo-hickey has been the solution to so many little issues. It's allowed me to play video games when I'm not supposed to be playing. It's enhanced my overall experience. Legit.
Particularly now, particularly in this day and age. We live in a world where multiple screens are the norm. In my house we have two laptops, a tablet, a Wii U Gamepad, multiple smartphones and a 46 inch Panasonic Plasma all vying for attention. On a Saturday afternoon, with friends and family over, that number can double, and everyone wants their own personal space to use their own device. That becomes difficult when you're obnoxiously blasting decibels of gunfire and fury in the lugholes of your guests.
And thankfully it's a solution that we're starting to see in all the major consoles. The Wii U, of course, has the added advantage of being able to play games on the GamePad as a second screen, but even the Xbox One allows you to plug in headphones. You just have to shell out for an additional adaptor for the privilege.
It's a weird thing: a simple innovation that we realistically should have been enjoying the better part of a decade, only made accessible now, when we need it more than ever.
*From the heated debate in the comments, maybe I should add that yes, I'm aware the Wii U GamePad also allows you to do this, but for some reason I always saw it as more like the headphone jack in a Handheld. The Wii U GamePad would feel incomplete without a headphone jack, it sort of needs to be there to fulfil its function as a second screen. The PS4 controller is just a controller, so the way I see things it didn't need to be there. That's what makes it interesting to me. But fair point, I take it on board!